From Realtà Mapei International n° 62 - 9/5/2017

Works of architecture as sustainable works of art

Simone Micheli talks about his work, including his passion for technology and eco-friendly approach.

There are many strings to your professional bow, ranging from creating master plans to design work. Lots of your work has been focused on designing for the hospitality/hotelier industry. How, in your opinion, is your work on this kind of architecture evolving?

The evolution that the hospitality/hotelier industry has undergone over the last few years is quite startling! Nowadays places like this increasingly mix together and combine their functions and purposes, turning into interactive, hybrid spaces providing personalised solutions perfectly geared to the changing needs of modern-day people. Technology now plays a fundamental role as the silent and indispensable lifeblood flowing through any new project. Different areas and functions are no longer divided up into stagnant sections, but rather shaped into dynamic and ever-changing spaces. Attention to energy-saving and respect for the surrounding environment are now vital guidelines not just in this industry but in all design processes. Innovation is the guiding principle behind the developing of new lines of thinking and ideas. We need to keep on looking beyond the horizon! To win the commercial battles of the moment, architectural works must increasingly take on the form of authentic works of art.


Simone Micheli and the hospitality industry: how has your way of understanding and designing hotels changed from your very first designs right down to the present day?

It has not changed! It has, of course, evolved, become more structured and altered in relation to how demands in this sector have changed and are still changing.

So, the underlying philosophy behind my design work has basically remained the same and consists of engaging people on a sensorial level to ensure their well-being; the physical shape and form of my constructions evolves based on the territorial, cultural, social and temporal setting.

I am intellectually drawn towards creating, with ever-increasing attention, works of architecture designed to be sustainable works of art.


How do you choose the building materials and finishes when you set about designing a hospitality facility?

The idea of giving shape to an authentic “total work of art”, as I have already said, is the driving force behind all my projects. That is why the choice of materials is not just determined by the concept of quality and sustainability - from both an environmental and economic viewpoint - but also the unifying ideal of complementar-
ity, which must characterise every contrasting feature of the architecture. 


Attention to the environment is becoming increasingly important on all levels. How do you feel about eco-compatible materials?

I am now increasingly opting for materials that do not harm the environment but which, on the contrary, interrelate with it. I have a keen eye for emerging trends and, without getting too carried away, I design my proj-
ects using innovative materials and always analyse and study all the latest possibilities in terms of energy-saving and environmental friendliness. Constant research and experimentation are ever-presents in my design work.



What role does materials technology play in your projects?

A fundamental role! As I have just said, research and experimentation and the search to find increasingly smart and sustainable solutions are necessary for making progress and improving over time and also for making sure people’s needs and desires are increasingly met on an everyday basis. I think this is the main task of a good architectural designer.


Your projects are all extremely distinctive and unique. How does this fit in with the client’s demands and expectations and how do you adapt your approach to the different locations in which you work?

My projects derive from a harmonious combination of my design credo, the dreams and desires of the client who has decided to give shape to a given work, and the distinctive traits of each project location. The origins of works with unique features that truly stand out and are never identical but constantly changing lies in the quest for this kind of compositional perfection and constantly changing mix!

The most extraordinary projects always emerge when there is a wonderful and perfect sharing of intents and visions between the client and architect.

In this respect, I think I am an extremely lucky man.

The clients I have encountered and continue to meet as I go about my daily endeavours are always, in my opinion, responsible for breathing life into my projects.


Based on your own experience, is it easier to work in Italy or abroad?

I do not think there is any simple answer to that question. Italy is very closely tied to its traditions, something that is not always justified and is often difficult to come to terms with. Nevertheless, there are plenty of positives, such as the real determination to redevelop our territories that has emerged over the last few years and a very special kind of craftsmanship that opens up great possibilities in terms of experimentation.

Likewise, there is a tapestry of different territories, cultures, traditions and specific features “abroad” and every region has its own distinctive traits, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. I think it is vitally important to create works that are rooted in the lands in which they are to be constructed


How do you think hospitality facilities and different ways of accommodating guests will develop in future?

I envisage increasing hybridisation and interaction; I can see changing identities adapting to people‘s different lifestyles and requirements. I believe that dividing up spaces and functions statically will give way to holistic and unitary approaches focused around people’s inner selves and senses and all geared to their personal well-being. I think that the hospitality facilities of the future will be increasingly iconic and distinctive, they will be incredibly fascinating experiential places.


You have helped design and build numerous hotels. Which project gave you the greatest pleasure and which, in contrast, was the hardest to build? And what kind of hotel would you like to design?

As I often say, I have no favourite architectural work. I have also approached each new project as a new challenge to be taken on, like an exciting adventure to be enjoyed to the utmost; each work is the result of some new step forward and improvement and, hence, it has its own specific values and significance. I am totally satisfied with all the projects I have created in my over-27-year career and I can assure you that they have been numerous and all very different!!

As regards my architectural hotel... yes, I do indeed have an overriding ambition: I would like to design the sea and skies!


Which of the hotels you have designed incorporated Mapei products?

I have been working with Mapei for very many years and our close partnership is based on mutual trust and esteem.

I use Mapei products for all my works, which include hotels and hospitality facilities, but also lots of private residences.

My partnership with the company also includes joint involvement in events, trade fairs and conferences on an international level.


Simone Micheli set up an architectural firm named after himself in 1990 and then founded the “Simone Micheli Architectural Hero” engineering firm based in Florence, Milan, Dubai, Rabat and Busan in 2003. He has curated thematic “contract” exhibitions and other events for leading international trade fairs in the sector. He currently teaches at Poli.Design and the Polytechnic Design School in Milan.

His career has branched out in numerous directions ranging from architecture and internal architecture to design and visual design, also working in the field of communication; his sustainable creations are always environmentally friendly, extremely distinctive and quite unique. He has created numerous works for public institutions and important private clients in the realms of residential and communal facilities.

The international accolades he received in 2016 include:
- Best of Houzz Award 2016 #design for the popularity of his projects selected from the over 35 million users of the Houzz community;
- Codega Prize, Venice - Italy #lightingdesign and APP - American Architectural Prize, Los Angeles
- USA #interior for his wonderful project for Sarajevo Dreamy Spa;
-  Architect of the year, 2016 Build Award, BUILD Magazine, UK

His works have been displayed in leading international exhibitions and he has held conferences and lectures at universities, cultural institutes, associations and institutions in various cities around the world. His works have been published in both Italian and international magazines and journals.

Hotel Barcelò (formerly Hotel B4) in Milan

Simone Micheli designed the interiors of Hotel Barcelò in Milan, devising “Phytomorphic sculptures welcoming guests on the ground floor”. Mapei contributed to this project by supplying products for waterproofing, repairing underground masonry and installing vinyl, fibreglass and cork coatings.


Duomo Town House in Milan

Town House Duomo is a luxury hotel overlooking Piazza del Duomo in Milan. Simone Micheli designed suite No. 10 called the “Swan Room”. The suite has a large mosaic wall depicting a white swan. Mapei supplied the products for installing the mosaic and grouting the screeds (see Realtà Mapei International no. 52).


5-star private house in Maccagno

Simone Micheli designs original housing projects as well as hotels. His project for this small apartment is based on the idea of setting down a “universal space”, completely open and accessible, which contributes, together with the large windows opening onto the striking panorama of Lake Maggiore and the Lepontine Alps, to creating one unified whole together with the surrounding landscape. Mapei products were used for this project here, too.


Realtà Mapei Tags: #hotels #interviews

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