Designing As A Task Of Composing

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Axonometric, Collage, Students, Texture

Designing As A Task Of Composing

Sara Usai

  1. Lynedoch Street

The project is a literature institute, a building which provides spaces for reading, writing, conference on literature and small discussion. It is a space to gather the fervidliterature scene of Glasgow. According to the brief the central space is the Salon, conceived as a space for gathering and talking, a sort of container of ideas. The building is located on the edge of Glasgow Westend, a vibrant area of the city, house of many students, artists, bookshops, cafes, and shops. It is the ideal space to inspire young writers. The program includes a bookshop and a cafe as well as a space for literature festivals on the ground floor , a library and a salon on the second and third storey. The top floor is the space for the writers’ rooms surrounded by terraces open for views towards the park and the rest of the city.


Lyndoch Street


Lyndoch Street


Lyndoch Street


Lyndoch Street


My thesis is an exploration of the Architecture of the working space, and in particular the architecture of an Industrial space. I’m trying to bring back the traditional methods of the craftsmen into a modern industrial typology. Whilst designing the ideal environment for the craftsman I questioned myself weather is possible for architecture to support the lost craftsmanship. The artisan work of the craftsmen in Italy is disappearing because is not protected by the government, and because the traditional methods of production have been replaced by mass production. I have focused on the activity of the Maritime Carpenter. The “Maestro d’Ascia” is the professional title for the boat makers. This is one of the craftsmanship which is slowly disappearing, to the point that there are approximately ten Maestri in Italy who maintain the traditional practice of maritime carpentry. Therefore the answer to the above mentioned question is to provide with an education system the working environment. For this reason I’ve decided to design a boatyard and an academy for boat makers in order to sustain the practice of the Maestri d’Ascia, providing an educational environment from which these traditional method can be passed on to the next generation.




Universitas Studiorum Povegliana is a University-State. It retains the name of the institution for the sake of identification as the fetish of an exhausted idea.  An island is a place associated to a vast imaginary defined in fiction (Homer to More, Lost to Celebrity Island) or built through the legends and inventions from which Poveglia is not exempted. It is the perfect condition for a University-State that can freely proclaim to be self-referential. Here, the many fragments produced by the explosion of an institution in ruin can shamelessly assert their forced cohabitation, eventually becoming plausible again.    Universitas Studiorum Povegliana: a hyper-realistic fiction.  A floating triangle made of dwelling modules for 450-to-900 people shields the island. These are the boats designed by James Stirling for the Scottish hills and finally arrived at where they belong: on the sea.  A university built as a bricolage of declared clichés: a 1:1 architectural model. The former asylum offers the television set for the daily recording of filtered knowledge: the age of YouTube tutorials reminds about the ultimate sense of responsibility of a university towards a society lost in a sea of futility. Fragments of recognisable “university spaces” ephemerally inhabit the island of the secluded. The classroom, the auditorium, the informal lounge, theportico, the laboratory, the medical theatre, the meeting room, the administration office, the sports facility, the computer lab, the canteen, the lawn, the library… ruins within the ruins, hyper-realistic stages for performances recorded and shared on the web.  Teaching is the only “product” of Universitas Studiorum Povegliana. There is no clear distinction between students and teachers. Only one “social class” is distinguished: the Sages. Seven retired (or simply frustrated) academics live in voluntary exile in towers borrowed from a Bechers’ catalogue and placed on the second island, each with their vegetable garden. Up and down the towers, the Sages live a wearying routine made of study, contemplation, pastoral tutorial, food procurement……And periodical encounters with “the public”. A floating bridge connects the Sages’ island to a circular platform in the middle of the lagoon. Here, the society of spectacle attends the academic performance from their boats. This time, on stage, is not the Pink Floyd but an old academic. Destiny is inescapable. Once water has reclaimed the land, all that was selected, filtered and cumulated across the life of this ruined institution survives in a server buried under the fortified octagon: Knowledge in wait for the future explorers of another Atlantis.





Who influences you graphically?

My very first graphic reference have been (and they still are) Japanese and Chinese silk-printings and drawings like Hirosige and Hokusai. I love their colours, textures and lines, and their oneiric atmosphere. I try to reproduce that dreamy atmosphere in each representation that I work on….Other important references come from Cinema, directors like Bertolucci, Fellini, Pasolini, Lynch, Araki, Anderson have been a strong influence in my drawings, even when indirect… I love to watch movies and screenshot their frames to read through their composition and their architecture….Photographers like Basilico, the Becher, Van Der Weijde, Hofer and so many others..!

I have worked at Dogma for a while and they surely are a part of my influence and background…

However I think it Is a difficult question, everything and everyone can be an inspiration or a influence. Everyday I discover new graphic references, and I suppose this is what is exciting about our job! For instance two weeks ago I came across a Series of drawing by Ico Parisi and I am surely going to use those a reference soon… I think my graphic references can range from illustrations to paintings from cinema to fashion and photography..Sometime they can also be people that I see walking in London with their histrionic outfits.

The references are in continuos evolution, and I hope It will be always a struggle answering to such a question! I am constantly looking for my “Green ray”….

To what extend do you agree with the notion oThe Medium is the message?

The medium is surely a part of the message, especially when we talk about academic projects where often the project is the medium! How can we argue that a model or a perspective is not the message? The message there would not even exist without the medium and vice versa!

However I think it is important not to convert the medium in the mere message as a sort of aesthetic exercise. Behind the medium there is a project normally and this should stand out thanks to the medium and together with it. How could the relative projects have been formatted in ways that reflected the proposal (Book-for literature institute- mania for working space) and what would be the effect?

I think every drawing has been formatted in a way that reflect the proposal, the image is the proposal and vice-versa. I think the atmosphere and the composition of the im­age is an way driven by the proposal. However some of these images are “a posteriori” elaboration of a project.

What dictates the graphics approach to a project?

I do not think that I change the graphic approach to every project. I think I have a “style” that I apply to every drawing, or at least I attempt to.. The typology of the building influences the image for sure, but I am not too worried about applying a specific graphic approach for every specific project. My main focus normally would be to design something good, and to finalise the quality of the design through my drawings. I love drawing, and It is through drawings that I attempt to materialise the ideas of the unbuilt or built realities.

You construct through collage, how can the term collage be appropriated to discuss architecture as a whole?

The collage is a way of representation and it is one of the ancestor of “rendering” architecture. In the schools of architecture in Italy the design studios are named “composition class”, meaning that designing is a task of composing . As architects we indeed select materials shapes and ideas that are not new to us, and we combine them into a project, designing is an intellectual collage! The art of collage is analogue and to the art of composing a project. The process of cutting out a shape or a figure from a book is parallel to the one of selecting and understanding how to shape up a part of a room\building\city.

How does the use of colour help in establishing hierarchy within images?

Colours are surely important In the establishment of the hierarchy within the same Image’s geometry. I wish I could really apply those hierarchy in a much more extensive way in my images, but sometime the message/the project takes over image itself… an especially remarkable artist is Morandi for his extremely simple and yet impressive use of colours hierarchy, it is to be seen anytime we doubt about how to establish a “order” between the colours in our images… Yesterday I went to an exhibition on expressionism and there were many astonishing paintings by M. Rothko.. His use of colours was amazing however he says “If you are only moved by colour relationships, you are missing the point” !


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