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I recently visited the Metrogramma practice. Work was underway to annex the lower floor to part of the first floor. Showing me round the new premises, Alberto Francini, one of the partners, pointed to where the lift linking the two floors would be. Surprised by the size of the shaft, I asked what sort of lift was being installed. A normal size one, was Francini’s reply, simply that the shaft would be lined by bookshelves, a space-saving ploy that would also make even this short journey an interesting spatial experience. “Like Koolhaas in the Floriac villa?”, I asked. “Yes, come to think of it”, was the answer. “But”, he added, “I don’t think we were thinking about that particularly”.
In fact, while Metrogramma can claim credit for being the first to import both the lexicon and planning approach of the Dutch school, it also has many original arrows in its quiver. The practice defies any attempt to give it a label. They sum up their work with three key words: continuity, rupture, future. Meaning a willingness to cast a wide experimental net without exclusions from present or past - and that includes post-war Italian architecture, especially the more experimental figures like Albini, Ponti, Mollino and others.
Graduates of Venice and Florence respectively, Andrea Boschetti and Alberto Francini, Metrogramma’s two principals, were trained in two grand temples of architecture, hermetically closed, however, to any innovation or experimentation. In 1995, realising it was time for a change, they packed their bags. Andrea went to Columbia University and then to Rotterdam to work for Rem Koolhaas, who although not yet worldwide famous was definitely an emerging talent. In 1996, Koolhaas would publish S,M,L,X, perhaps one of the most important architecture books to appear in the last decade; around the same time, he completed Euralille and several other chefs d’oeuvre that would usher him into the star system. Alberto went first to New York to work with Giuliano...

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