Variation of modes of use: functions, users, schedules, etc.

Relationship between the ownership and the form of the investment that allows the transformation

Variation of the overall dimensions of the building

Proportional relationship between new spaces and existing spaces

Relationship between the structural adjustments and the existing structure

Relationship between the forms and types of pre-existing materials and those of the new intervention

Relationship between the image of the new and the image of the existing (mimesis / contrast)


Gibellina Nuova, Trapani, Italy


Marcella Aprile, Roberto Collovà, Teresa La Rocca



Marcella Aprile, Roberto Collovà, Teresa La Rocca – Restoration and reconstruction of the beam Case Di Stefano

PROJECT - Main Infos

PROJECT: Marcella Aprile, Roberto Collovà, Teresa La Rocca – Restoration and reconstruction of the beam Case Di Stefano

LOCATION: Gibellina Nuova, Trapani, Italy

YEAR: 1982

ARCHITECT / FIRM: Marcella Aprile, Roberto Collovà, Teresa La Rocca

BUYER: Municipality of Gibellina

SURFACE: Indoor: 2978 sqm – outdoor: 4833 sqm – garden: 2423 sqm

PRICE: € 4.390.000,00 (£ 8.500.000.000)

The project addresses the problem of settlements damaged by the earthquake. In this specific case, it is a beam: originally a fortified farm to resist piracy attacks, then a fiefdom centre and control. The beam in question is known as Case Di Stefano, after the name of the last owners. The City of Gibellina found it as the only pre-existing in the site granted after the earthquake of 1968 for the refoundation of the city, and decided to recover it, assuming, at that time, a generic destination as a cultural center. Starting from the elements of the survey and the description in memory of the last owners, it was thought of a reconstruction that would keep the project as close as possible to the pre-existing characteristics. What we have maintained has above all been consolidated. The value of what remained was important as part of a "type of plant", but especially for the possibility of "forming a complex plant" by combining different parts just like a piece of the city. This seemed to be the "object" to be preserved, this was the possibility, and to do this it was necessary to act radically on the same typology of the whole and of the parts and to find a new principle of connection between them; new bonds, more suitable to build the new program. The general plan was based on two main operations: the first was to open completely the side towards the hills so that the courts extend into the countryside, and the second, to open a new axis of crossing parallel to the central inside the thickness of the edge of buildings facing Gibellina. These operations allowed the beam to be refounded as a "complex open building". The opening of the beam and the new internal road have generated separate, autonomous buildings and new "spaces between things". It was necessary to find another link between the parts, to replace the leanings of the old single compact building with two courtyards, with a new connecting structure. Courts, pedestrian streets, external esplanades, networks of paths, avenues and internal routes, open and covered galleries, internal routes of the buildings were designed as a negative construction, the most solid part of the new set of now isolated buildings: the archaeology of the soil. This structure is like a network and, as well as close things, it can connect other, geographical, very distant things. We wanted the hills to be the fourth side of the courts, at a distance; that above walls, as tall as the eyes, we could only see the tops of the mountains, that from the slope we could extend the path to infinity. We wanted to feel the landscape inside fences of very high walls. This way of proceeding helped to circumscribe the fields for language choices and brought different materials for each of the parts, eliminating any prejudice on conservation and innovation, on "traditional" or "modern" language.

WHAT - Program

TOTAL REPLACEMENT / DISCONTINUITY: The new functional program has completely replaced the original one.

Cultural centre: exhibition rooms, guest quarters, conference rooms, workshops, offices, walled garden, cafeteria, library, maisonettes, theatre, museum, services, warehouses.

WHO - Financing

TOTAL REPLACEMENT / DISCONTINUITY: Financing made entirely by an investor other than property.

Municipal property in concession to the Orestiadi Foundation. Works funded by the Sicilian Region Department of Cultural and Environmental Heritage

HOW MUCH - Absolute Dimensions


BALANCE BETWEEN CONSERVATION AND REPLACEMENT: The overall dimensions are about twice the pre-existing surface.


BALANCE BETWEEN CONSERVATION AND REPLACEMENT: The overall dimensions are about twice the pre-existing volume.

Buildings, operations, functions. Specific operations have been carried out on the buildings in relation to the new functions: - master house. Typological transformation: cutting of a longitudinal gallery (space serving rooms previously accessible from the outside). A similar operation is carried out on the floor of the guesthouse. - laboratories. Use of the same typology born from the typological transformation of the main house. Gallery and served spaces. - upstream warehouse. Flooring, new entrances and systems. - turret-passage. Dismantling, reconstruction of the upper patio and access to the terrace belvedere. - loggia-offices. Staircase access from the road. - mixed building. Continuous body served by the internal road at various levels (walled garden, cafeteria, terrace, offices, tower-library, maisonettes, patio, theater).

HOW MUCH - Relative Dimensions

PREVALENT REPLACEMENT / DISCONTINUITY: The new spaces are prevalent with respect to the pre-existing spaces.

The notion of size can be seen from the point of view of the distinction between actual and virtual dimensions. In reality, two buildings have been recovered (the main house and the warehouse museum). Of the other buildings, we can say that the position has been recovered. The real dimension has been enhanced by the network of outdoor spaces (the two courtyards, crossing paths) and especially the pedestrian street with its appendages (walled garden, courtyard, side access, theater patio, staircase to the olive grove and to the countryside and other outdoor spaces recovered or new).

HOW - Design Strategy STRUCTURE

PREVALENT REPLACEMENT / DISCONTINUITY: The supporting structure is predominantly a new structure.

Repair and integration of the elements and the existing structural typology. Reconstitution of the entire existing construction system of each building body New construction in a reinforced concrete framed structure. Construction ex-novo in septa and reinforced concrete floor.

HOW - Design Strategy MATERIAL

BALANCE BETWEEN CONSERVATION AND REPLACEMENT: The materials chosen for the new intervention balance similarities and differences with the existing ones.

For some buildings we have integrated the existing supporting structure: the museum building and the manor house. Of the latter, the missing end part has been reconstructed with a reinforced concrete frame structure. The building of the little theatre is built with a double load-bearing masonry, the external part of which is made of white Comiso stone and the upper part of which is made of split limestone. The maisonettes and the library are built in a reinforced concrete framed structure. The building of the cafeteria and the walled garden is built with double masonry of white Comiso stone anchored to the framed structure in reinforced concrete. The building of the laboratories is built in reinforced concrete partitions with double masonry: internal limestone and external, passageways and loggias in white stone of Comiso.

HOW - Design Strategy IMAGE

TOTAL CONSERVATION / CONTINUITY: The new intervention is in total mimetic continuity with the existing structures.

The complex of the Di Stefano Houses was a typical farmhouse with a double courtyard, it stood in a dominant position with respect to the fief of which it was the administrative center and from the outside it looked like a fortified place. The central element consisted of a large open space on a slope (Baglio, courtyard) limited, upstream from the largest of the warehouses, downstream from lower buildings used as offices for administration while transversally and sloping were arranged the various rooms for agricultural management and residence for permanent staff. The main building, placed in the middle, separated the courts and also defined their character: the lower court reserved for the family and the higher court, for agricultural purposes, with its own entrance for the passage of carts, equipped with a well and finned. The entrances and passages from one court to another were marked by turrets. Separated from the farm was the ornamental garden, according to a widespread practice in the Sicilian countryside, which wanted the construction of the garden reserved for pure contemplative pleasure as opposed to the productive green of the countryside. Surrounded by walls, defined by a dense row of trees, near or far from the house, marked the sunny landscape of the Sicilian hinterland, an ancient sign of the presence of the house, water, man. An elevated walk, defined by a double row of washintonie palms, dotted with resting places, tanks and benches, anticipated the path that led to the control tower at the highest point. A first work consisted in making both a drawing of reconstruction of the aggregation of the buildings and a description of the orography of the place. The project works on the adaptation of the buildings to the new destination of Museum and Cultural Centre, developing a strategy of interventions that, through subtractions, detachments, reconstructions, involving the buildings and open spaces, modifies the general structure of the beam: from a closed construction to a set of buildings, defined functionally and formally, whose general relations are entrusted to a network of paths, courtyards, passing terraces, patios, passages. The same surrounding landscape is involved in the definition of the whole for the opening of the two courtyards towards the countryside, and for the height of the walls of the terraces that, moving it away, include it in the interior space. The main house is modified with the opening of longitudinal galleries that allow its use from the inside, as well as the sequence of domestic spaces of the guesthouse on the upper floor. This new type of rooms and gallery with the addition of a mezzanine, is used to design the building of the laboratories, entirely new, aligned, downstream of the lower courtyard, along the farm road. The new north side, entirely rebuilt alongside functionally different buildings, proposes a virtual closure of the beam, but its detached tracking from existing buildings, allows the introduction of a new crossing: an internal road, parallel to the old axial access that changes the hierarchy between the buildings and the sequence of open spaces. The road orders the recovered buildings and the new reconstructed ones, attributes an urban value to the buildings and the spaces that face them, and this serves to strengthen the new public function of the entire settlement.