Project Eden: a new star-studded luxury resort opens by Lake Garda

Exterior view of the Villa Eden. The top part is a glass exterior in different shades of blue. The bottom part is stacked rocks with the writing "Villa Eden". We see a mountain to the right.
Villa Eden, a new luxury development by Signa, comprises ten residential buildings and a clubhouse, all designed by prominent European architects.
(Image credit: courtesy of Signa)

Lake Como may be the most well known of the Italian lakes, but its bigger sister, Lake Garda, wants for nothing in comparison, in terms of style and natural beauty. This is the largest lake in Italy, a popular international sports hub and a coveted holiday destination for many central Europeans - especially Swiss, Austrian and southern German - who descend in numbers during the summer months to sample the good Italian food and weather. 

The hills and waterside surrounding the small town of Gardone are dotted with grand, heritage Lombardian resorts, traditional Italian houses and old limonaias - the area's typical Italian lemon tree grove farmhouse. It is within this picturesque scenery of classic grandeur that Austrian developers Signa (opens in new tab) spotted an opportunity for a new, ultra-modern private luxury resort - and Villa Eden (opens in new tab) was born. 

Seeking to create a stylish composition of different architectural languages - rather than employ a single architect to work on the whole - Signa approached a star-studded team of architects for the complex's 11 buildings: Matteo Thun, Richard Meier (opens in new tab), David Chipperfield and Sphere architects worked on the architecture and Enzo Enea (opens in new tab) on the landscape design. 

Matteo Thun (opens in new tab) was the first one on board and helped spearhead the project - he had been visiting the Lake Garda since his childhood and felt a strong connection to the land and the area's famous wind, the Ora. He designed Villa Eden's main clubhouse (which includes a small boutique hotel, a restaurant and bar for members and a spa), a private house and a small apartment building, called the Landmark, which is still in construction. His approach was about blending into the landscape, taking his design cues from the rich Italian nature and the area's 'genius loci'. 'Architecture should disappear,' he explains. 

A similar approach was adopted by David Chipperfield's team (opens in new tab), who worked on two private houses that draw on the architecture of the area's limonaias. Recreating their defining vertical columns in an abstract way on the houses' timber facades, Chipperfield clearly pays respect to the local vernacular. 

The landscape design involved saving and rearranging the site's existing olive trees. All outdoors areas were treated as a single space, avoiding private outdoors areas for each villa. The aim was to produce a coherent, seamless surrounding that feels at home in this Mediterranean setting and doesn't distract from the hillside development's long views of the lake. 'We worked to frame and integrate the view,' explains Enea. 

This was taken on board on all house designs, and worked particularly well with Sphere (opens in new tab) managing partner Marc Mark's overall design approach. 'The landscape comes first,' he says. 'We thought - no gardens. We didn't want any fences and private space seeping into the public areas.' The practice was involved in the design of three villas, one of which sits at the development's highest point, unashamedly modern yet fittingly discreet, striking a careful balance between the environment's old and new elements. 'We wanted to have this tension, between the very modern villa and its historical context,' he explains. 

The exterior view of the clubhouse building. Outside seating on the deck is gray with white tables.

The clubhouse building, designed by Matteo Thun, includes a small hotel, a restaurant and a spa, which will be open to members. 

(Image credit: courtesy of Signa)

The exterior view of one of the private houses, with a view of the lake and a mountain in the distance.

Thun also designed one of the complex's private houses, which has already welcomed its new owners.

(Image credit: courtesy of Signa)

The exterior view of one of the private houses. It's set surrounded by greenery with a mountain in the distance.

David Chipperfield and his team worked on two new private houses for Villa Eden. 

(Image credit: courtesy of David Chipperfield Architects)

The exterior view of one of the private houses that's covered in light wooden boards. It's set surrounded by greenery.

The two structures share key characteristics that were inspired by the Lake Garda's traditional limonaias (lemon groves). 

(Image credit: courtesy of David Chipperfield Architects)

The exterior view of the timber and concrete structure that defines the design's main facade.

The timber and concrete structure that defines the design's main facade references local architecture... 

(Image credit: courtesy of David Chipperfield Architects)

The exterior view of the timber and glass facade.

...but also helps provide shade and secure privacy, without obstructing the views of the lake. 

(Image credit: courtesy of David Chipperfield Architects)

The exterior view of the Villa Eden. It uses timber and local stone in sand color. We see mountains in the distance.

Chipperfield's contribution to Villa Eden uses materials that feel at home in the Mediterranean environment, like timber and local stone. 

(Image credit: courtesy of David Chipperfield Architects)

The exterior view of the Villa Eden. It uses timber, concrete structure, and local stone in sand color. We see a pool and mountains in the distance.

The villas' outdoor areas were carefully planned. The complex doesn't allow private gardens for each house, but the architects ensured some areas are protected and not overlooked by neighbouring buildings. 

(Image credit: courtesy of David Chipperfield Architects)

The interior view of the Villa Eden. Wooden shelves, Light brow leather seating with a gray chair, and a dark wood coffee table. Floor-to-ceiling windows.

Inside, all main spaces open up towards the site's stunning views of Lake Garda. 

(Image credit: courtesy of David Chipperfield Architects)

The interior view of the Villa Eden. Wooden shelves, with cream-colored walls, with two framed art pieces on them. Lounge beds in gray are next to the wall, with floor-to-ceiling windows across from them.

The villas' linear arrangement over two floors means that public spaces and bedrooms share the same unobstracted views. 

(Image credit: courtesy of David Chipperfield Architects)

The exterior view of Villa Eden, with a pool.

Sphere architects worked on three houses in Villa Eden, including the complex's largest property, pictured here. 

(Image credit: courtesy of Signa)

The exterior view of Villa Eden, with a pool looking out to the lake.

The house sits at the development's highest point and was designed as a composition of long, low columes and outdoors spaces.

(Image credit: courtesy of Signa)

The interior view of Villa Eden. Ligh space, with light & dark gray seating, light floors, a modern-looking fireplace in gray marble, and floor-to-ceiling windows.

This way, common areas can be completely independent from private ones, making this villa perfect both for relaxing and entertaining. 

(Image credit: courtesy of Signa)

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).