Where Representation Meets Reality

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Axonometric, Perspective View, Plan, Students

Where Representation Meets Reality

Alberto Spinella & Massimo Tenan


During the last years hostels have earned great popularity due to their cheapness, but mainly thanks to the many possibilities they give to their young guests in order to spend time in the common spaces (usually at -1 level) with peers from all over the world. The aim of the studio was to design a hostel that was supposed to host 250 beds. It would also have had to complete the block previously occupied by a covered parking: an extraordinary situation for the historical and dense centre of Milan.
This extra-ordinary set-up led us to try to conserve this “mistake” inside the very inner part
of the city. Starting from this state, our intention was to link the common spaces of the hostel to the city and the hosts to the citizens. From the more logistic point of view the connection between bedrooms and common spaces should be controllable, hence the best way to offer this control was to divide these two parts by floating the bedrooms’ block.
These floating bedrooms give the hosts a very “insane” perspective of the city, even better than the most luxurious and traditional hotels in Milan.
By going upward, the porosity of the common spaces decreases creating different types of scenarios and chances. The ground floor level now belongs both to the hostel and the city.

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Who influences you graphically?

Due to the great circulation of images through the web, graphic representation is now evolving faster and more dynamically than architecture itself.
Since representation is one of the few – if not the only – tools that an architect has, it’s really important to be up to date in order to make the project as contemporary as possible.
In this sense, we always try to find the meeting place or a common ground in which the exchange between representation and reality could happen.
To do that, we go straight to the source of the images that influence contemporary culture, finding out that they do not usually belong to the field of architecture, as may be Kanye West’s album’s cover or a video presentation by ILL-Studio from Paris.
For those reasons we’re not looking for the revival.. you’ll hardly find in one of our images the Beatles crossing the road or people in old fashioned clothes.

What is your take on the axonometric as the most complete, yet impossible from of representation?

It is common for an architect to select some peculiar views from his project with the aim of romanticizing and transforming them into a persuasive image. But this selection is by itself incomplete or even a fake. In axonometry, all the spaces you see have the same importance and level of representation without exception. Unlike perspective, axonometry is the only technical drawing able to objectively capture the full three-dimensionality of a project without providing any predetermined or distorted atmosphere.

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How do you see the future of the hostel in relation to air bnb? Do you believe that the communal aspect so strong within the format of the hostel cannot be replaced by the fragmentation of the air bnb model?

There’s no doubt that the tertiary sector needs to be reconsidered now that sharing economy is increasingly absorbing it.
Our design solution tries to answer to modern circumstances by enhancing the ultra-ordinary features of the plot, so that you can experience a non-traditional condition inside the city: in contrast to all of the opportunities that an ordinary Airbnb apartment could offer.


What dictated the choice of materiality?

Regarding the use of materials we tried to stress, as much as possible, the floating condition by choosing two different approaches between the city level and the “air”.
Therefore, for the blocks that constitute the base, we have decided to use an urban and local stone called “ceppo dell’Adda” in order to create a recognizable and porous public space.
For the floating rooms’ block we have thought a skin made of expanded metal sheets that underline an ephemera condition inside the city. Permitting, even when it is entirely closed, to create an inside-outside condition. At night, the light of each room reveals the density of this architecture, its character and its function. At the same time it works as “lantern” for all the public spaces below it.

How does the structure respond to context and how important is showing it in context within the drawings?

We don’t believe that “respecting the context” necessarily means imitating its forms. Our ground level axonometry tries to explain that the relation with the context must be measured in the sequencing of full and empty spaces. According to this non-formal approach, is indispensable to represent the project set in its context.

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