Tessa Chung takes us on tour across the impressive La Scarzuola — a theatrical landmark sited next to a 13th-century convent in the medieval city of Umbria, Italy. Tomaso Buzzi, a renowned Italian architect, acquired the convent in 1956 before restoring and expanding it into what he calls the ‘ideal city.’ Preserved today as a private house exuding the spirit of a lost and surreal kingdom, the eye-catching complex was captured by Chung during a guided tour led by the architect’s niece.


Through her documentation, Buzzi’s vision of an ideal city unfolds as a series of symbolic details — from a female bust sculpture embodying lust to elements such as the sun and moon evoking alchemy and myths. Citing the designer himself, ‘solitude is the kingdom of imagination’; on a nubilous day in the mountain of the Umbrian region, one can comprehend that statement more deeply.

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Tomaso Buzzi’s vision of a utopian world in La Scarzuola vividly pairs Neo-mannerism with hints of biomimicry. Indeed, on the one hand, the architect took inspiration from a historic book supposedly written by 15th-century Italian monk and priest Francisco Colonna, titled ‘Hypnerotomachia Poliphili.’ A classical tale celebrating antiquarianism, love, and the ancient arts, the book was brought to life in exaggerated forms by the architect. ‘The stairways leading towards every angle, purposefully disproportionate in certain sections, and the presence of monsters and superimposed buildings, brings an air of surreal, evocative, geometric, astronomical, and magical energy to this labyrinth,’ explains the managing team at La Scarzuola.


On the other hand, Tessa Chung’s unveils architectural elements that take cues from nature’s living beings. ‘La Scarzuola is the perfect place for ants, the lizards basking in the sun, the snails leaving silver pathways on stones, the silkworms huddled in their cocoons and then weaving their noble threads, the bees building architectural hives, the butterflies, the crickets, the cicadas, and every other little light that worships the sun,’ Buzzi once wrote.

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Tomaso Buzzi’s ‘ideal city’ comes to life in La Scarzuola

tessa chung captures the surreal & theatrical architecture of la scarzuola in umbria, italy

a female bust sculpture evoking lust

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an architecture inspired by antiquarianism

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mystical symbolism is unveiled during Tessa Chung’s photographic tour

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dramatic vantage points