Images that Recreate First Impressions
The project is a Vegan Cultural Centre and it consists of a restaurant, an art gallery, a cooking school, a wine cellar, an external theatre, some collective vegetable gardens and aromatic gardens.
The project area is located in Tuscany, Italy, in Florence’s outskirts. The old brick building that survived a fire in 1984 fascinated me, and I decided to do a restoration project on it. It is one of the few examples of historical industrial architecture in Florence.
The area is huge and presents many buildings: the remaining part of the brick building and other small annex. I decided to work mainly on the brick building: the fire left up all the external walls and the great amount of pillars and beams inside, and I used them as starting point for the new design.
The design process is based on two basic concepts: the virus concept and the twin concept.
The skeleton of the old structure of the building generates an architectural virus made of steel beams and pillars covered whit mirror. This mega-structure holds five cubic areas inspired by Superstudio’s Monumento Continuo. Inside the brick building, the mega-structure is enclosed by another skin of bricks, whose twin grows next to it, on the North side, covered with a completely different material: the zinc-coated iron.
I tried to make many different materials coexist, passing by the old bricks with their texture to the new bricks with a new and different texture, from the white ceramic cubes to the mirror of the pillars. The material of the floors changes too: outside the area is covered whit stone cobblestones enclosed in big frames with brass, while the square is paved with small wooden squared pieces.
The façade and the material of the twin building changes in time: the cladding is made of zinc-coated iron, and it needs maintenance every year. This maintenance will be done with a coloured anti-rust paint that will make the façade always different, year after year.
Who influences you graphically?
In my opinion, each architecture has to be represented in a different way, and because of that there is not a unique artist who has influenced me. In the case of Vegan Factory I was carried away to a different dimension, in a sort of imaginary world during my first visit to the ruined old brick building. My duty was to recreate this feeling in the project and I was thus inspired by many different artistic periods, starting from the Magical Realism of Vladimir Pajevic to the Figurative Art of Ana Kapor, the Naive Art of Henri Rousseau and Ivan Generalic and the Symbolism of Fernand Khnopff. Moreover, I am very intrigued by the flatness in the paintings of David Hockney.
To what extent did the rich natural landscape of Tuscany influence the way you rendered your proposal?
I have always imagined the landscape of Tuscany as a self-sufficient world. The design of the Vegan Factory’s gardens has been thought through overlapping layers. Each visitor can experience the gardens in a different way, through the five senses, finding wellness and harmony with nature. The main idea was to design a space of meeting and comparison that could abolish social differences.
How influential and relevant are Superstudios ideas and aesthetics for you and why?
The collages done by Superstudio and all the Radicals in the sixties have deeply inspired me. The use of simple and strong geometric shapes are very powerful tools both in designing and representing architecture.
What dictated your choice of materially and how you chose to represent them?
The material choices have been dictated by the great amount of different spaces linked to one another. It exist as a controlled chaos that allows the project to experience a continuous transformation. For the choice of materials I took inspiration from some grate architectures, as the wooden floor of the external space of Fondazione Prada by OMA and the internal floor of the Secession Building by Joseph Maria Olbrich. The graphic representation of the project and the design itself has been carried out with the constant idea of having many different materials that “communicate” and do not contrast.
What is the purpose and effect of using Magritte within the images?
I wanted to represent the architecture of my project with extreme realism. Adding some surreal or paradoxical elements of Magritte’s paintings I gave to the final result a mysterious and unreal feeling, that reflect my first impression of the visit in the abandoned area of the brick building.