Casa Malaparte, also known as Villa Malaparte, is a stunning house located on the eastern side of the Isle of Capri, Italy. The house was designed around 1937 by renowned Italian architect Adalberto Libera and is widely considered one of the finest examples of modern and contemporary Italian architecture. Despite being credited to Libera, there is an ongoing debate about the true principal designer of the house, with some suggesting that the homeowner actually built it, Curzio Malaparte, in collaboration with local stonemason Adolfo Amitrano. Regardless of its origins, Casa Malaparte remains a timeless masterpiece of architectural design, showcasing the skill and ingenuity of its creators.
Casa Malaparte Technical Information
- Architects: Adalberto Libera
- Location: Isle of Capri, Italy
- Topics: Mountain House, Villas, Pyramid Shapes
- Area: 500 m2
- Project Year: 1937-1939
- Photographs: © Sean Munson and others
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.
Casa Malaparte Photographs
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, on 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 Image Gallery
About Adalberto Libera
Adalberto Libera (1903 – 1963) was a prominent architect known for his contributions to the Modern Italian architectural movement. He was highly talented and known for his unique style that was influenced by Futurism but also incorporated elements of Rationalism. In addition to his architectural skills, Libera was also politically savvy and was able to leverage his position as the founder and secretary of MIAR to establish close ties with high-ranking officials in the Fascist regime in Rome. This relationship allowed him to play a key role in securing funding for public construction projects during Mussolini’s modernization programs.
One of Libera’s most significant works is the Palazzo dei Congressi (Palace of Congress) at the EUR in Rome. This building exemplifies Libera’s ability to create ambiguity in his designs, using a minimalist and metaphysical style that straddles the line between modernism and neo-classicism. The Palazzo dei Congressi is widely considered to be a masterpiece of modern Italian architecture and a testament to Libera’s innovative approach to design.
- 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.