A Built Free Choice


The project tackles the design of a hypothetic house for the one character of the movie “Persona” by Ingmar Bergman. The house name is “A built free choice”, because, sometimes, choices must be taken in the right places.

The following text is a “poetic” description narrated by Marcio Kogan professor at the Porto Academy 2017 .

The house, is for a guy of my age, when indecisions and choices darken our mind with a fog of anxiety. 

The young commitment, once pure and open to the people and later on corrupted and misogynist, has to take a decision about living or not living in society. He is Gregoji Pecorin with a chance. The house must be on the water, away from everything, an island in the island, difficult to reach, difficult to escape. 

There’ll be two parts, a conventional part and an exceptional part. 

The first one is the image of light, opening, comfort and conventional life style, it faces the island as a mute observer on society.

The second one it’s mass, it’s stone, a blind cave, with only two openings, one on the roof and the other on the infinity of the see. 

The house is the built idea of dichotomy, it’s schizophrenia and ataraxic, light and shadows, lightness and heaviness, it’s the formal possibility to take a decision.


Who influences you graphically?

I actually don’t have a fixed reference for the graphic of my drawings. Every time, I try to use a different graphic that reflects better the design theme. In this particular case, my reference is probably F. Purini , the perspective sections had to be the closest possibile to a ink drawing where the blank part should enhance the relationship between full volumes and voids.

Franco Purini. Arrangement of the ruins of the Roman port of Testaccio, c. 1988
Franco Purini. Arrangement of the ruins of the Roman port of Testaccio, c. 1988

He’s not the only reference for this work. I watched a lot the pictures of Michael Kenna, where the contrast between white and black defines the real subject of the image. Thanks to one of the students I’ve met in Porto, Valerio Recchioni, I’ve found out the drawings of Gustave Doré, that influenced a lot this graphic. Another huge reference was Sven Nykvist, the photographer of the movie “Persona” and other movies by Ingmar Bergman, famous for the simplicity and the clarity of the images he proposed.

Michael Kenna
Michael Kenna

What defined the method of representation of the proposal?

Being a design for a one-week workshop, everything is done to show the project in the clearest way possible and to unveil its deepest nature.  The shooting style of the movie is also one of the main elements that defined the graphic of this design.

I immediately decided to avoid colors inside the drawings and the concepts, also all the project sketches were made in black and white.

I chose to have a close relationship between photographic images taken by the movie and a “painting like” graphic (like I did in the main concept).

The white color is used to show how the design and the island morphology are somehow part of the same thing, I would like the house to be percieved as an “antropomorphization” of the land and not as a simple volume on it. In the sections and in the perspective views, the only element that is not treated as an ink drawing is the person. It is fundamental to set up a scale of the design, to understand the kind of spaces that I’ve thought for this house.

Shadows and lights are displayed as a noisy pattern on a unique texture, modulated with a scale of gray, in order to capture the volumetric composition of the design and also the atmosphere inside the house.

What is your take on colour?

As I said, black and white were, in my opinion, the right “colors” for this design.

All the concept of my project is focused on the theme of the “opposite” and on the contrast between two irreconcilable way of being. The two main characters of the movie, Elizabeth and Anna, are the two faces of a unique human being, in the same way, the grotto inside the house and the two main rooms of the house are the possibility to have an exceptional or a convectional way of living.

In this way, black and white are the “colors” that better reflects this dichotomy.

To be completely sincere, also my “cromophobia” had a big role in the graphic conception of the design. I prefer to use colors depending on the material used in the design, I don’t trust painted surfaces or treatments, I believe in the sincere look of the construction material.

To what extent did your understanding of the movie effect the creation of the project compared to other students?

The fictional client of the house was the character that appears less in the movie: the kid.

Ironically, he’s the the figure where Bergman reflects his “persona” and so designing a house for him it meant , somehow, to design a house for the director. As Bergman did, I start to reflect my self in the client, I imagined this kid as a 24 years old guy, that has to take a choice: to live in the corrupted society or to refuge it and live as a hermit for the rest of his life. This choice is difficult, the grown kid needs the right place, so I tried to design something that allows him to chose (“a built free choice”).

So yes, the movie influenced the design conception, but differently from some other students, I decided to focus more on the client, on his needs, trying to figure out also which period of his life he’s living.

The movie understanding influenced the way I tell the deepest theme of the design, that is located in the psychology of the main actor of this space: the kid.


Michele completed his Architecture Course at the Politecnico di Milano. During his bachelor he did a curricular internship at BEMaa, Bruno Egger Mazzoleni architetti associati.

In September 2014 he obtained the bachelor’s degree, with a score of 105/110 with a thesis named “Le operazioni del comporre” (“Compositional operations”)
In the same year he started his master in Architectural Design, civil architecture. At the beginning of the 2015 he was selected for the Double Master Degree program (DMD) at the Xi’an University of Architecture and Technology, pro- gram that consist in a year of exchange at Xi’an to obtain a chinese master degree and one year and a half in Milan to obtain the european master degree.

This experience allowed him to enrich his thesis on the Xiao Yanta area (a UNESCO site candidate in Xi’an). During the exchange Michele had the opportunity to work inside the design studio of the former dean of the university, Prof. Liu Kecheng, raising chinese architect, specialized in cultural buildings design in heritage and archeological sites.
In July 2016 Michele obtained the chinese master degree with the thesis named “Urban Villages in China”. Once back in Italy he also obtained the italian master degree in April 2017 with the thesis: “From Fragments to the City – Digging in the Past of Xi’an: Design Enhancement for UNESCO Small Wild Goose Pagoda Area and Anren Fang”.
Nowadays he is an assistant at Politecnico di Milano in the -Architectural Design I- studio held by Prof. Francesco Menegatti and the -Master studio Architectural Design I- hold by Prof. Laura Anna Pezzetti, in the meanwhile he collaboratse with G.A.P. Gruppo Associato Paterlini (Brescia) in design activities.