Your very first constructions were already characterised by your diligent search for a choice of styles and materials to best describe the function and personality of an architectural structure. On the subject of materials, which element of your constructions would you say is the dominating feature?
When possible, I prefer to use “natural” materials: terracotta, natural stone, reinforced concrete and wood. This latter mainly on the interior as, in our latitudes, it is not very suitable to being used on the exterior. All these materials are connected to the environment, the climate and, in general, the territory where we are asked to build.
What architectural references from the past have had the greatest influence on your work?
The great architecture of the past is the real “school” of reference. Architecture finds expression through its buildings because, besides the architect’s sensibility and language, it also interprets the history of its own time. That’s why we can maintain that the works of architecture are the formal expression of history. There is an anthropological element that connects the buildings to the past, to a space of our memory that powerfully resurfaces also in modern times. Architects are very privileged as their sources of inspiration from the art of building are linked to the history of the whole mankind.
A while ago you said you found it “unsettling” to work on just one project and that you would rather work on different sites. Do you still feel the same way?
I most certainly do. In the modern fast-moving culture, the building process is paradoxically taking more and more time and, in some cases, many decades may intervene between the initial project and its completion … and unfortunately the architect has but one life. The possibility of following more building sites allows to carry out a constant check on one’s work.
You are an internationally acclaimed architect who designs buildings and structures all around the world. Where are your main projects at the moment?
Europe remains the main point of reference for both a sort of elective affinity and for the ease and convenience of the relationships, which are important aspects of our work. Over the last decades I’ve had the possibility to widen my horizons and interests and many job opportunities have arisen in the Far East: South Korea, India and above all China. Distant countries that are surrounded by an air of mystery even in the design process but that offer new forms of expression and experimentation. Most of the time architects cannot choose what to build; they are actually chosen, thus becoming the last instrument of a design process that often goes beyond their own judgement.
You are celebrating your 75th birthday this year. If you were to take stock of all the architectural research you have done, which of your works are you most proud of or most satisfied with?
Undoubtedly the “next one”. Ours is a work of constant approximation that grants a sense of expectation for what is yet to be planned. The accomplished works are interesting but can be assessed only in retrospect. They are a “property” of the community and the architect, even when spurred on by the best intentions, cannot modify them. The moment you start a building site there is always a nice feeling of expectation but, at the same time, a lurking dissatisfaction for the changes you may no longer be able to carry out.