Craig Copeland is an artist, architect and designer. He is Principal of the Pelli Clarke Pelli studio, his experience of him embraces different fields, sometimes even codes that are very distant from each other. The bridge, the element that connects all of his works is the passion for stone. Craig participated in the Marmomac talk cycle of spring 2021 and has a multi-year relationship of attention and curiosity with the Verona fair.
You have a multifaceted personality. What is the element that holds everything together?
It's a question they've been asking me for thirty years and I have to think about it every time. I believe there are two or three elements that activate curiosity and passion in my work. In any project, public or private, there are opportunities that go beyond the simple and obvious function of creating a shelter. I like to think of functions that multiply and explore possibilities capable of increasing the sense of well-being and joy of a place. It is done in different ways: by designing the encounter and the relationship, but also all the contents that are normally integrated into contemporary architecture. From a very basic point of view, there is the idea of creating places that support the joy of living.
When did you start to love architecture and its materials?
Very early. One of the first sources of inspiration was Leonardo Da Vinci. His drawings combine the study of the natural world and amplify it in every area of life, from research to invention. In each of his studies there is the opportunity to create something concrete, after observing how nature works. An attitude that has set my curiosity in motion and still carries it in many different directions.
Does it happen that your artistic research inspires or is integrated into your work as an architect?
It happens very often, fortunately. The relationship with stone, with the artisans who inhabit his world, is always inspiring and in some way also informs my research in architecture. The relationship between manual skills and technology has been very frightening for a while. It was thought that machines would take away meaning from man's work, replacing it, neglecting thousands of years of history and skills accumulated through experience and his legacies. Instead, what happens is very different. The possibilities are increasing, today more than ever you need the craftsmen, the excavators, their experience in the quarries.
Can you give me an example?
The extraction and processing of stone go through very physical channels. The block of material requires the physical presence, the touch, a patient observation of the merits, the defects, the veins. I realize how much I check the raw material, or when I watch the artisans evaluate the stone. At the same time, however, we have technologies capable of narrating the progress of a quarry, a vein, a geological portion. They help us to better select the cuts, to find the best parts for each use. As well as the sign of manual work on stone, a trace of the artist's gesture, it expands thanks to the possibilities of new textures and new finishes that only machines are able to give.
What, if any, are the unexpressed potential in architecture for natural materials?
They exist and are linked precisely to technology and the opportunity to multiply the expressiveness of the raw material. It's like love songs: every time you think you've heard them all, but a new one always comes out, expressing different things in an innovative way.
It must be a great responsibility to design and at the same time deal with the idea of eternity that stone carries with it ...
There are two ways of looking at this. One is undoubtedly linked to a historical vision of stone, to its massive, permanent, immutable use. But there is also a very new aspect, which once again depends on the presence of new extraction technologies and processes. We dig surgically, so as not to waste materials. We are careful in evaluating the possibilities of excavating near the places of implementation. And when this is not possible, we fragment the components in a rational way and then assemble them. There are endless possibilities to lighten the presence of stone, both from the point of view of sustainability and from a formal point of view. In this sense Marmomac is an indispensable place for information and updating for me, a space in which to discover new possibilities.