Architect Savin Couëlle’s organic designs go beyond extensions of the natural landscape. He creates a feeling of being one with nature. Couëlle designs living spaces that are actually alive. He integrates raw, natural materials into his designs (stone, wood, and clay) giving them a life of their own. Exteriors and interiors seem to merge into one adding a contemporary layer to the land. He designs with a great appreciation and respect for nature. Couëlle’s architecture is sculptural. He creates gestural shapes and forms that are reminiscent of a seashell: organic and fluid always with a surprise waiting inside.
An Ambitious Young Architect
Little is known about the personal history of architect Savin Couëlle. He was born on February 25, 1929 in Aix-en-Provence, France. Later he attended L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and studied architecture. After completing his education, Couëlle moved to Madrid, Spain and worked for seven years as a production set designer for cinema. In the early 1960s he collaborated with his father, renowned architect Jaques Couëlle, on the renovation of the Hotel Cala di Volpe in Costa Smeralda, Sardinia, Italy. Savin Couëlle has lived in Sardinia for many years, but has also traveled around the world to build homes in Spain, Australia, Bahamas, Santo Domingo, New Zealand, and Dubai.
Organic Architecture in Sardinia
In Sardinia, Couëlle has certainly left his mark through organic architecture which creates a harmonious balance between building and nature. The majority of his designs can be seen all over the island, especially around the popular resort area of Costa Smeralda. He definitely designed these homes with nature in mind. Couëlle’s knowledge and appreciation of the island’s natural landscape are clearly visible in his work. He has worked with raw, natural, and locally sourced materials such as granite and juniper wood to display the beauty of the island in his designs.
As an architect, he wants to work with the landscape, not to compete with it. Couëlle’s awareness of the energy and flow of the natural environment are valuable observations that have helped him to realize his visions. For example, the shape of a window might mimic the shape of a mountain seen from that window. Over the years, Couëlle has worked with a hand-picked team of craftsmen and artisans that he trained to help him successfully execute his designs.
Both modern and organic, the interiors of Savin Couëlle’s homes echo the harmony of the natural world. His style tends to include staircases, often winding, that are usually carved from stone and feel like they have always been there. He likes to design wide, swooping arches that resemble cave interiors and vaulted, plaster ceilings sometimes covered with natural reeds or tree trunks to bring a certain energy to the space. Couëlle also knows exactly where to place a window to let the sunlight in so that the space can breathe. Although many of his Sardinian interiors have a cave like feel, the rooms lack the darkness of a cave. Instead, they are bright, warm areas that are spacious and inviting. In many of his designs, he has included boulders to be used as seating areas or as day beds. Other staples of his style are the inclusion of tiled floors, stone archways, and arched or circular windows.
Many of the exteriors Couëlle designed seem to blend into the landscape. If it weren’t for the windows or doors these houses could easily be overlooked. This is what is most impressive about his designs; the ability to connect architecture and nature in a harmonious way without destroying the natural environment. His designs also put a spin on the classic Mediterranean style by embracing the topography to create exteriors with a balance between home and nature. Balconies and terraces stretch out towards the horizon and embrace the seascape. Couëlle often works with insitu raw stone to create tables or seating areas so homeowners and their guests can temporarily become a part of the native terrain.
One of Savin Couëlle’s most recent projects was to create a waterfront home in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. His designs were inspired by both Islamic and Western cultures. Couëlle continues to travel the world with his team to build in his signature organic style and encourages us to think about how to design mindfully to keep a balance with nature.
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