Ico Parisi, Villa Bolgiana, 1953, Lake Como. “This was the house featured in my Wallpaper story, and it’s part of a group of four adjacent villas all designed by Parisi. The owner let us in, but he didn’t speak English, so we were communicating with our hands and legs. The interior is all original because the original owner was his father; it’s all modernist furniture designed especially for the villa. That’s one thing I love about the period: In contemporary architecture you have Vitra or Magis everywhere, and it’s all uniform, but in the ’50s and ’60s, all of the details and furnishings were exlusively made for each house. Here we found a canvas screen by Mario Radice, an abstract painter who collaborated with Parisi.”

Adam Štěch of Okolo’s Italian Architecture Tour

When Adam Štěch goes on location for Okolo, the Prague-based design blog and magazine he founded with his brother Jakub and graphic designer Matěj Činčera three years ago, he likes to picture himself as a National Geographic reporter. Okolo’s recent Vienna Only issue, for example, became a kind of urban hunting expedition through the wilds of the Austrian capital, while legitimate business trips — like attending the Milan Furniture Fair as an editor for the Prague interiors magazine Dolce Vita — are rife with opportunities for fieldwork. After “cruising around crowded Zona Tortona in the center of design hell,” as the 25-year-old puts it, he’ll often spend a day or two searching out amazing examples of indigenous architecture to document. One such recent excursion to Lake Como entailed a curious encounter with the locals: “We were looking for an Ico Parisi house, for which I knew the district but not the exact address, and there was a single old man walking nearby,” recalls Štěch. “I approached him on a whim, explaining who Parisi was and asking if he knew the house. He picked us up with his car and dropped us off directly in front of it. I love those kinds of stories.”

We love them too, which is why we asked Štěch to put together this slideshow sharing some of his favorite moments from his travels in the past few years, which revolve almost exclusively around modernist buildings from the ’50s and ’60s. “When I visit a city, I’m not so interested in contemporary design, because it’s already all over the blogs,” he says. “I want to discover something totally new yet totally old. My favorite is seeing an old house in a book and being so surprised at how it looks in person. Often when I ring the bell, people are nice enough to let me inside.” Some of his finds are posted on Okolo, while others he holds on to for future books and projects. Wallpaper recently commissioned Štěch to write about the Parisi house in Como, sending a professional photographer out to retrace his steps (presumably without the aid of any unsuspecting pedestrians). The images in this slideshow, though, were all taken by Štěch himself, and all throughout multiple trips to various regions of Italy. “The ’50s were a heydey in Italian design,” notes Štěch, who’s taken similar photos all over Europe. “There was this amazing connection of rationalism and strict geometry with baroque, organic decoration. It’s modern, but rich in details, craft, and materials. Like brass and tropical wood.” Read his dispatches here, then head over to Okolo’s website to see how it all fits into the larger context of what he and his brother do. Also be sure to check out the duo’s recent book devoted to their Italian design idol: Carlo Mollino.

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