Philip Rolla’s love of the fine arts goes back to his childhood, when he made copies of Michelangelo’s works and sold them for pennies to his father’s friends. In elementary and high school, he excelled in drawing. As an adult, he continued to work with a pencil, but also developed an interest in contemporary art, especially American Minimalism. Two friends from Ticino, the sculptor Pierino Selmoni and the painter Flavio Paolucci, introduced to Phil by the architect Dolf Schnebli, brought him closer to this art in the 1960s and 1970s. Three decisive figures in his cultural formation. Schnebli opened his eyes to the concept of the house as a “living machine”, Selmoni introduced him to the artistic milieu of Ticino, and Paolucci led him to broaden his cognitive horizons. It was thanks to Paolucci, for example, that he “discovered” Richard Long’s aligned stones in Venice in 1976.

Another important figure in those years was the American sculptor David E. Davis, whom he met by chance at the Perseo foundry in Mendrisio during one of his annual trips to Ticino. Davis understood Phil’s interests and pointed him to one of the most relevant addresses for him: Villa Panza in Varese. An unforgettable model, for the richness of the works it contains - including artists such as Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt and Dan Flavin – and for the highly original choice of the various arrangements within the residence. Thanks to Giovanna and Giuseppe Panza di Biumo, Phil understands that there is another way to be an art collector. The works are part of the house, they are naturally lived in and enjoyed. First by Rosella and Philip, who have always been in perfect harmony on the level of artistic sensibility, and then by the guests who are lucky enough to have access to them. Bruzella’s Ca di Guárdi is a concrete demonstration of this.


Richard Long
Small Athens Stone Ring

Dan Flavin

(photo by Pino Musi)

Sol LeWitt

(photo by Pino Musi)