Villa Nemini Teneri is a private villa immersed in the Sicilian countryside among carob and olive trees, and first residence on the island to be entirely clad in cork. Its Bauhaus-inspired cylindrical forms and “less is more” ethos belie the fact that this work of art is such an ecological achievement: cork is emerging as a paradigm of sustainable building materials - even used in the Library of Congress and in NASA space shuttles.
Owners Francesca and Bruno worked with Italian architect Giovannni Benedetti, who conceived of the home’s undulating shape in collaboration with Turin-based firm Errante Architetture, then brought on Sicilian-based Studio Darch2 to help with the urban planning.
Francesca had the idea to use cork. “We chose it in order to give to the architectural envelope a clean, rigorous and well-integrated look with the surrounding nature, restoring maximum energy efficiency,” she says. In a reference to its sustainability (cork is renewable, recyclable and considered carbon negative), the owners Francesca and Bruno named the villa after a Latin phrase that means “Do not depend on anyone.” It is also a boon that cork trees are abundant. In Sicily, there is the Bosco di Santo Pietro, near Catalgirone, home to many centennial cork trees that have survived earthquakes, volcanic activity and fire (they also absorb many tons of CO2, greatly reducing greenhouse gas emissions) while most of the world's cork comes from the vast cork forests of Portugal.
Beyond cork’s impressive capacity for seismic resistance, it is also surprisingly waterproof and offers significant acoustic and thermal insulation. The couple worked with Tecnosugheri, the distributor of cork for Italy and the largest producer of cork in the world; all of the cork came from the Amorim Company.
Interiors work in concert with the look of the cork; flooring made of helicopter industrial concrete, an iron snack bar and a System 20 kitchen, a historic collection by Bulthaup that the couple spent many years researching and deciding on.
The home as an oasis of bio-sustainability extends to all of its aspects, including its natural swimming pool, where the water is not treated with any chemical agent or other substance. “It leaves an extraordinary sensation of freshness on the skin,” says Francesca.
She adds that guests often mention that they are impressed with the result and harmony of the home. “They love the elegance that emanates from the fusion of the choice of spaces, furnishings and at the same time from an essential and not ostentatious luxury."
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