February 24, 2022
Visit to the villa on February 24, 2021
This article analyses the connection between fashion and architecture, or the style that unites seemingly unrelated fields of artistic endeavour. From the clothes we wear to present ourselves to others to the residences we wish to actualise "our" style, style is always evident. However, because of the never-ending inspiration, this article is devoted to the architectural solution rather than the clothing items or their creators. Villa Necchi Campiglio is a Milanese villa hidden like the essence of that Italian metropolis, whose most valuable spaces, such as houses and private collections, are far from the eyes of the public.
The network of houses called Case museo di Milano, which has been turned into museums, has as its central idea the introduction of personal stories and tastes that reflect the evolution and transformation of Milanese society over almost two centuries. The network has four historical museums (i.e., houses) in the collection, all located in the centre of Milan. Since 2008 they have been the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum, the Boschi di Stefano historic house, the Poldi Pezzoli Museum, and our leading actor – Villa Necchi Campiglio. The fact that they are the residences of former members of Milanese high society, whose places bear their surnames and embody Milan's cultural legacy, is what unites them. By visiting these unusual museums, we get an insight into the former life of Milan. But the exciting thing is, if we compare this kind of museum experience, which is perhaps similar to the one when we visit important castles where life used to take place - here the difference is that in this kind of museum experience, we are dealing with museums located in the very centre of Milan, which gives us a feeling of unpretentiousness and that tourist experience that we experience while visiting important historic castles. The atmosphere here is intimate, casual and the kind we need to be immersed in other people's homes.
With the passing of its owner, Gigina Necchi, Villa Necchi Campiglio was donated to the city in 2001. Angelo Campiglio, his wife Gigina, and her sister Nedda were the three tenants who shared the home. According to legend, Mr Campiglio, a middle-class industrialist with a cast iron business in Pavia in the 1930s, was travelling to Milan one evening to see an opera at Scala. Nevertheless, Mr Campiglio had to find his way to Scala because his chauffeur got lost in the nearby fields (today's Via Mozart). The legend continues that he was so enchanted by the landscape in which he found himself that he decided to buy land there the next day. He entrusted the architectural project to Piero Portaluppi, a Milanese architect already known for his works Casa degli Atellani and Planetarium.
Portaluppi created a strict, elegant, and artistically generous house. Designed and built between 1932 and 1935, Villa Necchi Campiglio is a work of Italian rationalism. It is immersed in a spacious private garden with a swimming pool and a tennis court in the centre of Milan in the district known for its art deco architecture, Porta Monforte. The villa is hidden from the street – its garden with lush magnolias and greenery represents a harmonious fusion of art and the peace of the outdoor space. At the same time, the interior was reserved for the lively social life of the Milanese bourgeoisie.
Such an impression was created by Portaluppi, an equally futuristic, eclectic, and rational architect, such as Villa Necchi Campiglio, one of his most famous creations. In this creation, he showed his style: he played with geometry, the painted ceiling in the dining room and the star-shaped window. He was eccentric yet elegant, almost minimalist. He leaned into the technology of the future by creating a heated pool. He used industrial materials, thereby creating a radical departure from the high-class Milanese luxury that prevailed. They called him "the ingeniously clever architect".
The layout of the interior rooms corresponds to the traditional arrangement of noble homes: living areas are on the ground floor, bedrooms are on the first floor, and official rooms are in the attic. Necchi-Campiglio wanted to distance themselves from the customs of their time, so they planned enough space for the reception of guests and social life. For example, there is a dining room, a smoking room, a library, and a large lounge on the ground floor. Movement between rooms is unhindered, and sometimes the view extends through the entire floor of the house. The furniture is massive, and the doors bulky, which gives off the strength of each room. An example of this can be seen on the first floor, where the bedrooms are discreetly arranged and are separated by a deep corridor that stretches the entire floor. It is impressive that the wardrobes were in the hall itself: the wardrobe and the room doors are identical, and it is unclear where to enter the room and where to open the wardrobe.
The wardrobes are fascinating; they reflect the clothing culture of the Milanese bourgeoisie. Mrs Campiglio has an enviable collection of hats and elegant dresses. The emphasis is on the items of the fashion house Dior, which were specially created for her by Marc Bohan, on which it says Pour madame Campiglio, as well as for her sister Pour madame Nedda Necchi. The most impressive rooms on the first floor are the bathrooms. During the visit to the villa, the guide stops for the longest time, explaining the grandiose scale of the decoration, the arabescato marble.
Specifically, the history of this villa is entwined with the family's past and includes elements of revolt and restoration. Tomaso Buzzi, an architect, altered the linearity of Portaluppi's architecture and added 18th-century-inspired components to the villa after World War II. So, it is simple to spot Buzzi's influence in the profusion of antique furnishings and draperies. In contrast, Portaluppi is most apparent in the bulkiness of the rooms and the most recognisable space in the villa, the glazed veranda with a closed conservatory presided over by a sizable green sofa with a rounded shape.
I Aam Love (2009), directed by Luca Guadagnino
Visiting this impressive work precisely one year ago helped me understand the cohesion of seemingly disparate elements in the construction of style. In short, I saw that recognisable Italian style in a fashion context but translated into architecture. The Necchi-Campiglio home's appeal as a work of art and unpretentious simplicity is further demonstrated by the fact that it has served as inspiration for scenography and artists on several occasions. So, for example, the director Luca Guadagnino (the cinema of desire) used the mansion for the main scenography of the film I Am Love, in which Tilda Swinton portrays a character whose family reflects the disintegration of the wealthy aristocracy. Villa Necchi Campiglio's interior perfectly matches that lasting melancholic impression. Likewise, a film about the Gucci fashion empire and the tragic end of its successor was recently shown. Ridley Scott also revived the villa, giving it that highly luxurious yet elegantly unpretentious tone.