The architects from the Fosbury Architecture collective have titled their design of this year’s Italian Pavilion Spaziale. Everyone Belongs to Everyone Else.” The project embodies the desire of this team of young professionals – Giacomo Ardesio, Alessandro Bonizzoni, Nicola Campri, Veronica Caprino, and Claudia Mainardi – to establish, and participate in, a creative network. It also carries with it a message of hope for change to a more sustainable version of life on our planet. There are no easy solutions for climate change, and it’s precisely this fact that underlies all nine of the installations created for the event. The team also wants its project to go beyond the walls of the 18th International Architecture Exhibition and will be sharing their visions throughout the country starting in early 2023 with a project called Spaziale.
Both instances of the project, therefore, use the word spaziale, which the team is using in a very specific way: “Space is understood as a physical and symbolic place, a geographical area, and an abstract dimension, a system of known references and a territory of possibilities.” Architecture, in other words, not as an end in itself but as a means to designing a space and a network of relationships, lives, and humanity.
A fundamental element of the project, taking place in the Venice Arsenale, is collaboration with Flos, which looked after lighting design. For lighting the first Tesa – a completely empty space in which enormous projections offer visitors clues for interpreting the exhibition – Flos chose sophisticated ambient lighting, using several Luce Orizzontale modules, the intriguing modular glass pendants designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. Distinguished by a marriage of artisanry and technology, these luminaires create a poetic contrast between the elegance of their molded glass and the industrial feel of the surrounding space.
Flos supplied both its technical know-how and some of the most advanced architectural lighting products available to create the dramatic but functional lighting in the second Tesa. Characterized by the flexibility of the arrangement and orientation of the spotlights, this space brings together the nine projects. The spotlights, compact enough to be recessed into the architecture, create sharp cones of light on the exhibits. With the lights installed at a height of over 23 feet (7 m), it was vital to achieve efficiency and to add lighting accents only where necessary. The end result is finely calibrated point lighting that emphasizes exhibits without spreading light into their surroundings. The lighting design therefore improves the contrast between the exhibits and the space and the large information screens.
THE PLAN spoke to Fosbury Architecture and Barbara Corti, head of international marketing at Flos.
Fosbury Architecture, first of all, how are you feeling during these early days of the Biennale and what do you expect to feel?
It’s a bit of a celebration for us, a milestone in a project that we’ve been working on for some months now. It’s now time to celebrate with everyone involved. Some of these people have only just met for the first time, since the installations created before the actual exhibition were in different locations throughout the country. In other words, the entire project has finally come together for the first time. We hope that its message and the desire to create new projects that can go beyond the boundaries of the exhibition will be fully understood and appreciated.
Barbara Corti, what does being involved in the lighting design of the Italian Pavilion mean to Flos?
We’re totally passionate participants and fully support Fosbury Architecture because of who they are. We’ve embraced both the project and this collective of young professionals. The two are a perfect combination, because collective projects are the ones that attract us most and, in our opinion, are a very contemporary design approach. The complexity of today’s world is so great that a return to collective projects – an idea that actually dates from the 1970s – is the best way to bring together the skills needed. Prior to this event, we worked together a year ago for Orobia – specifically for the workshops for students from the Domus Academy. The team from Fosbury Architecture asked us to take part in the Italian Pavilion project when they won the competition for its design. We immediately liked the idea, partly because it’s very complex and multi-faceted. With the project spread throughout the country, work began long before the inauguration of the Biennale and will continue after it closes.
Fosbury Architecture, you conceived your project for the Italian Pavilion in two phases, with the first consisting of multiple installations set up throughout the country and the second the event itself in Venice. In other words, the project involved many locations and a network of people. As the young founders of the studio, does this approach in any way reflect your vision of the world?
Absolutely, yes. The participants are all members of a generation of which we feel a part. In this process, we felt like mediators between the members of the group and, therefore, on the same level as them. And it’s exactly for this reason that we’re convinced of the importance of giving them an international platform – even with a certain urgency. They’re the expression of a slightly less conventional approach to architecture that expands on its simple production to be a much broader process.
Barbara Corti, what was Flos’s primary focus in contributing to this project and this philosophy?
Our goal was to create the conditions that would give free rein to creativity and the display of the projects. We only really knew the final effect of our work at the last moment. We knew that there would certainly be a number of elements to it, and for that reason it was essential to give the Fosbury team the greatest room for expressiveness we could. Our contribution was therefore all about supporting their creativity, supplying products with very well-defined characteristics that could also be a real and expressive aid to the architects. This is why, depending on the project and the environment in which it’s used, the lighting product takes on different meanings. In other words, it becomes part of a solution, be it decorative, practical, or architectural. And our lighting products aren’t just something technical but have something extra within them – they have magic, technology, and space for interpretation.
How would the team at Fosbury Architecture describe the journey that brought you here today, and what was the most memorable experience?
Each project was a world unto itself, its own reality. Perhaps the most exciting thing was doing our work fully immersed in the different places, because each one was amazingly unique, beginning with the network of relationships that define that uniqueness. Visiting each place was therefore empowering for understanding individual needs, responding to local needs, and for creating a positive productive energy.
If you had to describe the final project “Spaziale. Everyone Belongs to Everyone” in three words, what would they be?
It’s definitely a collective project and one that’s capable of generating concrete actions and hope. This is because we believe the time has come to change course, starting with our profession. The job of designing architecture can’t remain in the hands of a single person but needs to be done as part of groups based on mutual collaboration by creating strong connections between professionals.
Speaking of changing course, I can’t help asking what you think architecture, architects, and designers can do to tackle climate change?
We don’t think we have an answer. Scientists almost don’t have one, so it would be arrogant for us to say we have the solution. But what we tried to do, beginning with the nine projects that led up to the exhibition, was to focus attention on climate change, which is an element of each of them. One of the ways these issues could be tackled is on the local instead of the macro level: what can be done in every individual location? This means starting from the bottom up, from small actions, trying to understand the needs of each place, rather than a top-down approach that’s applied everywhere. But everything hinges on architecture being willing to dialogue and collaborate with other fields. Ultimately, the macroscale isn’t within our reach, but we can aim for projects tailored to every place and every situation.
How was your work as curators of the Italian Pavilion influenced by the event’s focus this year on Africa? Is it an added value?
Of course, and it was especially interesting to see right from the outset how similar Lesley Lokko’s curatorial project is to ours. Although it’s aimed at other countries, we’re on the same page in terms of attitude and approach. Given that our pavilion is located in Italy, we did, however, try to make it a real laboratory – a laboratory of the present even more importantly than the future.
Barbara Corti, what are your expectations for this Biennale, including as regards the future of your company?
First of all, I think we need to ask ourselves how useful events like the Biennale and trade fairs are, because they can sometimes seem ahistorical. I don’t think I can give a definite answer, but it is clear that working on the future is everyone’s responsibility, beginning with companies that manufacture objects in the broadest sense. Although it can sometimes be very tiring, asking questions is, I believe, fundamental. And an event should encourage you to ask questions, since every question builds a bridge, which is exactly the way in which issues such as sustainability and low environmental impact design are tackled. Participation in an event such as the Biennale therefore puts us in a position to form our own up-to-the-minute attitude to questions about tomorrow, on what’s happening in the world. You always take something away with you, you put yourself on the line. From a company’s perspective, it’s important to be able to embrace every challenge, every need, so as to arrive at a final product that’s in step with the contemporary world. And, obviously, you need to do this in terms of corporate identity.
Let’s finish with Fosbury Architecture: how would you like to take this project forward in the future?
Some projects already have a future, but we hope that these nine pilot projects will grow into many more so as to help Italy become a true laboratory and involve other places that we haven’t been able to include in this first phase.
Photography by Delfino Sisto Legnani, courtesy of Flos