Casa Malaparte Capri Adalberto Libera ArchEyes Sean Munson Cornelli
© Sean Munson

Casa Malaparte, also known as Villa Malaparte, is a house conceived around 1937 by the well-known Italian architect Adalberto Libera on Punta Massullo, the eastern side of the isle Capri, Italy. It is one of the best examples of Italian modern and contemporary architecture.  Libera designed Casa Malaparte for Curzio Malaparte, although there is continuing controversy as to whether Libera himself was the principal designer or if Malaparte built the home himself with the help of Adolfo Amitrano, a local stonemason.

Casa Malaparte Technical Information

Today I live on an island, in a house that is sad, hard, severe, that I built for myself, solitary on a sheer rock over the sea: a house that is the spectre, the secret image of prison. The image of my nostalgia. Maybe I never desired, not even then, to escape from jail. Man is not meant to live freely in freedom, but to be free inside a prison.

Curzio Malaparte1

Casa Malaparte Photographs
Casa Malaparte Capri Adalberto Libera ArchEyes sea
© Sean Munson
Casa Malaparte Capri Adalberto Libera ArchEyes katemoss ysl malaparte
© YSL Commercial
Casa Malaparte Capri Adalberto Libera ArchEyes katemoss ysl malaparte
© YSL Commercial
Casa Malaparte Capri Adalberto Libera ArchEyes katemoss ysl malaparte
© YSL Commercial
Casa Malaparte Capri Adalberto Libera ArchEyes katemoss ysl malaparte
© YSL Commercial
Casa Malaparte Capri Adalberto Libera ArchEyes living space
Living Room | Photographer Unknown
Casa Malaparte Capri Adalberto Libera ArchEyes Interior
Interior | Photographer Unknown
Text by the Architects

For a very long time attributed to Adalberto Libera, Casa Malaparte has, in recent years, changed authorship and is now more widely believed to be the work of Malaparte himself. From Libera’s own rejection of the work, the lack of communication between the two throughout most of the project, to Malaparte reminding us that this was, in fact, his own production, done without the help of architects or engineers – except for legal issues, legal formalities, it becomes easy to accept this new attribution of work. Malaparte called it a “house like him” and, less famously – his portrait of stone. 

Perched high up on Punta Massullo, in the Italian island of Capri, a stone monolith emerges from the rock in an almost Promethean way, with a few tiny openings that pale in comparison to the massiveness of the construction. Casa Malaparte is a red masonry box with reverse pyramidal stairs leading to the roof patio. On the roof is a freestanding curving white wall of increasing height. It sits on a dangerous cliff 32 meters above the sea overlooking the Gulf of Salerno.

The house can only be reached by traversing the island. The last twenty-minute walk is over private property belonging to the Giorgio Ronchi Foundation. It takes an hour and a half to walk there from Capri’s Piazzetta at the summit of the funicular from the Marina Grande. The house can be reached by sea, on calm days only, as the waves are cast upon treacherous rocks, and there has not been an official pier for many years. From the sea, one must climb 99 steps to reach the house. Malaparte gave his friend and boatman money to open a restaurant run by the boatman’s son today. It is the only restaurant one would pass on the path from the Piazzetta to the promontory where Tiberius built his palace, Villa Jovis.

Access to this private property is either by foot from the town of Capri or by boat, and a staircase cut into the cliff. Casa Malaparte’s interior and exterior (particularly the rooftop patio) are prominently featured in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 film, Contempt (Le Mépris)

The house entrance access was carved through the outside staircase in its center, but the owner bricked the entrance and moved it to the side of the house in 1940. Casa Malaparte was abandoned and neglected after the death of Curzio Malaparte in 1957. It suffered from vandalism and natural elements for many years and was seriously damaged, including the desecration of a cockle stove, before the first serious renovation started in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The building was donated to the Giorgio Ronchi Foundation in 1972.

Malaparte’s great-nephew, Niccolò Rositani, was primarily responsible for restoring the house to a livable state. Much of the original furniture is still there because it is too large to remove. The sunken marble bath in his mistress’s bedroom still exists and functions. His bedroom and book-lined study are still intact. Many Italian industrialists have donated materials for preservation.

Today the house is used for serious study and cultural events. The house’s furniture is the subject of an exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery in London in 2020.

Casa Malaparte on commercials

From Saint Laurent using the well-known British supermodel Kate Moss as the protagonist of a commercial, passing through Ermenegildo Zegna and the presentation of his UOMO fragrance, or the most recent one, HEARTBEAT by Louis Vuitton, everyone wants to use the well-known house on the island of Capri, built-in 1938 with the plans of the Italian architect Adalberto Libera.

Casa Malaparte Plans
Casa Malaparte Capri Adalberto Libera ArchEyes House villa floor plans elevation
Casa Malaparte Floor Plans, Section and Elevation | © Adalberto Libera
Project Image Gallery

About Adalberto Libera

Adalberto Libera  (1903 – 1963) is one of the most representative architects of the Modern Italian movement. An extremely able and talented creative architect more influenced by Futurism than Rationalism, he was also politically astute. His activity as founder and secretary of MIAR enabled him to establish a close working relationship with the high-up officials of the Fascist regime in Rome, where all the big decisions were taken about funding public construction programs and who were responsible for commissioning the hundreds of new public buildings required for Mussolini’s modernization programs.

One of his most important works is Palazzo dei Congressi (Palace of Congress) at the EUR in Rome. This building shows Libera’s remarkable ability to design ambiguously in a spare, metaphysical language that sits on a knife-edge between modernism and neo-classicism. 

Works from Adalberto Libera

  1. Malaparte: Casa come me (A House Like Me) edited by Michael McDonough, includes drawings and essays by many prominent artists and architects including James Wines, Tom Wolfe, Robert Venturi, Emilio Ambasz, Ettore Sottsass, Michael Graves, Willem Dafoe, Peter Eisenman and Wiel Arets.
Cite this article: "Casa Malaparte in Capri / Adalberto Libera" in ArchEyes, December 8, 2021, https://archeyes.com/casa-malaparte-in-capri-adalberto-libera/.