Sardinia, Italy

An Architectural Heritage

Diletta Carutti

Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily. The Italian Island, which is located closer to Africa than Italy, is known for its turquoise-hued sea and white sandy beaches that rival the tropics.

The north-eastern stretch of the coast of Sardinia, which is referred to as Costa Smeralda, is a romantic holiday escape famous for its landscape of crystal clear waters, glamorous lifestyle and waterfront villas.

In the 1960s, Aga Khan turned Sardinia's Costa Smeralda into a luxury playground for the wealthy. Not only did this development turn the region into a popular destination for political and business leaders, but it also laid the foundation for a bigger cultural revolution that involved the arrival of great creative minds in the fields of art and architecture.

Thanks to his role as one of the most ardent patrons of architecture and historic preservation, Prince Aga Khan attracted famous entrepreneurs, architects, artists and other investors from all over the world who contributed to transforming 5,000 hectares of wild land in one of the most prestigious and exclusive resort destinations in the Mediterranean.

The Prince required that all real estate developments be constructed in harmony with the surrounding landscape and conveniently accessible. In 1964, Olbia airport (later renovated and expanded) became the home base of the commercial airline, Alisarda (now Meridiana) and the Porto Cervo Marina was then created to provide for 700 private boat and yacht slots, both of which provided accessibility to the island.

The first villages, including Porto Cervo, were designed by renowned international architects including Luigi Vietti, Jacques Couëlle and Michele Busiri Vici, who all laid the foundations for the signature Mediterranean style of the Costa Smeralda, making use of simple shapes, multiple arches and pastel colors, while placing great emphasis on harmony with nature.

All waterfront villas share common features pertaining to the architectural style and the choice of materials but each of them stands as a proud landmark of the Mediterranean architectural style.

Sardinia has become a safe haven for those who seek the beauty of its natural landscapes but who also want to endorse and inherit its architectural heritage- which cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world.