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Architecture, Architect, Identity: interview with AMAA

Talking about identity is never simple, ever less in architecture. Interesting perspective can come from the new generation of architects.
AMAA was born in 2012, from the collaboration between Marcello Galiotto and Alessandra Rampazzo, both class ’86 and with a long academic and professional carrer, to wich corresponds several prizes and awards, of which the last one Young Italian Architects, for their office in Arzignano, where, out of Venice, they work.
In the interview we discussed different thematic: from the professional identity in Italy, to the architecture itself, in its most contemporary meaning of un-finished. Nevertheless, in AMAA practice it doesn’t result in a simple style or trend, as the outcome of a cultural process, that requires a costant confrontation with the existing through reuse practice.

1 – The changing of the architect’s identity and role generate, within the centuries, a change in the evolution of architecture itself. Nowadays what does it means to be architect in Italy and what is the specific identity of AMAA?

M.G. Beyond that I think it is appropriate to ask what it means to be young architect in Italy. On this question it is based our profession. And that means to have occasions that we had not until few years ago; To demonstrate dedication, endless energies to spend, as well as continuous willingness towards your work and a direct and concrete knowledge of the discipline and the construction site. Our profession entirely occupies our time and our lives, devoted to ideals that, even if often misunderstood, in their applications leave space to fulfillement and satisfaction, and that is our payback, for our patience and dedication.

AMAA - Workshop

AMAA, Workshop, Arzignano, 2018.

It means to try to teach and pass our passion toclients and students, but overall, to learn something from every situation: from craftsmen, the ones still actives and tied to tradition and craftmanship, more and more uncommon nowadays.
To be young architects in Italy means to have the openness of an architect’s vision able to invest in collaboration and resources coming from teamwork, recognising in the confrontation a useful device to comprehend themes and issues, to study and finally, to evolve. It means to create collectives that operate on common ideals but still autonomous and “rivals”.
In this way it is possible to create the conditions for a sharing environment, where you can feel as a part of a bigger project, the architecture.
It is about making of curiosity the engine of your growth: to read indistinctly and to travel (restart to travel) are essential in this way.
It means to taste in your profession- and to accept – the bitterness of defeat and the sweetness of a win. The architect profession involve your entire daily life and it must be a passion that coincide with an ideology: it is not a profession at intervals.
To be young architects means finally to get into the game and also to write, that unfortunately wa can do too rarely.
All of this is AMAA.

A.R. What we do everyday and how we do it represent who we are, our identity.

2 – Given your strong academical background, that follow an important professional experience, do you think that in Italy there is a fracture between Profession and academy?

M.G. Yes and no. Let me clarify. We attended Iuav in Venice and there, we had the chance to study with Massimo Carmassi, who passed us a great passion for architecture and construction. But we often travelled and met different Faculty and universities. In the academy the limited presence of architect who have not built very much is changing. In Politecnico of Milan, for example, there are several interesting positions involving visiting professor who practise their free profession: some chairs are attribuited to well-known character such as Sejima and Souto de Moura. Nowadays I am collaborator wof Nikos Ktenàs’s course, who works as architect in Athens. Iuav, instead, proposes WaVes, intensive workshops that offer to students the opportunity to confront with professionals coming from all over the world. What I mean is that, even in Italy, we can recognise different approaches for each university, while remaining far away- for legal problems too- from models that prioritize the profession, such as the Portuguese and Switzerland Universities.
I think, anyway, that interdisciplinarity and a humanistic education of the Italian universities give a wide formation, that tap into our culture: a fundemantal issue for the formation of an architect.

A.R. What lacks is the experience of the building site and the contact with the materials ables to transform the ideas in the blueprint. For this very reason, moments such as the travel or the internship, should be the backbone of an architect’s background.

3 – One of the most characterising practice of an architect is the modelling, whose importance Marcello experienced directly in Sou Fujimoto’s firm. Could you tell us your experience in Japan related to this themathics? What is the model’s role in your design workflow?

M.G. Models are an important device in our work. It’s difficult to understand the project scale with the only use of computers and three-dimensional representation, especially if realised by someone else. A ccording to that we build several models, using primarly two scales: 1:500 (sometimes 1:1000, never 1:200) for the urban scale and 1:33 (nearer to the modelling scale) for the details. The way we do can be different and come from the first year of University during Renato Rizzi’s course combined to techniques and thoughts from Japanese practises, in particular Sou Fujimoto’s.
In the blend of so different approaches, we tried to build our free identity. We think, and hope, we are on the right way.

A.R. The model is, in addition to that, the first approach to the study of the site and territory and his morphology. At the same time, it is a direct contact with materials. In this respect, our affection to concrete approaches us to a material we use for the building too, making us understand his properties and potentialities. The model is functional to a double research, the first one, more specific on the project, and the latter one, related to the material expressive language: these are also the backbone of our reflection in the architectural practise.

AMAA - Space within a space

AMAA, Space within a space, Arzignano, 2018.

4 – I will not deny that one of the personalities who came on my mind for this issue of the magazine is the architect Maria Giuseppina Grasso Cannizzo, candidate for the Mies Prize, but with her studio in small town in Sicily.
There are some analogies with AMAA’s production: in addition to the un-finished language that we will discuss about later, it’s particularly interesting your choice to operate in a locl context. Where this decision come from? What are the downsides coming from that?

M.G. We think that Maria Giuseppina Grasso Cannizzo an architect of extraordinary interest. We had the chance to meet her more than ten years ago in Messin, for the design traveling seminar Villard. The un-finished theme by wich you can recognise a similarity between her work and our approach, we think it is not the result of a specific will, but a moment that represent just a part of the process, and it must be recognised and possibly “stopped”, making it visible. We reach the maximum satisfaction when this stage occurs with the end of the work, as it was for the new AMAA’s office.
In the project, indeed, the architecture does not need decoration to stand in all his essentiality and clarity.

A.R. The relationship with the territory is also translated in a strong link with the tradition. A building tradition that suggests us the good practises of an architecture born from knowelde stratification and their improvement over the centuries. We believe it is important to look at the context – ando so at the tradition- to get hint about the innovativeness of the project itself.
Going further with solid bases and with two feet on the ground: it means to have in consideration the importance of space conceived within the project for people, at the service of humanity in the time, and autoreferntials. The architecture we produce leave, anyway a footprint in our time.

M.G. We decided to open a second office, returning to my hometown, because we believe that in these places less crowded we can act with less frenzy and more quality. One of our most significative building, now under construction, is the result of an extraordinary collaboration between people who had been all around the world, to return home and do something important there. We hope this experience could what Coira represented for Peter Zumthor.

AMAA - Pleonastic is fantastic

AMAA, Pleonastic is fantastic, Lonigo, 2020.

5 – Previously I was talking, in comparison with the work of M.G.G.Cannizzo, about an un-finished language: the 2008 crisis ran over architecture too, more and more conscient to have no more the possibility to afford the excessive finish of some practises, such as international style and deconstructivism. In architectural composition field there has been two main response, first, linking the language to his constructive essentiality, elevating this one to aesthetic moment; we can think about Can Picafort of Ted’A, but also, many years before the Chapel of ITT campus by Mies Van Der Rohe. But also bringing back the theme of the reuse, that you face quite often. What is the importance of these two themes in your design experience? Can reuse give back identity to the architecture?

M.G. We strongly believe in reuse, restoration, and conservation. A very fitting example is this year’s Pritzker that this year was won by Lacaton and Vassal. Our territories are full of mediocre buildings that represents great occasion of re-configuration. For this very reason, we believe that new building must be reduced to the essential, prioritizing the conservation and valorisation of those memory place that could be redefined and readapted to new functions and visions. We think that the response is in the structure, distribution, fixtures, and other detail elements.

A.R. Few elements, just as few materials, must lead the project, in our opinion. The strategy is extremely important, especially in the process of valorisation of the existing built, from a room to the entire urban complex. Few things, able to express the relationship between the existing and the new addition: a relationship based on the detail and the sensitivity it inflects the joint space within.

M.G. The reuse theme can bring us back to reflect on modality by which our historical centre has been defined, and from this analysis draw some inspiration to elevate the practise, often naïf, used in the predisposition of contemporary allotment. In addiction to that we believe really important to face a new housing model and adapted to existing space, sometimes compressed, recognising the importance in defining the users primary needs: in a restoration project it is difficult to grant everything the user wants, because of the contingency of spaces.

A.R. That is why, especially in these context and projects it is fundamental the committee’s sensibility, as well as the leading role that an architect can have in the management of the project.

6 – Any advice for young architects and new graduates?

M.G. Study, travel, live the architecture. It will pay back with marvellous spaces.

A.R. Take from what commonly is defined a constraint, some unhoped possibilities to demonstrate that going further and experimenting is always possible.

Translated into English by Giuliano Coppola.

Cover: Portrait of AMAA, courtesy of AMAA.

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He was born in Naples, where he obtained the classical European diploma, which allowed him to have numerous experiences of cultural exchange, in France, England and Ireland. In 2018 he began his studies in Architectural Design at the Polytechnic of Milan. His main interests, in addition to architecture and art, are photography, reading, cinematography and philosophy. Lately he has been exploring the fields of psychology and sociology. He is attracted to the study and analysis of apparently contradictory situations, in any discipline, from historiography to economics.
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