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The rewards of maturity

MCA - Mario Cucinella Architects

2017 looks a lot like the year of Mario Cucinella. Returning to Italy in 1999 after five years in Paris at the Renzo Piano Building Workshop - having started out in 1988 as site manager at Turin’s Lingotto - this year saw the inauguration of his Casa della Musica (House of Music) in the little town of Pieve di Cento in Italy’s earthquake-hit Emilia-Romagna region, attended by no less than President of the Republic himself, Sergio Mattarella. Cucinella has also been entrusted with Land Use Plan for Camerino, the town at the center of the 2016 earthquakes, received an Honorary AIA Fellowship in Miami, opened a practice in New York, and been appointed curator of the Italy Pavilion at the next Venice Biennale. In 2017 too, Cucinella completed the project he got underway in the Emilia region following the 2012 earthquake. The small town of Pieve di Cento lies on the border between the provinces of Bologna and Ferrara, an area of Italy famously captured in the stories of the author Gianni Celati, who came from these parts. Today, the area is well known for the many biomedical and light engineering companies that dot the flat countryside, creating a series of solids and voids - even if, as Cucinella remarks “a void in Emilia usually means either a wheat field or a parking lot”. Casa della Musica is a cluster of round volumes resembling bales of hay - a common feature in the area - that have been turned on their flat side. The school to which the new music labs are attached stands in an anonymous neighborhood on the outskirts of the small town amid lackluster buildings and an abandoned factory site. The green site was unkempt, its main feature a disused electrical transformer. But here, Cucinella shows that sustainability need not be the stereotype philosophy laced with naive rhetoric earnestly proclaimed by the media in deference to what Colin Rowe called The Architecture of Good Intentions. Contrary to a commonly held view, sustainability is...

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