The Pinners, the Grammers and more in the thumbs up era
On the occasion of the 58th edition of the Milan Design week – one of the most chaotic weeks of the year – KooZA / rch in collaboration with Bianca Felicori invites you to take an old-fashioned coffee break. Let your break not be a moment of endless scrolling through an infinite sequence of images and rather follow the live talks on our KooZA / rch social media channels. From the 9th to the 12thof April every morning between 10 and 12 am we will bring together creative minds from various creative disciplines – architects, designers, curators, artists, photographers – to talk about architecture at the time of the World Wide Web. Between a “coffee” and a “pastry” we will discuss the increasingly central theme of digital dissemination, analyzing its problems and its strengths, and above all, trying to identify together use and not misuse the power of the WWW.
Super Spatial [situated or taking place above or outside the limits of space] It is a think tank that uses architecture, digital media and research as tools to explore the dynamics of people in contemporary society.
KOOZARCH – BIANCA FELICORI – SUPERSPATIAL
SuperSpatial is an interdisciplinary office founded by Andrea Govi, Matteo Gullo and Antonio La Marca. The office was founded in 2017 after the three founding members graduated from the Politecnico of Milan with experience at TU Delft and Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne. The team of SuperSpatial gained experienced working for international offices as OMA in Rotterdam and are currently involved in teaching at the Politecnico of Milan.
BF: We want to start from the homepage of your website white states ‘SuperSpatial is a think tank that uses architecture, digital media and research as tools to explore the dynamics of people in contemporary society.’ Could you explore this further?
SUPERSPATIAL: When founding SuperSpatial we did not want to limit our practice only to built ‘architecture’ but we wanted to expand to digital media, research, exploration of new topics, with the aim of embracing a multidisciplinary approach. At that time we were extremely fascinated by the realm of the digital and the digital revolution, especially in terms of how this has changed and shaped our society and our understanding of public and private space. In this sense we were more interested in exploring this as a concept per se and in relation to the transformation in the public space, not as a tool to produce architecture, since when we are in the moment of making architecture we see ourselves as being more traditional and indulging in physical experiences as those of reading a book or making a physical model.
BF: How do you define the difference between a canonical architecture office and one which is multidisciplinary?
SUPERSPATIAL: For us this has to a lot with the term think tank. We wanted to create a platform without strict boundaries, we wanted to be able to experiment even not architectural projects and to involve people with different visions and points of view. When approaching a project, we try to engage with collaborators from different disciplines. For example in a school competition we try to engage with an expert in pedagogy, but also with young students or with the people who will live the environment. Other times we try get in touch more with the world of design, or technology, or with app developers etc. In this sense we do not want to limit the discipline of architecture to architects and to the idea of the practice of architecture as one which is defined by the built environment and pure composition. Even an app or a website can become an architectural project.
KOOZARCH: It’s very interesting how your approach and identity manifests itself quite clearly within both your website and the images you produce. How do you define the way you chose to render a project and how this is shared?
SUPERSPATIAL: For us this is mainly a question of hierarchy. In every project there are things we want to say more than others, crucial elements which we highlight through both drawings and models.
KOOZARCH: How do you approach the making of your architecture, what tools do you use?
SUPERSPATIAL: The models are definitely our greatest working medium. Our aspiration would be to have an immense workshop where to craft and shape our ideas. For us the model is the experimentation tool par excellence, where we can properly design in all its complexities. Usually the model is built in parallel with the more theoretical and conceptual idea, in order to test the physical result in the space. The image on the other hand follows as a simplification tools which should envelope and communicate the essence of the project.
KOOZARCH: One could thereby state that whilst the model is the working tool the images are used to then render the final project?
SUPERSPATIAL: Usually yes, but it depends, sometimes the photographed working models are also a very effective manner of conveying the architectural idea. An example was our competition entry for the Korean pavilion where the final images of the project were the photographs of the ‘electronic model’.
KOOZARCH: As architects we soon reach the realization that a lot of the project which we design wont essentially be built, how important are the images as manifestations of these unbuilt ideas?
SUPERSPATIAL: Unfortunately many of the projects that architects do don’t go further to concept phase. For this reason the image sometimes becomes the final result and not just a tool to represent a future building. We always try to keep in mind that the image is not the final result but just an instrument to render a future space, and to try to conquer a jury of course.
BF: In terms of sharing your work on digital platforms, what role do social media outlets as Instagram hold?
SUPERSPATIAL: For us this is an interesting tool of communication, a true discussion platform where the public engages actively. We are extremely lucky as a young generation especially in that we have found a way to change the pace at which we can talk about architecture. First of all, as a young office in the making we work with projects which have a shorter time frame and secondly, with digital outposts which enable a two-way conversation compared to the printed publication which is more limiting in this sense. For example, on Instagram we are able to individually share our work through single images and open these up to the online agora, although it might seem as superficial it’s always interesting for us to see what kind of conversations our works prompts. Once we uploaded a plan of a project we had done for a factory near Florence and a user responded that it resembled the plan of the ‘Casa del fascio’ by Terragni, and actually when looking at the project through a different lens we realized that we had somewhat involuntarily referenced this great master in our work.
BF: Do you think that Instagram is a tool which can enable greater connection within the profession of architecture? From the static post to the format of the story what is your take on this?
SUPERSPATIAL: We generally do not really do many stories, perhaps as a generational issue or simply a bit of laziness on our behalf. On the other hand, our ‘profile’ in itself is much easier to curate and manages with far less efforts.
KOOZARCH: Do you use this to share final images or work in progress?
SUPERSPATIAL: Mostly final images of finished projects.
KOOZARCH: And to go back to the work in progress. What are you guys working on at the moment?
SUPERSPATIAL: We are currently working on two projects in Florence, a showroom which is already under construction and another one which is going to start construction in a few months. Contemporarily we are also engaged in two architectural competitions, one in Perù which is the designing of a park. As young architects we really believe in the format of the architectural competition and being so engaged in them is also one of the reasons why we do not generally share our work in progress as a result of privacy restraints. This is a bit of an issue for us in that it delays the possibility of discussing our discoveries and research both through digital mediums and also physically
KOOZARCH: I think there is something interesting in the dramatic contrast in velocity between the architectural project and that of social media. As architects we engage in projects which can be ongoing for more than 10 years, whilst social media enables us to consume images of architecture by the second.
SUPERSPATIAL: Yes, we definitely agree. At the moment we received a private commission for an App on mobility which enables us to read the built environment through a different lens, focusing on the designing of an infrastructure rather than a building. We really believe in an architecture which is very much made and inhabited by the users, as such this app is a great opportunity to focus on the patterns of how people use and move around space. More than form and materials for us it really is about the interaction between space and individual, for us a square is a square because it is a civic place used by the people.
BF: Going back to our brief, what were your initial thoughts on the matter and role of media platforms in the creation and dissemination of architecture?
SUPERSPATIAL: Well it was definitely interesting but also hard to grasp for two reasons. First of all, because of the scale to which it could potentially be expanded two and secondly because we are constantly surrounded by this environment. For these very two reasons it is however interesting for us to address the topic critically. Although at the beginning it seemed hard to understand how our practice was directly related to the internet, we soon realized that a lot of what we do and how we operate converges through the internet and media platforms, especially when it comes to sharing our work. When analyzing our tools of production, these are more experienced based and physical. We try to translate experiences which have particularly engaged us.
KOOZARCH: This is interesting in light our latest project as KooZA/rch, as you may know we are exhibiting #microtools at Alcova, a project developed in collaboration with (ab)Normal which reflects on the very physical tools though which we operate. Before the software and digital platforms what are those physical moments that you collect and which define our practice?
SUPERSPATIAL:For us physical experience is always stronger. It’s much more effective for us the direct experience of a public space with a similar scale to the one we are studying, or the searching for a book in the library, etc etc. And for us the experience of studying at Politecnico, with its library and amazing spaces, is something which has deeply affected us to the point that when looking for our new office we decided to look for a space which was close to it. Sometimes we can go to look for a book in the library, or even to just have a very inspiring look to the incredible space of patio.
KOOZARCH: This is interesting in relation to a conversation we had yesterday with Gabriele Leo of Plasticity, who mentioned how the level of connectivity we have nowadays enabled him and Grazia Mappa to return to Taranto and operate from there for a period of time. We were trying to discuss the importance of place in relation to production, the importance of living and working in a city like for example Milan.
BF: Although you all worked and studied abroad at certain moments in your lives you then decided to converge back to Milan, why so?
SUPERSPATIAL: Although we essentially can be anywhere thank to platforms as Skype and sometimes we think we could move to the countryside or to other places and to work remotely, then we feel the importance of the physical relationship and the experience of the city. We feel that also the built environment and the events that surround us can change our projects, or even the food we eat (that contributed a lot in the decision of coming back to Italy). And then as a group we really need to be able to work around a table, talking, sketching and making together as a practice.