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An educated experimentalism: interview with Stefano Pujatti

Experimentalism and curiosity are the words that best describe the flexible architecture of architect Pujatti and his studio. Elastico Spa is the production of particular, almost deconstructivist forms capable of giving shape to spaces and a right relationship with the territory. In his works there is a tension between function, form and place. A mix that results in bold projects and out of the box. Each project is an impressive case and the result of an intense research that recurs in the forms and materials used in his architecture.

1 – In a particular moment like today, characterised by different breakpoints with respect to the everyday life to which we were accustomed in the months preceding the pandemic, it becomes of fundamental importance to be aware of the real need to have to return to reflect upon the deep meaning of living spaces and architecture. This process is summed up in the theme proposed by Hashim Sarkis for the Venice Biennale with the title “How will we live together?”. Referring to this issue, what are your considerations and opinions about it?

I do not think it is a problem strictly related to architecture but rather a social and medical issue, and so forth. Architecture builds spaces, defines physical things that people appropriate. There is and must exist an independence between architecture and how the architecture itself decides to be used.
Nevertheless, this is not always the case. From rationalism onwards, in fact, architecture chases the theme of functionalism, whose goal is to create architectural artifacts capable of responding in a performing and exact manner to the questions of the exact moment in which they are built. However, this produces a fragile architecture, in the position of being questioned according to the reality that is constantly changing and mutating. It is an example like the one above that suggests that architecture must have its own values capable of making it valid as such, and that it must not be merely limited to be a complementary and dependent figure of a more complex system.


© Stefano Pujatti, Top Gun, Polcenigo, 2006.

2 – The temporary isolation inside our homes has allowed / forced us to confront ourselves with the domestic space, making us more aware than ever of its limits and potential. It is therefore of fundamental importance to rethink the domestic space as a result of the needs of the individual. How do you think the planning and operational approach of the domestic space will change?

To present, personal domestic space is not defined by the desire for where and how a person would like to live their life, but rather by the price per square meter of the home itself. I believe it is the economy that defines the dimension of the space in which we live. In a historical moment like the one we are living in, it is clear how spaces are being re-evaluated, giving greater importance to some of them rather than others. The balcony, for example, for some of us was one of the only points of contact with the outside world during the months of lockdown. Probably in the future, to answer this economic space / cost equation, we will see the emptying of certain places and the densification of others where the purchase price is lower, therefore more convenient. Depending on the duration of this state of emergency, this particular situation could, in the long run, trigger a change in our idea of the urban fabric.


© Stefano Pujatti, 1301 INN, Piancavallo, 2013.

3 – Among the problems we face today, the environmental issue takes on an important importance. There is increasing talk of sustainability as an essential quality of design. This shrewdness arises from a deep attention on the construction methods and the materials chosen for the realisation. How does this aspect is reflected in your projects?

It is assumed that buildings must disperse less than they could disperse in the past decades. This is attention to respect for the planet which, in a purely mechanical way, is translated into the thickness of the thermal insulation used rather than the quality of the fixtures used during construction. In my opinion, this is the most trivial answer and I personally keep it always as a reserve card. The attitude we try having instead, is to look for clever methods that can help us overcome this problem.
For instance, the Atelier fleuriste is covered with water. Water is able to cool the building without having those negative implications that could instead be generated by using an air conditioning system, which would have ruined the plants inside the atelier and would have also produced environmental pollution. Another interesting example is that of 1300 INN (Pian Cavallo – Pordenone) which uses the heat dissipated by the freezing mechanism of the ice rink to heat the building. All these attitudes – between the experimental and the experienced – help to open a new thought to what is sustainable design.
I think ecological thought needs to be a little more proactive than the simple passive-house idea. Personally, I would seek and develop in the best way possible those that are the best sources of renewable energy. By this I am not thinking only about solar or wind power, but also all those new forms of nuclear energy that are emerging which, if developed correctly and used in the right way, will make a difference. Another experimental method we are still working on is the one intended for a house in Canada that could be able to insulate itself with the ice layer that is created naturally. Basically, ice can be used as a membrane for the formation of a sort of interspace capable of offering a contribution to the thermal comfort of the building.
If I had to answer the question concisely, I would say that we address the issue of sustainability using what is known as a safe answer, but trying to find, in a targeted manner, solutions to specific needs.


© Stefano Pujatti, Atelier fleuriste, Chieri, 2008.

4 – From what I was able to deduce from your interviews and public interventions, two of the most important themes within your design workflow are those represented by the territory and the pre-existing structures that stand on it. With what approach can you put in deep relationship and coherence project, preexistence and territory?

I don’t know if I would call it coherence, I have never sought and addressed the issue of coherence as an absolute quality. There is no real hierarchy between these three elements you mentioned; my project is worth as much as the pre-existence and the territory. It is no coincidence that if you were to make a wrong project, the latter would in turn cancel the value of the two other factors and vice versa. A right project would be able to raise the value of the other two to an even higher level. The attempt is to understand what the individual values of each aspect we are dealing with are, and what we can actually operate on. What seems obvious is not always a true value, and for this reason a lot of attention is needed.
Therefore, the problem must be faced with the definition of methods for scanning the pre-existing buildings and the territory. Speaking as architects I would say: “the lenses through which you look at things at”.


© Stefano Pujatti, Golf House, Tassarolo, 2012.

5 – In all your projects, a certain attention to the technologies and materials used in their realization can be found. The feeling I had is that the experimentation – whether compositional or material – within your works is like a thread that connects them one to another without ever making them lose their coherence. It seems spontaneous, therefore, to ask you how you manage to invent a new idea for each commissioner without falling in temptation of doing something trivial?

There are many times when I find myself “rediscovering hot water”. And this is ok! The point is always the same, when you rediscover hot water you also find a way to heat that water in your own way. I am not interested in the final result, but rather in the methodology with which to get to what I want: each time in a different way. And it is precisely during these attempts that new paths and ideas always open up. I never take anything for granted, not even the most obvious things. I like to start from scratch. My attitude has no prejudice. The theme of architecture is often established by many preconceptions.
There are many architectures that arise at the wrong time and, due to common prejudice, lose value and are diminished. They probably arrived late and are therefore pointed out as wrong. All of this is absurd, and I believe that the architectural environment needs more attention and respect. On the other hand, there are things I don’t like and don’t care about: generally, because they are predictable.
I like a building full of mistakes, where the dimension of risk – and therefore of error – is deeply contemplated, more than a building that can respond well to the theme but somehow does not give me emotions and particular insights. Looking at a building, I prefer therefore to feel a sense of anger rather than emotional indifference.


© Stefano Pujatti, Le bâtiment descendant l’escalier, Jesolo Lido.

6 – When, how and why did you decide that Architecture would be your way?

Unconsciously rather early I believe. From an early age I liked the construction site environment, a bit like old men. I decided to become an architect when I was 14-15 when I saw two buildings, realised by Gino Valle, recently built in Pordenone. While everyone criticised them, I found them very interesting. This stimulus has grown over time until I got to enrol in the Faculty of Architecture where, by pure chance, I took one of the first exams with Gino Valle and then, after graduating, I started a collaboration in his studio.


© Stefano Pujatti, Dog House, Torrazza Piemonte, 2019.

7 – What is your definition of Architecture today?

“Che barba che noia!” (so boring!), as Mondaini would say. If architecture is inspired by architecture, it can only lead to boredom because its language is made of repetitions. I don’t know. I have no idea what architecture is, whether art or science, I don’t know. All architects have this repulsion for the world of art, and I agree that we are not artists as we reason through completely different mental processes. Having said that, I think that architects are somehow the ones who are the first to manage to dialogue with artists. Artists photosynthesise the energy of society and translate it into something for many to be indigestible. Quality architects are able to assimilate these energies catalysed by the artist and translate them into something constructive and/or physical.

8 – What advice would you give to future architects and professors?

I don’t know what to say to future professors, I’m not a professor. To young architects or architecture students, I would say not to have many prejudices, and try to don’t being an architect, and if they just can’t, good bless them.

Translated into English by Davide Francesco Avesani.

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Born in 1998. He graduated in Architectural Design at the Milan Polytechnic on 24 September 2019. The life in the city of Milan starting from 2017 allows him to deal with different realities with which he immediately comes into contact. He is increasingly passionate about the world of design, architecture and illustration.
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