Donadio Residence

Location: Pisa, Italy Year of construction: 7990 Architect: Gabriella Ioli Cartnassi Photography: Mario Ciampi

The enclosed brick structure and long, narrow windows of this unusual building would appear to make it an unlikely design for a single-family house. However, Gabriella Ioli Carmassi used these strange external characteristics in response to two major disadvantages. She solved the first – an extremely small site – by building upward, and the second – the close proximity of the surrounding houses – by reinforcing the structure with solid brick walls and incorporating a number of narrow openings that form large windows when seen from the inside. The building stands in a residential district, near the historic center of the Italian city of Pisa.

Although the ground plan of the actual house is perfectly rectangular, the location of the staircase at one end creates an L-shape. The main facade, which incorporates the entrance, is vertically dissected by five of the openings that give the exterior its distinctive appearance. Their distribution is irregular, with four of these elongated windows on one side of the entrance, and only one on the other.

The building has three stories, with another that lies partially below ground level and houses the garage, utility area, and studio. The function of each floor has been clearly defined by the occupants, who have made the first floor a day area, with the entrance hall, kitchen, living room, and dining room. The second floor houses the bedrooms while, on the third, the den is bounded by terraces that provide this visually enclosed structure with an open area.

The main entrance has the same elongated shape as the windows.

It is surmounted by a circular opening reminiscent of a rose window, the only nonlinear element to break the continuity of the straight lines that dominate the exterior of the building.


The plain brick of the four elevations that form the framework of the building is reflected by the brick of the interior walls.

The different levels of the house are linked by the staircase, enclosed on one side by one of the masonry facades and, on the other, by a transparent glass wall forming a gallery through which the natural light floods into the building. The cylindrical, polished-metal tube that forms the framework of the staircase echoes the characteristic lightness of the interior of the house.

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Rays of sunlight encer through the windows; solid, polished columns support the framework of the building; the floor is paved with terrazzo that echoes the interior walls and external elevations.

Some of the interior walls are covered with wood paneling.

The interior is dominated by straight lines. The narrow load-bearing walls are in plain brick, while the rest of the structure consists of huge transparent walls that form a glass framework.

Updated: 1st October 2014 — 12:24 pm