When architect Bruno Erpicum designed our home for sale, Villa Solstice, at Cala Tarida in 2006 his vision was for this sleek, modern villa to ‘embrace the entire horizon’. Recently, I spoke to Bruno about what this deceptively simple statement truly means.
Perching above the beach at Cala Tarida, the sea views at six-bedroom Villa Solstice will be forever unobstructed. Recently refurbished by Ibiza’s in-demand GO+ design consultancy, light-filled Solstice features a multitude of interior spaces and outdoor terraces.
As a young boy, Belgian Bruno travelled widely with his father who worked for Sabena, the national airline. This fed his curiosity about other cultures as well as giving him the time to explore foreign cities.
Bruno visited buildings designed by pioneers of modern architecture such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van de Rohe. He studied the work of Belgian architects including Louis Herman De Koning and Henry Van de Velde as well as the Swiss Peter Zumthor and American Rick Joy.
From these masters, Bruno learned that ‘Architecture must be essential. It must be beautiful on all levels, from the design of the building to the development of every single detail such as a tap or a switch.’
Bruno graduated from the Institut Supérieur d’Architecture Saint Luc Bruxelles in 1983 fascinated by the pure Modernism which peaked between the 1920s and 1940s. His sensibility was somewhat at odds with Belgian architecture of the time so Bruno went abroad, returning in 1988 to help found the firm Bureau d’Etudes GMT.
In 2001 he launched Architecture Bruno Erpicum (AABE). Since then, he has designed homes all over the world, from Ibiza to Peru. AABE has won a host of prestigious international awards, most recently the Premi d’Arquitectura d’Eivissa i Formentera XVI-XX in 2022 for work on an existing building.
Today, the AABE team numbers around 10 people and the firm is active in 16 countries.
Given Bruno’s roots in Modernism, it’s not surprising that his designs adhere to a pure form of architecture designed to contribute to a greater sense of well-being. Speaking to the British magazine Imagicasa in 2019, he memorably described his work as a ‘development of emotions’.
This intrinsically human-centred approach helps gives homes Bruno designs such as Villa Solstice a certain warmth despite their modernist grandeur. One of the ways he achieves this is to consider proportions and how each space is connected to the next.
The actual starting point for Bruno’s designs, however, is always the environment in which a proposed home sits. In the case of Villa Solstice, this is its location beside the sea.
As Bruno told Imagicasa, ‘It’s precisely the uniqueness of each different location that triggers the creative mind of the architect and challenges him to reconcile the pragmatic requirements of the client with the beauty of the surrounding environment.’
This often manifests itself in designs that feature large windows and a concern for enhancing the play of natural light.
Materials are also extremely important to Bruno and his team at AABE. A while back he realised that many modern constructions ‘lose their brilliance’ because of the materials used in their design. Now he chooses natural, sustainable materials that give the homes he designs a particularly timeless feel.
The result is a home such as Villa Solstice: inspired by the Ibizan coast and the views of sea and sky but providing a space that enhances quality of life, in which people feel a sense of well-being.
Bruno has a long association with the island. He began his first project, Casa Sand in San Jose, in 1988. His clients were a Belgian couple who divided their time between Ibiza and Marrakesh. After this, he designed Casa Azul set in a pine forest near Cala Vadella.
Since then, Bruno has designed 28 homes in Ibiza. These include ultra-modern Labacaho, Ibicaelum and remarkable Can Cosmi. He is currently designing two homes in Ibiza and working on one refurbishment.
In Ibiza, as with elsewhere in the world, Bruno’s designs are guided by the environment in which proposed homes will exist. ‘The answer lies in reading the surroundings,’ he told me. ‘No more, no less.’
Back in 2006, Bruno’s clients for Villa Solstice were the Tsonev family from Sofia, Bulgaria. The home took two years to build.
‘With this home, the trick was to release all the emotions associated with the place so it felt like it was embracing the entire horizon and reflecting infinity,’ Bruno told me. ‘Architecture enables us to model the infinite qualities of space and time, like a sundial. It can embody beauty, also infinite.’
Bruno’s vision for what became Villa Solstice also took into account the home’s relationship with surrounding nature. ‘The white walls are blank pages on which nature can express itself,’ he explained.