Casa Mann Borgese

The Mann-Borgese house is an elegant residence located in via T. Mann number 4 at the corner with via Donatello, in the Imperial Rome district in Forte dei Marmi.

Leonardo Ricci was already quite well known when he designed, in 1957, the house in Forte dei Marmi for Elisabeth Mann Borgese, daughter of the well-known German writer and wife of Giuseppe Antonio Borgese. The client was so enthusiastic that she dedicated a presentation to it in L’architettura cronache e storia of 1959 in which, comparing the house to a “liner ready to set sail for the mountains” (the Apuan Alps), she expresses full appreciation for the aggressiveness ” virile” of the dynamic system and the material contrast, – moreover typical of Ricci’s language – between reinforced concrete, glass and rough stones of Carrara marble.

Located in the hinterland of Forte dei Marmi, not far from the sea, the house relates organically to the site on the basis of a double principle – integration and externalization – inherent in the architect’s design logic but resolved here in the most efficient way also from the point of view expressive, as will occur in the case of the later Balmain house on the Island of Elba, with a completely different layout.

While the first double-fan plan makes optimal use of the panoramic views towards the mountains and towards the Tyrrhenian coast, the body of the building is both ‘free’ and ‘anchored’ to the ground. In fact, the house rests like a bridge on sturdy ‘shoe-shaped’ buttresses, typically Ricci, made of marble stones (rejects from the Carrara quarries) precisely to effectively denounce the anchorage to the ground.

On the other hand, the body of the reinforced concrete building (part exposed and part painted white) tends to become autonomous from this sort of ‘rustic base’ which, however, continues in elevation with partitions that intersect the reinforced concrete structure according to a compositional logic of neoplastic matrix. Even the stair block is placed inside a turriform stone body; solution already adopted by Ricci in his home-studio and in the Selleri house in Monterinaldi.

The house is made up of three levels: on the ground floor there is a summer living room, a sort of ‘patio’ bordered by buttresses on the raised floor there is a large living room (18×16 m) which rises two thirds of the entire height and is connected to the kitchen. In the center of the living room, overlooked by the corridor leading to the bedrooms and services, was a large “cocktail […] table in heavy slate with a simple decorative carving”, designed by Eng. Gianfranco Petrelli and then built together with the architect Fabrizio Milanese. The other furnishings were made to a design by Ricci, with the collaboration of the architect. Dusan Vasic.

The cost of the house was around 7,000 lire/mc; from the documents of the original project signed by Leonardo Ricci, presented to the Municipality of Forte dei Marmi, it can be seen that the layout of the house was modified during construction, above all with reference to the morphology of the “buttresses” even if the characteristics of the project have remained basically unchanged.