This Eccentric Alpine Getaway Is Equal Parts House and Work of Art

Swiss architect Davide Macullo teamed up with conceptual artist Daniel Buren to design this sculptural mountain retreat.

Daniel Buren Davide Macullo house
“We don’t like to call this a holiday home, we like to call it a place of refuge but one that can be taken at any time,” says architect Davide Macullo. Photo by Alexandre Zveiger, Courtesy Daniel Buren – ADAGP Paris / Davide Macullo

Switzerland’s rolling countryside and idyllic alpine villages recall the dreamy fairy tales of childhood. “The landscape is perfect,” reflects Swiss architect Davide Macullo, who spent much of his childhood wandering the country’s undulating landscape.

So, when Macullo and his partner decided to build his dream home in Rossa, a small mountainous hamlet less than 10 miles from the Italian border, he knew it needed to reflect this nostalgia while staying true to the area’s identity. “Our task was to continue this love we have for this land and this region, through humble but enduring gestures,” says Macullo.

The architect’s design process began with a careful study of the region’s context and landscape. Macullo understood the village consisted primarily of what he considers “the simple home designs of our youth”—a silhouette made up of a square for a base, and a triangle for a pitched roof, as in children’s drawings. That kind of simplicity appealed to him, but he wanted to take it one step further. “The home needed to mirror the landscape, and be a living sculpture within it,” Macullo says.

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To do so, Macullo started with the classic house profile, but playfully abstracted it beyond recognition. Approaching from the West, the house, a four-story pink and green extruded Swiss cross, juts from the land like something from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Daniel Buren Davide Macullo house
The concrete basement level features a long communal dining table, designed by the architect. Photo by Alexandre Zveiger, Courtesy Daniel Buren – ADAGP Paris / Davide Macullo

One of the house’s most distinctive features is its four-sided pitched roof whose dramatic, wavy edges mirror the mountain peaks beyond. Because of the house’s unique, x-shaped floor plan, its slatted exterior walls flare in and out, imbuing it with an uncanny sense of motion. Renowned French conceptual artist Daniel Buren (who notably covered Frank Gehry’s Fondation Louis Vuitton with colorful patterns in 2016) accentuated this movement by painting the timber slats in bold zips of pink and green. These playful lines, according to Macullo, “move with the same pattern as the peaks themselves,” further integrating the building into its surroundings.

“We asked [Buren] to work on the project because when I was younger, I was very influenced by the relationship his work had with nature,” says Macullo. “Now I, and the people of Rossa, have a permanent work of art by him present at all times.”

In spite of the home’s bombastic exterior, the interior of the home is surprisingly subdued. The space opens up into a double-height great room made entirely of untreated fir wood with two lofts, nestled into the arms of the cross-shaped floor plan. Each flat has just a few pieces of furniture, designed by the architect. And in the basement (which, unlike the rest of the dwelling, is made entirely of reinforced concrete) there is a communal kitchen with just one long table at the center of the room. In fact, the only seemingly complicated element of the interior space is the placement of the windows, which are strategically punched throughout the house’s curving geometries to achieve maximum views of the scenery.

“The intention,” says Macullo, “is to make one feel like they are experiencing the outdoors, even when they must be inside.”

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