The cavelike Corsican home where Mediterranean Modernism meets organic architecture

Sculptural property is aesthetically and materially rooted in the local environment and craft traditions

The cavelike Corsican home where Mediterranean Modernism meets organic architecture


Sculptural property is visually and materially rooted within the local environment and craft traditions.

6 hours ago

By Anna Winston

It is located on Cavallo island, south of Corsica. You will find it if you look hard enough. It is hidden in the rocky shore and almost unnoticeable from the ground. The terraces are covered by wooden awnings, which appear to have been washed up on a beach. The interior is filled with white sculptures that give the feeling of being in a cave. Large openings allow you to see out over the sea and private beach.

Even on an island known for luxury villas, this house,

on the market for €9.9mn

, is something special. The five-bedroom family home was designed by the French architect Savin Couelle and sits among vast hunks of granite on a one-hectare peninsula, within sight of Sardinia. Built in 1990, it is an important example of Couelle's work, which combines organic forms with a neutral palette of raw, natural materials and splashes of colour from the surrounding landscape.

Savin Couelle, an architect, designed the property in 1990. The white sculptural forms of the property give the feeling that you are in a cave.

'I was lucky enough to accompany my father to Cavallo at the very beginning of the [project],' says Alexandre, Savin's son, who is also an architect. 'He explained to me that this house would be like an outpost nestled between these great rocky masses. He imagined the winter storms assaulting the house; he was looking for that exchange between the elements; the wind, the waves and the spray. This house . . . has no equivalent in his work.'

Couelle first arrived in Sardinia in the 1960s with his father, the architect Jacques Couelle, who was commissioned to create the Cala di Volpe hotel, one of the key developments in the Aga Khan's transformation of the Sardinian coast. Renamed the Costa Smeralda, the coast became one of the most desirable — and expensive — destinations in Europe.

The Aga Khan brought together architects interested in local materials and designed structures that were connected to the environment. They were asked to design key public spaces and tourist spots. They created a style that was both rooted in the local environment, and responsive to the sensibilities and needs of an international, cultural audience.

Couelle's vision of the house was based on a strong connection to the elements.

Savin later settled in the area and became one of the most popular local architects, designing private villas along the coast of Sardinia and Corsica. He was instrumental in defining not just the aesthetic of Corsican and Sardinian architecture but an entire branch of Mediterranean Modernism, and his work was often copied and imitated — something he enjoyed, according to his son.

Savin was a completist who cultivated relationships with local craftspeople who became the 'hands' of the architect, allowing him to refine the tiniest details of each design — from the handles on the doors to the shape of each stone in a paved floor.

'Each project had to respect the history [of the area] by retaining the local traditions; each had to tell a story and have a unique personality,' says Alexandre. 'It is difficult to classify his [Savin's] architecture, but it certainly comes close to the work of a sculptor in its search for perfect composition. The apparent complexity of the forms, the different materials and the play of light are staged and orchestrated to make each of his creations unique.'

Photography: Corsica Sotheby's International Realty