Prada Frames: Being Home / Conversations from the Library
The multidisciplinary symposium Prada Frames: Being Home is curated by FormaFantasma for Prada and is presented as an audio series by KoozArch: here we gather conversations from the Library.

The LIBRARY SESSIONS examine relationships and perspectives outside the confines of a home. The library at Milan’s Museo Bagatti Valsecchi, characterised by wooden panels and an extensive collection of books and encyclopaedias, provides its users with access to both a garden of timber species and a garden of knowledge.

To quote from Alice Rawsthorn’s contextual introduction to the Library, to which you can listen in full below:

“The first known private libraries were founded in Greece in the 5th century BC, then Ancient Rome, where the philosopher, Seneca, railed against vulgarians who he accused of using their libraries purely for show. And there still is a roaring trade in selling expensive sets of books for supposedly “curated” private libraries. Yet libraries can also be glorious sources of ideas and knowledge.

Not that we need them to inhabit as imposing a space as this one to enjoy those things. A quiet corner, a shed, a tent, or wherever will suffice, thanks in no small part to noise cancelling earbuds and headphones. Libraries have played important roles in this process in the past, but will they in the future when their books will be true antiquities, their contents read solely on apps?”

The podcast "Prada Frames: Being Home" is a project produced by KoozArch in partnership with Prada, and curated by FormaFantasma for Prada. You can listen to episodes on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.


The session analyses the interplay between the technical and the emotional realities within a home, examining how materials, real estate codes, regulations and feelings shape the essence of the modern home.


LIBRARY: BEING TOGETHER with Isabella Rossellini and Mary Kuhn
The session explores living beyond the perimeter of the home, from narratives of gardening, farming and the reproductive rituals of animals, through global histories of cultivation and domestication.

Picciola, 1853, Robert Braithwaite Martineau. Image accompanying Mary Kuhn's presentation. [online]


LIBRARY: BEING EXTRAMUROS with Anna Kauber and Michelangelo Frammartino
The session explores living beyond the perimeter of the home, examining human productive practices in the garden and the reproductive rituals of animals.

Please note that this episode is in Italian, an edited English translation is available below.



Michelangelo Frammartino is an Italian filmmaker. Born in Milan to Calabrian parents, he studied at the Architecture Faculty of the Politecnico di Milano. He then attended Milan's film school, Civica Scuola del Cinema, producing video art installations and working as a set designer for films and video clips. His film Le Quattro Volte (2010), was selected at the Director's Fortnight in Cannes, where it won the Label Europa Cinema. His 2021 film, Il buco, was selected for the main competition at the 78th Venice International Film Festival.

Anna Kauber is filmmaker, writer, and landscape architect from Parma. Kauber has extensively investigated and documented life and work aspects of the rural world, particularly focusing on the social and cultural issues of local communities. She is particularly interested in the relationship between man, land, and food. Kauber has produced numerous documentary films on agriculture, landscape, and environment issues.

Mary Kuhn is assistant Professor of English at the University of Virginia where she teaches courses in the environmental humanities from the nineteenth century to the contemporary moment. Her first book, The Garden Politic (NYU Press, 2023), illustrates the home garden as an important site of environmental thought and practice in nineteenth-century America.

Isabella Rossellini started her career as a model and made her cinematic debut as an actress in 1979 in the Taviani brothers’ film Il Prato (The Meadow), but most of her career has been in America where she resides. Isabella has a master’s degree in Animal Behavior and Conservation and has received a PhD Honoris Causa from the Science Faculty at UQAM (University of Quebec at Montreal). She has won several Webby awards for her short film series she wrote and directed, including Green Porno, Seduce Me, and Mammas, which offer comical and scientifically insightful studies of animal behavior. Isabella is the founder of Mama Farm, an organic farm in Brookhaven NY, where she resides. She is a mother of two and a grandmother.

Jack Self is an architect and editor based in London. He founded Real Review magazine, dedicated to "what it means to live today".

Alice Rawsthorn is an award-winning design critic and the author of critically acclaimed books on design, including Hello World: Where Design Meets Life, Design as an Attitude and, most recently, Design Emergency: Building a Better Future. She is a co-founder with Paola Antonelli of the Design Emergency project to investigate design's role as a force for positive change. In all her work, Alice champions design's potential to address complex social, political and ecological challenges.

FormaFantasma is a research-based design studio investigating the ecological, historical, political and social forces shaping the discipline of design today. Whether designing for a client or developing self – initiated projects, the studio applies the same rigorous attention to context, processes and details. Formafantasma’s analytical nature translates in meticulous visual outcomes, products and strategies.


Prada Frames is a multidisciplinary symposium curated by FormaFantasma for Prada that explores the complex relationship between the natural environment and design. The collective effort aims to frame, analyse, contextualise, and define new perspectives on a plethora of themes. For its third edition titled ‘Being Home,’ Prada Frames examines the living environment as a framework to address contemporary challenges. The home is not merely a source of comfort; it acts as a shelter and an infrastructure of services. The extensive program of events takes place during Milan’s Salone del Mobile from Sunday, April 14 through Tuesday, April 16 2024 at the Museo Bagatti Valsecchi in Milan.



My name is Anna Kauber and I am an architect specialising in landscape. I began my own path of in-depth research projects, always trying to grasp the ways in which this millenia-old work that has shaped Italian territory can still be found naturally. I’m always trying to record and gather the best examples, let's say, of this great theme, and especially female examples.

In this exercise of mine, I found rural realities distributed over circumscribed territories, even taking on greater challenges across wider regions. And I have delved into themes that also relate to food, of course to landscape, the environment, historical practices and memories. It is the criterion of territorial identity, this great theme, in which all these may be discussed.

I am not a journalist, I am a researcher; over time, you can establish important empathic relationships while searching for what one can find without preconceptions, leaving the answers always to the protagonists. So I came to focus on the feminine, and when I started this gender research, and developing the theme ‘Women and Agriculture’ — a territorial research limited to my region of Emilia Romagna — it was an amazing experience. Women's vision and practices; women's idea of life, regeneration, reproduction and being welcoming, even for life to manifest itself. The idea of aiding the manifestation of life is so strong, so powerful even in agriculture.

This cutting edge of gender research was the one that then accompanied me in my research projects. We have shared emotional, intellectual, even bodily experiences; we all know how much the female body acts upon and within us every day, from adolescence onwards. Not to mention motherhood, breastfeeding and so on — all so strongly conditioned and contingent on the female body. It helped me so much, this possibility of looking towards the feminine rather than the masculine.

Stills from "In Questo Mondo", Anna Kauber, 2018.

The challenge with the women shepherds was a real one. When I did the ‘Women in Agriculture’ project, the female presence in the agricultural world was already more frequent; it was more talked about; it was already so innovative, so creative, so determined. When I started to formulate the research project, no one was talking about women shepherds, and even after several in-depth studies, I struggled to find them. When I finally found my first subjects, I closed up my house and left to start a journey alone, without a crew, without anything but a working AV set-up — somewhere between an amateur and professional.

One hatchback with 17,000 kilometres on the clock — mostly through journeys in the highlands, the mountains; lots of boots; several windbreakers, some gear, and off I went. Shepherding in truth is by no means such a closed world; although it is of a strong male culture — even, I would say still patriarchal — there are some women of various ages and backgrounds, but who choose to become shepherds — even in social contexts that see it as a bad choice, for example against the exhortations of fathers, mothers, sisters, boyfriends. But how to become a woman shepherd? In any case, we associate it with a whole symbology, a male practice. Well, no. These women have made their choice and maintain this strong idea at the cost of everything.

And I must say, there are women even with important degrees, double degrees, who go to the mountains, perhaps with a background knowledge or familiarity; to escape the urban cultural background to a knowledge of how people live here. They go to the mountains to tend their flock. And that is an extraordinary thing.

Today maybe less so, but in 2015-2017 — the years over which I did the research — these women were truly faceless and voiceless. These women understand, while all we all feel is a very painful rupture within us, one that is proper to a civilisation the Anthropocene with non-predatory ethics on nature. These women precisely understand how that works within us; how we feel it as a deep awareness that there is something wrong with a paradigm of values, in inverted commas, that are these of this highly urbanised world: a culture strongly based on consumption, on respect and careful use of resources that are for everyone and must be there for future generations.

And this very idea of the enlarged home itself has exploded. In 2015, Pope Francis wrote a wonderful encyclical text Laudato sì (or Praise Be to You), borrowing, or rather, following the stimulus of St Francis of Assisi's Canticle of the Creatures. In the Laudato si (which has the subtitle “On care for our common home"), he proposes a vision of integration, of coevolution with nature inside: a common living room shared with other human beings and other living beings, plants and animals.” Travelling and living with female shepherds and perceiving how much nature actually conditions us, gives us a limit, but at the same time gives us an immense space of freedom, without a roof.

Now I don't want to sound too poetic, but the vault of heaven is a roof. Every day while grazing, I felt this immersion inside it, within a context that contains it as well as an enlarged idea of home. And so it informed not only my idea of home but rather my way of perceiving. Those places around us in which we are immersed are really crucial, whether man-made or not: the natural landscape, the city understood as a sequence of common spaces, the square that is still unbuilt today. It doesn't matter to us if the natural or botanical context has its particularities; rather we hold onto the idea that there is a physical space that contains us, one that we then built beautifully in historic cities, especially Italian ones. But even in natural contexts there is an idea of home. This is a dear idea that the shepherds gave me and that I feel very, very much as my own today: the idea of home to share, a home that is not exactly mine, or even of my family, but which belongs to all those who participate.

Stills from "In Questo Mondo", Anna Kauber, 2018.

Of course my vision was lyrical, even if it is true: it was very true because it was based on testimonies I later had from my subjects. For example, I remember Assunta, an exceptional shepherd — incredible, really — and a protagonist of the film “In Questo Mondo”. I interviewed about a hundred women across all the regions of Italy, which took me two years, and of course, across many kilometres. I spent more than one day with them; usually two, three, sometimes even a whole week. They form a spectrum of women from twenty to 102 years old; even old ladies have their own flocks; this 102-year-old Sardinian woman from Orgosolo could not let go of it, which is formidable. I remember everything, everything about the flock.

I think I was a super-Anna when I had this experience so dense, it feels so here and now; that it has settled in me with a force that is rooted right in my memory. Assunta told me “See, if I go into the barn after the evening grazing and I see that I am missing a lamb from the group, I take my dog, my stick, I go into the woods to look for it and there I am not afraid. But please don't ask me to go to Termini station because I get lost and I don't feel at home there.” So let's shift between the two planes completely: that is, the forest — that scares us all, doesn't it? — alone in the woods at night. In the forest, and not the Alpine forest, which is already touristy, but rather the woods of the central Apennines, with wolves and other predators. Just you, your stick, the dog and the flashlight — but not Termini station, for that is not your home. So you understand how this changes completely, that a sense of shelter is indispensable.

Thinking about the very subject you are addressing here in the symposium, I was reminded of the whole slew of architecture or at least rural constructions of shepherds. Over time they have mapped the land, marked our Italian territory, you can still see so many of them standing along the roads— small shelters and other traces. These are still partially used shelter-architectures along the paths of transhumance, thus practising a de facto nomadism that is averse and contrary to an idea of home as a solid, constant reference point every night.

The nomadism of the classic shepherds has unfortunately been lost in Italy, but the vertical nomadism of the alpine pastures still exists. So when you look at the artifacts that remain, you realise that there was not so much difference between these and the classical tholos that we love, the circular architecture made of stone that perhaps reach a certain height; above this there might be a woven canopy of branches, or even a cone of carefully placed stones.

This formed a way of life that was at once together with the animal without making a big difference in their actions. It's true that with their earnings, shepherds often made their home in their place of origin. There are whole villages in Abruzzo, for example, built with the remittances of the life of nomadic transhumant shepherds. In short, the house is an object of desire. But then there was the wagon, the wagon that carried these large flocks of meat animals — those which were not to be milked twice a day — to roam in pastures. And there is the wandering transhumanist idea of these whole families of men, women and children, who lived on the cart and with the beasts around them.

Now, this is something that needs to be well-said and clarified.For the shepherd, animal welfare is what he makes a living from; these are productive animals, but the shepherd and the flock also love each other, they take care of the animals. I had experienced an alpine pasture more than once; in the film, you can watch my encounters with Maria Pia, a Piedmontese shepherdess. (I call her the priestess, to indicate the level of respect I have). This woman has such an enormous level of knowledge and know-how in leading the animals: I have seen her move 2000 sheep and three dogs for 700 metres, by herself from the mountain.

So I go and find her staying in another pasture below Moncenisio, 2000 metres from her previous spot, and I ask her “But what is this pasture like? Is it better or worse than the one where we did the filming in Valsesia?” and she told me “No, it's good, it's very, very good. This pasture is very good, there's a lot of grass.” There, I said “But no, Mariapia, what about us humans?”She replied, “Whatever, yes, it's fine, maybe a little more shabby than the other one.” So you see the logic of Maria Pia, it was not so much for the hovel in which she stayed — I then went there and it was without services, without anything — but because there was a lot of grass for the animals so the logic of living is that. That there should be natural space, grass to feed the animals. Then they are content. The domestication relationship. Between the shepherd and the shepherd and his animals has changed a lot over time, i.e. men and women. It is not a gender issue here. Awareness of animal rights is a different idea of the relationship even with the productive animal.

So the idea of preserving biodiversity without eating meat, with all due respect for personal choices, makes no sense — because Italian biodiversity, both plant and animal, was created by man and without man it disappears. We would go back to goats, to ibexes, to sheep, to mouflons. So these are very specific choices to be made. Where do we want to go? Having said that, the domestication relationship with animals has also changed. It has improved with the presence of women. I often say that the herd itself is female; in a regular herd one ram or two is enough. But the productive animal par excellence is female. It is these values that the shepherd's trade is measured. When I questioned the male shepherds — because there were often male and female shepherds in the social contexts I visited — they would remark that there is a specificity, something about the female shepherds. For instance, they would say “I don't know why, but she (pointing at the shepherdess) knows exactly when a sheep might give birth. I don't know, I cannot guess. But she does.”

Stills from "In Questo Mondo", Anna Kauber, 2018.

So there the first response to my question [of why one might choose to be shepherdess] was the one we have already talked about, which is nature, the return to nature, this strong sense of getting in touch with the rhythms of nature. The second was the most mind-blowing one, because you really have to make a transition to understand the scope of this statement: “Because here I am free”. A certain reasoning imposes itself on the shepherd's work: it is among the most tiring, it gives no respite all day. You have to look after these animals; more than once a day they have to eat, they have to live. It's not like the field in winter where if you skip or delay your chores for a day or you don't go to it, it's okay. Agriculture has other schedules. Herding in general, and sheep farming in particular, forces you into a constant rhythm. How can you say, I find them a criterion of freedom, of spaces of freedom. For us citizens, free time means going to the gym, perhaps, or spending more time with one’s children. All great things, but services which they don't have up there in the pasture. So what is it that makes them change? It is to care for an animal and to care for nature through the animal — because, again, they have a knowledge of natural places that is exceptional. Then there is an idea that sets you free within that context.

All right, I also want to tell you about another kind of change that I experienced. We were going up to the pasture, in Pollino or in Basilicata. Beautiful mountains: the Alps are beautiful, but Pollino I think is really superlative indeed. We were going up into the pasture; I was with Maria, an exceptional shepherd. At a certain point, it started to rain and then the little person in me started to get nervous. A drop falls on the lens; I open the parasol and I follow, because animals don't wait for you, do they? I trudge behind, trying to stave off my growing nervousness. Finally we get to the pasture where Maria wanted her animals to stop and it's raining, and raining hard. She takes out some sandwiches and we start to eat. At one moment she looks at me with my obvious nerves and my change of mood: she says “Anna, what's wrong with you?” I vented, saying “Well damn, it's starting to rain so I can’t record and my lens will fog up. And then there's the car…” She's looking at me with such wide-open eyes; after my whole hysterical crazy speech, she looks at me and says “But then it passes. Later it passes.” It made me realise the folly of my attempt, in wishing to dominate an atmospheric element. How stupid! She told me that it passes and then she added, “You should come here when it snows. I mean that's really all that changes.” The softness of adapting to the place; the non-madness of wanting things to be just, this is the evil of what we experience now.


My name is Michelangelo Frammartino, I am a teacher and a filmmaker. I trained at the same time at the Faculty of Architecture in Milan and at the Milan Film School, which was then called Civica Scuola del Cinema. Now it is the Luchino Visconti Academy — so my training is somewhat on the borderline between the design of space and that of the image.

As a young boy when I went down to Caulonia in Calabria — my parents' town — the thing that struck me most was the dimension of the Calabrian space-time. The constricted space of the Milanese house was not present in the medieval town in Calabria; rather there, the boundary between inside and outside was somewhat weakened. I am structured by this aporia, this juxtaposition of a life partly spent here in Milan in the north, while an important part was also spent in my parents' Ionian Calabria: territories with two very different souls.

As a filmmaker, for example, I realised this as soon I first set up my tripod in Caulonia. While in Milan, if you set up your tripod in Piazza della Scala, a policeman immediately comes and asks you for permission to occupy public land, in Caulonia a policeman would immediately arrive to ask if he can help you in some way, if he can move the cars or if he's in your way. So there is this very interesting dimension of freedom, a very different idea of territory, of landscape, of ownership. This is the ungovernable space in the south that I have come to know, which has allowed me to work.

Another important dimension is that of borders, which while in the north seem to be quite clear,— for example the border between inside and outside, a fundamental human border — in the south, this is not the case.

Instead, nature becomes, becomes a foreground figure and almost replaces the human. And this happens in Le Quattro Volte, where for example there is an animal inside a rural flat. This is something that I remember well as a child; my grandmother, who gave me milk for breakfast, would look out the window and call the shepherd who was passing by; he would came up with the goat — that is, the goat came into the house — and was milked there. This was shocking to me, because in Milan the division between the human interior — the protected, domestic, intimate place — and the outside was very clear. To go from the outside to the inside, you had to ring the doorbell, go up some stairs, take the lift, knock on the door. In short, there's a very clear barrier that you can’t find in the south. In the south, the door is a hole for the cat to go through; these are elements that excited me as a kid, they amazed me, and then over time they became the subject of my work.

Stills from "Le Quattro Volte", Michelangelo Frammartino, 2010.

It always amazed me that the language of film had relied only on the human as its unit of measurement. We seem to be the only possible protagonists of the filmic narrative; this seemed to me quite early on to be a sign of arrogance.I tried to reason about the possibility of substituting planes, inverting them, and I soon realised that there were problems. For example, apart from the fact that a language is missing and therefore you have to reinvent it, but then there are technical problems.

For example, when you go to mix a film where your protagonist is a goat, their utterances are not supposed to appear in the middle box below the screen, because that is the dialogue box. But if your protagonist is a goat, it should go there, rather than becoming part of the ambient sound. Then you realise that not only language, but the whole apparatus involves only us as protagonists. It becomes interesting to work on this reversal because it requires the invention of a different language and therefore also a different position, not only of the human in context, but also your position as a filmmaker, right? So when you no longer have to deal only with humans then it is no longer possible to direct, it is no longer possible to really govern it — unless you adopt a different position, perhaps one of listening more than directing. There is an underlying work of observation.

Upstream, there tends to be years of observation because this world cannot be governed; the world I try to record are made up not only of non-actors but often of non-humans. You have to try to get to know it very well because even if you cannot direct it, you have to somehow understand how it behaves and what it reacts to. So it doesn't have language but something else. For example, in order to film the goats, I was in the sheepfolds for months to understand what the dynamics were, what the hierarchies were, and at a certain point I understood how small things trigger reactions. What we are used to as a background managed to steal the scene from the human figure, weaving pseudo-narratives. But underlying that is usually a documentary approach, because in fiction you tend to rule precisely because you have performers you can direct. In documentary this is somewhat missed and in this kind of cinema that also stands here on another internal external boundary, between scene and off scene, between fiction and documentary, you work in these two manners that somehow meet.

The theme that I always develop is the position of man on earth. By rethinking the position and the importance of man, I always find myself working on the question of the figure of the background and the boundaries. This is something I probably try to make apparent in the movie theater. It is clear that in the hall there is a human confronted with an object — the film — and I would prefer that over the course of the film, this separation between the viewer and the object to view is challenged, this distance between subject and object, as happens in certain interactive installations. By interacting, if you yourself become part of the thing, you are no longer separated — you cannot look at the picture as something so far away. When there is interaction it means that thing comes alive through your engagement.Then you are a part of the thing being exhibited.

Stills from "Le Quattro Volte", Michelangelo Frammartino, 2010.

It is not possible to film reality; as we know, even as we watch, we transform what we are watching. So we should accept that it is always about film. For me, a great filmmaker is aware that there is no such difference, and this affects his language, his approach to filmmaking. When you realise that there is really no difference, it changes your language. And so a documentary approach to things means that you can't accept that the camera is invisible; one always needs to build a pact, which then falls back on the viewer. And that's why when you watch their films, you feel implicated.

In the editing phase, so I resolve certain issues first by the ear and only then by the eye, but that still has to do with the issues from before of the boundaries and this boundary crossing, for example in the post-production phase; this also happens at the mixer in so many ways but because sound plays a very important role. For example in The Hole, a film where black is important, darkness is very important — so much so that in this cave where we worked, we didn't use additional lights, there were only the actors' lights.

So again an ungovernable dimension, because it means that as the actor moves his head the space transforms and where the light did not reach, there was an absolute blackness. Usually one avoids this — because the blackness has to be somehow controlled, it has to be an under-exposure, not an absolute blackness — whereas we needed it. And clearly in that blackness, you have to rely on your ear to have a sense of depth — as indeed it does in speleology, where the ear is critical for cavers who have breached hitherto mysterious and unknown caves.

It is not that clear to understand how much my experience of rural space influenced my curiosities. In architecture school, however, I can say that I began to wonder what made a space alive and therefore habitable. I was immediately concerned about designing something that someone would have to inhabit later, even years later. It's the same thing that happens when you make a film. Here, this act of squinting quickly became a concern. How does a space retain such elasticity that it can then be interpreted by others who take possession of it, by others who inhabit it? How do people see it now?

In the case of a building, you may have designed it in one era and then it is inhabited in another, but how? How does it relate afterwards? How does this space or this film remain interactive? And the answer I was able to give myself went through these oscillations, these double constraints, these paradoxes. For example when it’s not clear whether a space is an interior or an exterior, such oscillations became important in the architectural concern and then I brought them into the framing, so maybe it helped me in that sense.

The reference points of course are always many in the work we do. But I have to say that I'm very fascinated especially when non-filmmakers have taken over the camera. For example — I often find myself mentioning this work — Fischli and Weiss, two Swiss artists who have a beautiful installation at the Fondazione Prada right now, and who have often used the camera though not as filmmakers — in a way that is not usual, but extremely fascinating. I am particularly fond of one of their works on 16mm, a film of one of about thirty minutes — titled in English as The Way Things Go — which is beautiful because no actor, no human figure appears. It is made up only of objects that in a strange process, in a kind of domino-fashion, pass the baton to each other. This energy flows and everything is activated automatically. I've always said that for me, that film had the importance that Scorsese's Taxi Driver held for others.

Then, of course, there are also very careful filmmakers. For example Kiarostami: for me he was very important, a filmmaker who pays special attention to the background, or a filmmaker like Tsay Ming-liang, who is less attentive to the question of nature and more attentive to urban space but pays attention to objects, to dwellings that become to all intents and purposes characters.

22 Apr 2024
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