In the famous village of Gandria, architect Enrico Sassi has renewed a small detail with great effect
Stonemasons all over the world complain that remnants or old stones are piling up in their workshops. The project we describe shows one possible implementation.
On Lake Lugano one can enjoy the contrast of small settlements on the shore and an intoxicating alpine panorama above. Gandria is one of the most famous villages there, teeming with houses, alleys and nooks and crannies; it is included in the Inventory of Protected Swiss Settlements (ISOS).
Since 2019 there is a small detail that deserves a special mention: it is the staircase from the car park on the cantonal road down to the lakeshore and the much frequented Olive Trail (Sentiero dell’ Olivio).
Formerly a simple concrete staircase, whose steps were badly battered with the passing of time. The architectural studio Enrico Sassi, known beyond the region for its „gentle” upgrading of old village centers in Ticino, was awarded the contract.
As usual, Sassi’s orientation was strongly influenced by the surroundings. The olive tree terraces encased in dry stone walls as slope-supports are characteristic of the narrow lakeshore. Along the staircase, which with 72 steps and 5 landings copes with a height difference of 14.40 m, the rock of Monte Brè repeatedly emerges between bushes.
Natural stone was to be the material for the new stairs; so much was clear. But: would precisely cut steps fit into this ensemble? After all, when you look up, the brazen mountain peaks rise into the sky, everything seems timeless and sublime.
Enrico Sassi knows the stonemasons in the region and he found the solution with one of them in Lugano: in the warehouse he discovered the usual old pieces that had been dismantled at some point somewhere but had never found a new use, but which were too valuable to throw away.
They found a new lease on life on the stairs – they were simply placed on the concrete steps. If they bore traces of their previous life on their surfaces, these were left and even placed in such a way that they would definitely be visible.
The stairs lead past the cemetery of Gandria – so these stone steps now create a contrast to the panorama of the mountains with a clear sign of the presence of many generations.
Industrial design was chosen for the railing made of iron, a contrasting modern material.
The renovation of the staircase is part of a comprehensive refurbishment of the Olive Path. In the past the area was famous for its production of cooking oil. More recently, terraces have been replanted with the gnarled trees and an old olive press has been installed in the center of the village.
Enrico Sassi is currently working on the refurbishment of village center of Gandria.
Photos: Alberto Canepa, Marcelo Villada
(31.01.2020, USA: 01.31.2020)