Product Type
Application Area
Lighting Effect
Product Type
Application Area
Lighting Effect

Villa Borromeo d'Adda

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Villa Borromeo d'Adda is an important monumental edifice in Arcore whose origins date back to the XVIII century. Described as an "aristocratic home", it is positioned at a height overlooking the town with a U-shaped layout, facing a vast parkland at the back.

The first changes to this design were made by Abbot Ferdinando D'Adda who commissioned the construction of a villa on the hillside behind the U-shaped building in the second half of the 1700s and which, given its position, was nicknamed the Montagnola (the Mound).

In 1845, the villa's park was redesigned by the architect-engineer Giuseppe Balzaretti, one of the most famous landscape designers of the period who gave it the look which can still be admired to the current day. Next came Emilio Alemagna who carried out work on the villa's North façade; he reconstructed the side blocks of the villa by adding a floor and installed bathrooms on the vast basement floor; he was responsible for the monumental staircase which connects the ground floor to the first floor and he completely re-organised the building's South façade by moving the entire ground floor forwards. In 1911, the building was inherited by the Borromeo family and remained an aristocratic residence up until the 1950s. Since 1980, the villa has been owned by the Arcore Town Council which announced a competition between 2014 and 2018 to renovate and transform the villa into a cultural hub, entrusting the architectural project to the Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia firm which was responsible for a conservative restoration job in which the aristocratic rooms, designed by Emilio Alemagna in the 1800s were completely and magnificently restored. The beauty of the location ensured that Villa Borromeo d'Adda was chosen to host the 2019 edition of Bake Off.

In Alfonso Femia's project, the most important element is the rapport between the villa and its parkland: a unique, poetic relationship and one of dialogue, visual recollections and perceptions. The most difficult aspects of the restoration were linked to the fact that work was being done on a listed building: the need to make improvements to the exterior and integrate a new plant system clashed with the need to maintain the building's historical value intact.

In particular, the work to provide artificial lighting depended on the relationship/contrast between the equipment used with strong modern shapes integrated into the villa's historical context. The lighting project covered external lighting, the monumental staircase and communal living areas.

The external lighting was significantly hindered by the constraints placed on it by the preservative renovation work that required a non-intrusive linear element capable of satisfying the minimum lighting demands made for the entrance area and relative arcades: Underscore In Out, positioned on the internal perimeter of the rococo cantilever roofs overhanging the main façades fully satisfied the authorities. This equipment was also used as an integration along the handrails that become an emitting element for the perimeter access ramp lighting. In some rooms of the Villa, which today can be used for multiple purposes, the suspended Underscore - mounted on an aluminum profile and equipped with an opal screen - homogeneously and widespreadly illuminate the rooms.

The monumental staircase was the scene of a Drop by Drop composition to bring the space to life and establish harmony between old and new. Hung individually or in pairs, or clusters, as is the case with the full height space of the stairway, with varying finishes and different heights, these suspension lights bring a contemporary presence to the villa. 

A special piece of equipment was developed for the communal living areas, designed and made to measure in order to get around the structural limitations that prohibited the use of ceiling lighting in these areas. The initial aim was, therefore, to have a linear element that could be positioned vertically or horizontally in the space depending on the architectural layout: a linear module of varying lengths (1500 mm/2000 mm/3000mm) which, thanks to its wall hooking system which allows it to be pointed, means it can rotate 315° on a single rotating axis. A minimal piece of equipment which, thanks to the different colours of the individual parts, acquires a three-dimensional shape and can characterise areas while still remaining discreet.


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  • Year
    2019
  • Client
    Arcore Town Council
  • Architectural project:
    Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia
  • Lighting project:
    Alfonso Femia
    IN-VISIBLE lab
  • Structural engineering:
    FOR Engineering Architecture
  • Landscape architecture:
    Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia
  • Company:
    Italiana Costruzioni
  • Photographer
    ©Stefano Anzini (courtesy of AF517)

Project Quote

"Nature, light, landscape, history, art, usage and perception....a series of "entre deux" relationships between the villa and its parkland, the two souls representing the magic of this place."

Alfonso Femia, Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia