The original plan drawing of the Swallow Villa is one of the few written sources that have survived to this day.
Rosa Lohner chooses the Viennese architect Alexander Graf, who was particularly active at the turn of the century, as the designer of her holiday home. The Schwalbenvilla is one of his early works. It is built in the so-called Heimatstil, a subspecies of the late historicism that is widespread in German-speaking countries.

Academy Merano Schwalbenvilla Villa San Marco Architecture

The villa is surrounded by a three-cornered park that is not adjacent to any other property but is bordered on all three sides by streets: Innerhoferstraße to the southwest, Grabmayrstraße to the east and Weingartenstraße to the north. The building is three-story and consists of a basement, mezzanine and an attic.
The axis of the villa is slightly transverse to the entrance on Innerhoferstraße. The dark brown half-timbered applications give the building the character of an Alpine hunter’s house. Entirely in keeping with the style of his time, Graf gives all four façades a certain movement, created by the asymmetry throughout, but also by projections and contrasting elements such as balconies, risalites, oriels and verandas.

The entrance to the villa is in the shade of the trees, on the east façade and thus on the side opposite the driveway. Through the glazing above the front door, which extends to the roof, daylight falls on the staircase, first made of stone, then of wood, which leads to the upper floors.
The mezzanine floor was Rosa Lohner’s living area: through the entrance door, one entered – just as today – a spacious hall from which all the other rooms, as well as the kitchen and bathroom, could be reached. The salon was opposite the entrance, next to it the dining room. These two rooms make up today’s conference room of the Academy. From the dining room, one reached the room of the co-owner Maria Dvorzak, which is characterised by a bright corner bay window. South of the entrance hall and thus in the best position was Rosa Lohner’s living room. The spacious room is fronted by a wooden veranda leading to a pergola. The original plan shows a staircase that led from the pergola directly into the garden. This corresponded to the fashion of the time, which almost all manor houses followed. In the course of undocumented renovation work, the open staircase was later removed. It had to make way for an autoremise, which was erected below the pergola. It is possible that the conversion was ordered by Paul Förstemann, who adapted the villa to his personal taste and requirements before moving in.

Villa San Marco with garden
Villa San Marco with garden

The mezzanine floor also contained a bathroom and kitchen as well as a servant’s room. A side staircase leads from the kitchen directly to the front door. Despite these concessions to the basic comforts for the upper classes of the time, the villa has a certain modesty that clearly sets it apart from other residences in Obermais or Untermais from that period. The furnishings of the building correspond to the widow status of the owner, who presumably had a quiet and contemplative retreat in mind.

A wooden staircase leads to the upper floor, and a servants’ staircase also connected this floor with the servants’ rooms on the mezzanine floor. The upper floor, with its high, partly sloping ceilings, has two rooms, the south-facing one being fronted by a balcony that sits on the veranda. There are also an attic and storage rooms here. When the Academy for German-Italian Studies moved into the Villa San Marco, it was initially accommodated on the upper floor. Since the Academy has been able to have the entire building, including the surrounding park, at its disposal, the staff offices are housed here.

Source: Giorgia Lazzaretto; Anna Pixner Pertoll, Meraner Villenbau um die Jahrhundertwende. Ein Beitrag zur Wohnkultur im 19. Jahrhunder