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Strategic, Calibrated Design

Vittorio Grassi Architects

Strategic, Calibrated Design
By Valerio Paolo Mosco -
Metra, IdealStandard, Knauf, Guardian Glass have participated in the project

Vittorio Grassi’s baseline concept of architecture can be traced back to his personal story. Milanese by adoption, Grassi graduated from the Politecnico di Milano when what we could defined as “city architecture” – to use a description coined by Aldo Rossi – was on the wane. An extremely theoretical, and in many ways ideological view of architecture, the school of city architecture demanded that buildings be simply the latest addition to a pre-established design of the city. It was a legacy of a top-down state-control mindset related to a political and economic alternative to capitalism. 

Dissatisfied with what city architecture had produced, Grassi’s generation turned away from building subservient to academic theory. They opted for realism – especially in Milan, in the firm belief that architecture should not be constrained within strict ideological confines, which in any case had had their day. The only thing Milanese realism retained from the former mindset was that, whatever the circumstance, architecture should always relate to and be part of its setting. In addition, Grassi himself – unlike past generations, and following up on an interest developed during his student days – also focused on the technological aspects that went into the body of a building, i.e., the many components making up a construction over and above the architectural design. 

Not by chance therefore, he went to work at Renzo Piano Building Workshop, remaining there for ten years and becoming a partner in the firm. At first glance, however, Grassi’s designs do not seem a Piano offshoot. There are none of the stylistic motifs regularly found in the work of the Maestro from Genoa. Yet on closer inspection, although Grassi’s style is not Piano’s, his overall attitude to architecture is. First, the measured restraint that eschews all manneristic or extravagant excess, but also the habit of...

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