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Bocconi University Campus

Technological rarefaction

SANAA Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa

Bocconi University Campus

What has always struck me about SANAA’s architecture, over and above the obvious esthetic flair that fully justifies the international standing of Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa’s architecture practice, is their ability to artfully conceal the structural features and technological complexity of their projects. While examining how the Japanese duo configure their projects is “simple” and obvious, the technical component is never done justice by architecture critics of contemporary cultural traditions, who concentrate only on form and proportion but are unable to interpret what the materials and static properties contribute to the whole. Perhaps this is because SANAA projects are the result of exhaustive study into the ultimate in essential architectural form and apparent dematerialization of their finished works. The fact remains though that their buildings are tangible constructions, the result of maniacal attention to all plant and equipment, whatever their scale, and the simple, almost childlike, juxtapositions adopted to solve technical issues and at the same time conceal them. True to character, in her keynote lecture at Politecnico di Milano in the spring of 2016 at the start of her academic tenure, Kazuyo Sejima astounded many by expressing her heartfelt thanks to her technical consultants, from the structural and systems engineers to the materials experts, who, she said: “Allow me to realize my ideas as I want them”. Hers was a revolution: an architect publicly admitting to her role as mere, albeit able, ringmaster, and not the absolute monarch of her project. Again, true to character, this was exactly SANAA’s modus operandi when the firm worked with Schüco Italia on the envelopes of the Bocconi University Campus in Milan.

The dialogue between the architects and Schüco Italia continued for the 30 plus months spent on the design process and involved the project management, custom engineering...

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