In the new spaces in Rome of the studio Labics, models are the protagonists. Hung on the walls like paintings or set on worktables, they are the tangible expression of architectural research that proceeds from the idea to the concrete form
photos Marco Cappelletti – article Laura Ragazzola
A workspace in a handsome Roman building from the early 1900s. The plaque outside the doors says: Labics. Which is the name of the firm of the Roman architects Maria Claudia Clemente and Francesco Isidori, chosen 15 years ago, at the start of their career, to sum up their idea of architecture: an activity of open, shared, structured research.
In their new offices this idea takes on immediate, almost physical impact: just observe the many models on display in every corner, and even on the walls.
How is this layout related to your studio’s way of working?
Maria Claudia Clemente. It definitely illustrates our design approach. For us, in fact, the model represents an important tool to test ideas throughout the process: from the abstract, conceptual phase to the completed form of the project. If you look around, you can see some of the buildings we have designed, but also incomprehensible mock-ups that are not related to a particular job. They are the result of theoretical research and experimentation.
So you think in three dimensions?
Francesco Isidori. Not really: our models are more two-dimensional than three-dimensional. Let me explain. One of the basic ideas of our research is the concept of structure, in its multiple meanings: geometric structure, structure of functions, structure of paths. Our investigation is not necessarily a matter of volumes, seen in three dimensions, it is mostly research on the nature of the structure of the project…
M.C.C. …in other words, the models don’t represent the project per se, but address the idea that lies behind the project. Often they are very abstract, and then gradually the get more representative.
The fact remains that they are material objects…
M.C.C. Of course, the model is in any case a real construction, which enables us to give form to an idea in space.
How many models do you make for each project?
F.I. About ten, on the average. Every model represents an interpretation of the same theme. Starting with this idea, three years ago we also made an exhibition.
What was it like?
F.I. It was entitled ‘Structures’ and it contained 50 models, made in 2014 and 2015, starting from an abstract matrix to represent certain simple spatial archetypes on which we often work: the boundary between inside and outside, between architecture and landscape, single object and series, and so on…
But in this process, what wins out… the idea or the construction?
M.C.C. For us, architecture is construction. Or, more precisely, our idea of the project is abstract and constructive at the same time. We don’t like renderings because they represent an idea of architecture based on the image, with which we cannot identify. We base our work on the principle of the structure.
Do you make the models yourselves? With what materials?
F.I. We build them using wood, paper or cardboard, nylon… it depends… the material varies according to the circumstances. We also use stone, but in this case we need help from others.
How are they ‘archived’?
F.I. In our previous studio they were stacked on two lofts…
M.C.C. …and when we moved to this new space three years ago, we realized what an extraordinary number of models we had made. In that moment we understood that for us the model is a truly indispensable working tool… So we decided to hang them on the walls, like a sort of gallery.
A studio that is a chamber of wonders, then?
F.I. Not really… there is nothing extraordinary, just objects that come from thinking and work…
M.C.C. Our studio – as the name Labics indicates – is above all a laboratory, and for us architecture is research aimed at finding solutions to problems. There is always a logic in our path of work, we do not only rely on emotions.
But emotion also plays a role, doesn’t it?
F.I. Of course. For us a logical thing is not just rational, it brings together all the principles of design, including beauty and emotion.
M.C.C. Do you know what was in this space before we arrived? A dance school. I like to think that every day we come to work in a place where people used to dance... and I am reminded of the words of Paul Valery about drawing and dancing… it’s great!