The Hand Is The Instrument Of The Mind
Warehouse of Architecture and Research
New School in Grezzana (VERONA)
G. Corbo, J. Costanzo. Collaborators: F. Bour, G. Celano
The new school in Grezzana (Verona), situated between the valley and the Alps, had to be recognizable.
The project is articulated according to clear and consecutive shapes. The intent is evident: to define the image of a new centre, both civic and cultural, visible and understandable by all inhabitants, able to start a virtuous process, catalysing the best resources and the best talents in the area.
The research started long ago, from the newly-born United States academical villages, when a Palladian language shaped the new urban centres, inspiring the minds of their designers. The University of Virginia, designed by the architect and third president of the United States Thomas Jefferson, remains the work that best sums up this germination.
A metaphorical river that leads from Vicenza to Charlottesville.
The project tried to take one back to Veneto.
For the fortieth anniversary of the Estate Romana, MAXXI, in collaboration with the Municipality of Rome, launched a research project on the Ephemeral. A group of young international offices were invited to the symposium Theaters of Culture, Ephemeral Projects for the Eternal City.
By following the work of Gioacchino Ersoch, from Villa Borghese’s composition to the design of Pyrotechnic Machines for festivities in Rome, the Ephemeral Twins intend to revive the theme of the Magnificent, already studied by Ersoch for the Terrazza del Pincio.
The team was inspired by the design of the twin churches in Piazza del Popolo, in which Rainaldi designed a charming entrance to the city. In the same way, the twin pyramids emphasize the sloping system, from the viewpoint of the square.
The Ephemeral Twins, in their pure shape and square plan, represent the dialogue with the monumental scenery of the square. An archetypal form, which is present since immemorial times, ideal to complete the design of the Valadier, whispers thoughts of other influences: the greenhouses of Dardi and the monuments of Superstudio.
Reinterpreting the Roman tradition of fireworks, the design finally speaks about making a calculated game of volumes and lights, ideal for the next city carnival.
Trans Siberian Pit Stop
The principal element of Suprematism in painting, as in architecture, is its liberation from all social or materialist tendencies. Through Suprematism, art comes into its pure and unpolluted form. It has acknowledged the decisive fact of the non-objective character of sensibility.
Starting from Moscow, up to the waters that divide Russia from Japan; designing an iconic element, functional, representative and quiet at the same time, that repeat itself in such a large land. We started by two founding elements: the chimney, and the avant-garde. On one hand, an architectural element that comes from a secular tradition of the Siberian stoves. On the other, the visionary ability of the Russian Art, during the centuries and particularly in the ‘900, of guiding and predicting pivotal changes.
The belly of our pavilion develops itself starting from a Malevic’s composition: the Black Circle. The realisation is thought to happen through light and mountable materials: wood and steel. A visual and ideal corridor, cross the structure through two large circular windows. An invitation, a warning to remember the road travelled and the one still to go.
Winery in Mendoza
As Malevich did with the work represented on the cover [Red House, 1932 Kazimir Malevich], the intervention aims at becoming integrated into an exceptional site like Mendoza, without camouflage.
The figurative references, ranging from Mexico to Portugal, from Barragan to Souto de Moura, have configured themselves in a typologically clear structure, almost peremptory. Underlining some of its lines to define itself in a landscape which, in our imagination, already belongs.
This way, an impluvium plant was obtained. A strong design, always listening the surrounding landscape. The upper floors include the use of loggias perimeter to meditate in front of the surrounding territory.
Finally, the lintel, to defy the Andes. Essential element threshold, placed to establish, almost metaphysically, the change from endless places to the intimate welcome of house wine.
For the materials, we opted for concrete, by treating the surface through the use of wood formworks; wood in pergolas and portals and also for the large lintel.
Who influences you graphically?
During the years we’ve been influenced by many different artistic hands. Having had the chance to work inside Palazzo Braschi in Rome, in 2015, we discovered the sublime language of Ippolito Caffi, his proto-futuristic views of Rome.
We are also inspired by Italian painters from the Twentieth Century as Carrà, Sironi or the earliest Capogrossi, clearly connected to the Renaissance. As they did, we are focused on settling again some specifics atmospheres from that moment of our culture.
As Boullée did with Raffaello – for the Bibliothèque Nationale in relation with the Scuola di Atene – we are trying to dialogue with spatial intuitions of Piero, Antonello, Giovanni Bellini.
For us, the sky blue veils of the Holy Mary still represent the paradigmatic acme of what has been drawn in Italy. Beside all of this, the point of views of some contemporary directors such as Sorrentino — together with the director of photography Luca Bigazzi, that also worked with Gianni Amelio — Moretti, Tornatore are crucial. Among other directors of photography we also look to the work of Conrad Hall and Van Hoytema.
Then pop culture: from the packaging to the advertisings, we are interested in trash and counterculture. It is no coincidence that in our warehouse in Rome, a reproduction of Caravaggio faces a print of Anthony Burrill.
Last but not least, we are constantly inspired by a group of contemporary colleagues. We invited some of them last year in Rome to discuss the conditions of the discipline nowadays, trying to generate a non-official movement, lately labeled “Re-Constructivist architecture”.
What defines the language through which you explore your architecture?
We probably love icons, the pieces that compose the city. The sheer number of iconic elements that Rome offers everyday is unbelievable: ancient ruins, temples, palaces, churches, bridges, rhetorical buildings, contemporary ruins.
For example, now we are working in a building on the left hand side of the church called Sant’Antonio dei Portoghesi. How could we escape from the destiny of being influenced by Martino Longhi il Giovane, the architect that designed the church? We couldn’t, so we listened him, we joked with him, we challenged him. Maybe it’s too ambitious, but we love to follow with this irreverent approach.
What role do the painting cut outs play? How do they influence the atmosphere and meaning of an image?
It’s a precious tool, related with the atmosphere that you are looking for.
You empathize a scenario, a stage, with some dramatic elements. On the other side you can play with some figures, breaking a tension that is out of scale. Or, as the Korean couples placed in our image for the monument to democracy in Albania, this tool can help in adding a surreal allure. It’s always a matter of double coding.
What role does the drawing play in the process of exploring a proposal? How much is it a tool for exploration more than or equal to a final product?
We could say that in the warehouse there is a general predilection for the thought, for the message of the story we are telling. As someone already said: “the hand is the instrument of the mind”. The drawing is postponed, it arrives at a second phase. Otherwise we really love to study and develop our graphical approach, also because it helps us in clear up what we have in our mind.
How and to what extent does your work on research effect your architecture and vice versa?
It is as necessary as a computer or a pencil or the books in our library. Maybe more.
You frequently explore the proposal through plan, why so? What defined the use of this orthographic projection compared to the section, axonometric etc?
Too many recent bad architectures found their justifications in the new design tools.
From a certain point of view we could say that in our orthographic projections we put our idealistic identity, still believing that it is the more trusty and paradigmatic technic of representation. If the plan materialize what we have in mind, the elevation it’s our language. Recently the elevation was brought away from all the typological investigations of our discipline, the architecture field stand on the quicksand of the duck, instead of looking to the shed — decorated or not — and this is a mistake.
We don’t underestimate views or axonometric, we like to keep them as a final exercise, slightly isolated from the other drawings, with a less rigorous approach, both intimate and surprising.
WAR — Warehouse of Architecture and Research was founded in Rome in 2013. Its essence can be found between a traditional, deeply rooted studio and an independent research space of contemporary practice. Its keyword is the Warehouse: a collective hive-mind of documents, books and drawings. Theory alongside practice, dialogue before design. The office consists of three architects working between Rome and New York.
Gabriele Corbo is a Rome based architect. He has studied and conducted research in Italy and the Basque region of Spain. A founding member of Warehouse of Architecture and Research in Rome, he has participated in international architecture competitions and projects in a range of scales and typologies. He earned his Master of Architecture from La Sapienza University in Rome, where his thesis focused on how to regenerate old buildings within the stratified and complex system of Italian cities. He was short-selected at the BIM Concours 2017 in Paris with React Studio and he is currently project consultant for Eden Viaggi.
Jacopo Costanzo is a Rome based architect and PhD candidate. He has studied in Italy and Portugal. He conducted research in Germany, Iran, South Korea and China. A founding member of Warehouse of Architecture and Research in Rome, has participated in international architecture competitions and projects. He earned his Master in Architecture from La Sapienza University in Rome, where his thesis focused on the work of Aldo Rossi. He collaborates with MA Architects in New York. He co-curated the Re-Constructivist Architecture and When In Rome: A Collective Reflection Upon The Eternal City exhibitions in Rome, New York and London. He is the author of the book Aldo Rossi in New York, soon to be published by Quodlibet.
Valeria Guerrisi is a Rome based architect and researcher. She has studied in Italy and Portugal. She is part of the Warehouse of Architecture and Research since 2017. She earned her Master Degree in Architecture at the Politecnico di Milano and a Master in Strategic Design and Innovative Management of the Archaeological Heritage in Rome. In 2014 she worked at Baukuh and the very same year won a post- degree scholarship at the Scuola Politecnica di Genova to design the New Wing of the University Library in Genoa. She collaborated with architect Valter Scelsi to the renovation of the Theatre Carlo Felice Café by Aldo Rossi.