Nowadays, rotating houses are not an innovation. There have been many fantastic examples around the world, including the magnificent Girasole in Canberra. It is no secret that its owner and designer was inspired by Italian architecture and design. Not many, however, know that our Australian Girasole’s predecessor carries the same name and was built almost 63 years ago.
Villa Girasole is the oldest rotating house in the world designed by a local navy engineer, Angelo Invernizzi. Situated near Verona, Italy, the house follows the path of the sun in a circular motion. Translated from Italian, the word girasole means sunflower. An appropriate name for the house which follows the sun.
The idea behind the creation of the first-of-its-kind rotating house is simple – to harness solar energy. Modern buildings use solar panels to transform it into energy.
The implementation of the ambitious project took six years from 1929 to 1935. While it might seem too long for the construction of a house, we all know Girasole was no ordinary dwelling. Its unique for that era design and purpose required the use of advanced technologies.
The First Rotating House Technology
Girasole consists of two main body parts – a circular base (44 meter diameter) and an L-shaped rotational block. In the centre you will see a beautiful 40-meter-high tower described by many as a light-house-type construction.
To rotate the 1500 tons structure, Invernizzi created an elegant mechanism powered by two diesel motors. With a speed of 4 mm per second, Girasole completes a full rotation cycle in approximately 9 hours and 20 minutes. Compared to modern rotating houses which can do make a full turn in less than 10 minutes, it might seem like an eternity. However, this is more than enough to follow the leisurely motion of the sun.
Despite the genius design and advanced mechanics, each turn leaves signs of wear and tear in the foundation of the building. The vertical shaft grinds deep into the earthbound foundation, thus the very technology which awakens the structure also brings it one step closer to destruction.
Today, Girasole is owned by the Invernizzi Foundation and the Swiss Mendrisio Academy of Architecture.