Project Summary

Villa La Pietra is a beautiful historical villa and art museum in Florence, Italy and home of the New York University Florence study abroad program. The goal of Villa La Pietra: to share the intellectual, cultural and artistic life of the villa with future generations of students, scholars and the wider international community.

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Bequeathed to NYU in 1994 by Sir Harold Acton, Villa La Pietra consists of 5 historic villas and 57 acres of gardens and olive groves. The Villa serves as a rich resource for ongoing research in art history, conservation, and Italian history. The scenographic grounds of Villa la Pietra continue to inspire artists, writers, musicians, poets, actors and public intellectuals who are given time and space to nurture and hone their craft, experiment, collaborate across disciplines, and to create and present new works or the reinterpretation of classics. Villa La Pietra, the Acton Collection, and the Garden have been officially listed as cultural heritage and fall under the protection of the Italian Ministry of Fine Arts. NYU continues to maintain the estate as it was envisioned by the Acton family.

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url:    |    completed: November 2015


As a museum, learning center, historical property and theatre, Villa La Pietra is a complex organization that has a diverse audience base to serve. Their audiences (students, guests and faculty) each deserve emphasis without downplaying, neglecting or confusing the experience of another. Between the Acton art and artifact collection, The Garden, The Season, the Photographic Archive and their constantly evolving student and faculty projects, there are a lot of resources to manage and to feature. One of Villa La Pietra’s main goals is to unite all of the different artifacts and bring the pieces together to create a unified, educational, and inspiring experience for their audiences–all while allowing the site to continue to evolve as new exhibitions, events and programs are introduced.


With these complex challenges, Cuberis spent time getting to know Villa La Pietra (we even went to Italy to visit!). Through in-depth research, thoughtful consideration and iteration, we developed a strategy that considers all of the challenges, in addition to Villa La Pietra’s digital initiatives and long-range goals. Due to the different variables at play (audiences and programs), Cuberis created a components-based system in WordPress for Villa La Pietra. This allows for easy updating, streamlined internal management and showcasing selected features on demand. We also organized the website programmatically through color coding allowing for the user to quickly filter through an extensive database of visual content.


Villa La Pietra’s beautifully redesigned website presents visitors with an aesthetically pleasing experience that is clearly organized and readily navigable. The site’s photographically rich design continues to draw visitors to the museum. And with an intuitive WordPress implementation, museum staff are able to easily keep the site up to date with all their latest news, events, lectures, and programs. 

Project Highlights

Mood boards & Styling

At the very start of the project, post-discovery, we worked with the Villa La Pietra team to refine their brand and establish a new tone for the redesigned website. Our designers created 4 mood boards to help visually guide Villa La Pietra to a final design direction. The mood boards ranged from traditional to modern, balanced perspective and inspiration, spiritual and personal, and art and color. Ultimately, we worked with Villa La Pietra to establish a look that focused on imagery specific to their property, felt contemporary, is image-rich and includes saturated color fields. In addition to establishing the tone for the website, we created a style guide that will help them stay consistent in future branding materials.


Since Villa La Pietra is so multi-faceted, we wanted to offer a solution that allowed them to continue to grow with the website and feature new content with ease. We developed a forward-thinking solution that allows them to easily update and manage content: a components-based approach. This route provided the Villa La Pietra team with a toolkit of elements from which custom pages can be built on the fly. We built 9 stylized components into the back-end of WordPress to use on their interior pages. They are able to easily add and update content in a dynamic manner, which results in heavy hitting interior pages that provide their users with an engaging experience.

Digital Exhibitions

Villa La Pietra is constantly evolving their programs and events. They can use the 9 stylized components to create unique collections of content specific to a program or event, highlighting a variety of different content types with ease. Stylized content types include: related courses, featured events, an event series, project participants, a snapshot gallery, featured artifacts, videos, a call-to-action button, scholarship work and related projects.

Responsive Images

The redesigned Villa La Pietra website has a wealth of images that visually represent their artifacts, grounds, gardens, buildings and projects. In order to continuously offer a good user experience, we developed a responsive-images solution that cut down the load time on the site and optimized the images appropriately, whether viewing the site on mobile, tablet or desktop. Quick image loading allows the site to continue to function at lightning speed, while still showing the visuals at high resolution.

Information Architecture

In order to balance all of the valuable information that Villa La Pietra needed to feature on their website, we took time to carefully organize content in a way that is easy for users to navigate. There are 6 main featured categories on the site that all needed equal emphasis: Collection, Garden, Photographic Archive, Projects, Events and The Season. The result is a robust sectioning of the site that allowed showcasing of each category in an easy-to-read and digestible manner. The website itself is built upon an organization of text, sub content, images and child pages to continue the framework throughout the website.

Events Listing

Through our Discovery and collaborative workshops with Villa La Pietra, we uncovered that site visitors were often coming to the website to view previous events, upcoming events and to read about event details. To satisfy those users, we needed to keep a historical listing of past events while still being able to showcase upcoming events in a simple and engaging manner. The events listing can be organized by date, events within a category or by custom tags created by Villa La Pietra. The events listing is a robust and reusable piece of the Villa La Pietra website and can be applied to a variety of use-cases throughout the website.

Before & After

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