What happens when art becomes the focal element in interior design? We asked four architects and a gallerist

What does it mean to integrate art into an architectural project? It means thinking about interior design around the work of art.

With, on, for, between, between a painting or a sculpture the housing project is built, whether for a house, for a work space or for a private park, to create a cultural environment. Serena Cassissa, art consultant of the gallery, explains it very well Marco Rossi of Milan who has developed, after years of work with various architects, a perfect system to achieve it.

«First of all it is a linguistic question: it is necessary to mediate between different languages, that of art and that of architecture», explains Cassissa, «A great mechanism is created that it works perfectly when art is just art, even in the vision of the architect who does not intend the work as a decorative element. Its placement in space, then, is a solution that enhances it, but the space, in turn, is enhanced by the work."

A mutual enrichment is therefore possible if an understanding is created between the architect, art consultant and client.

The choice of the works to be included in the space will no longer be the final part of the work, but rather a very early thought that allows all the actors to work together from the beginning: «Architects in this way can integrate art as element of the project, with all the practical aspects this entails, from the creation of tailor-made spaces to lighting.

But the discussion is first of all cultural", continues Cassissa, "and we think of renovation as a path that culminates in the project, along an intellectual reasoning between space, proportions, imagination and, why not?, also investment.

Both because perhaps the client has chosen to do a major renovation and therefore alignment is also needed from the point of view of the works to be included in that space; both because perhaps the client is purchasing works of art for the first time and wants the necessary reassurance on his investment; and because the client is a collector and he wants to include one or two new works to restore meaning and harmony to his collection."

And if, as Marco Rossi underlines, this dialogue between gallery owner, client and architect has always existed, it is true that today there are many architects ready to use art in their design.

«For me in the designed space, art proceeds like an algebraic function», explains the architect Fabrizio Fragomeli of Turin, «We start from the 1 which is the work of art, but the principle on which the function proceeds is the 2, that is, the doubt: which work of art to choose? At this point architecture intervenes".

Fragomeli is a design artist, a visionary capable of inventing fictions that have functions in everyday life and of transforming art into something to be used every day.

But his planning proceeds like the algebraic function he indicated: it is necessary to look at the works of art so that doubt will move the client's emotions... «And, based on their reaction, I understand what to draw », continues the architect «The choice of a work, that is, is the objective gaze of the client that I try to give back to him in the project.

And vice versa: I am often the one who takes the client to art galleries to see the works of already established artists, such as those proposed by Marco Rossi, but also by emerging ones ( for example those of the gallery Crag di Torino), the important thing is that the user can reveal himself in front of the works and discovers new ways of expressing himself".

So for example he talks about the house for a young woman designed in colour, where the classic environment and the wood paneling dialogue with magenta inserts and abstract paintings in shades of blue to make it a dreamlike environment strong>, or a collector's house. In this case Fragomeli created wooden partitions with which to divide the space and place the works on one side, and a piece of furniture or the kitchen on the other... «In this case the theme was to choose which works to see always and which only sometimes .

The choice of partitions pleased the client who loved the idea of a complete integration of art into architecture.

This is an example of how spaces are added with works of art and how these partitions allow the work to be seen and used." The house then becomes a scenographical space: «The work creates a theatrical scenography with a museum perspective», declares Fragomeli, with an almost lapidary clarity.

So it's a fiction in which the inhabitant of the house is an actor playing a role?

«In some ways, yes: it is the only place where he acts without a mask and he needs to feel like the absolute protagonist. What I propose is a fiction, the result of a contrast: inhabiting the theater scene in which to truly be oneself.

The museum element, then, serves to create visual optical cones to define the space in which to be the protagonist.

Over time the work can be changed, meeting the new needs of the owner of the house. The important thing is that the spaces have been designed correctly to correspond to them.

In an education to beauty, to beauty. Which is the beauty of the customer himself: it is he who, by choosing, declares who he is". A maieutic work, therefore, that of the designer, who brings out knowledge from people, the clients, in fact, for whom he designs kingdoms to live in.

And other architects who collaborate, among other galleries, with Marco Rossi also agree with him.

No direct, museum-like lighting

Alice Cagliani, Milanese architect and Off Tryp confounder, underlines the importance of the scenographic element in interiors in a work on spaces designed to emphasize the works. Which, however, is drawn and not illuminated: «I create a visual path through small elements that draw attention to the work: I don't intend to use direct lighting on the painting.

I like playing with natural light and artificial light designed to bring the eye to the work without it becoming a museum exhibition", explains Cagliani who first of all tries to interpret the space available according to the art. «Art, architecture and design speak the same language and my work is a synergy in the living space to be inhabited».

He plays with colors ("I really love the dark ones", he reveals) and with artists who also create works to be used, such as the opening doors by Gennaro Avallone or the luminous creations by Jacopo Foggini, which almost become signposts to get to the work of art.

This will then be the protagonist of the space that she designs and determines with her presence. It tends to be a painting, Cagliani has naturally also had to deal with monitors and NFTs but... don't tell her about it: she prays that that was a passing fad!

The interior as a total work, as Gio Ponti did

Enrico Dallaiti (studio Arme) instead met Marco Rossion the occasion of a shooting and they never left each other again.

His philosophy of designing matches with an idea of a total work and of "all-round" architecture, like that, for example, of Gio Ponti", declares Dallaiti, who then proceeds with his decalogue, rather peremptory, but certainly effective: «The architecture is sculptural and the weight of white is very important.

We don't use colour, only white, black, steel and wood for the floors, maybe even dark ones.

I don't design with the work of art, which is almost always chosen near the end of the renovation, but I work on the imagination of the spaces. The works then are the completion of the architecture with the function of acting as a visual stimulus, often for the clients themselves, who perhaps have never bought a painting."

Dallaiti therefore plays with the architectural elements and his imagination, creating a space designed to welcome art. The 2 of Fragomeli's algebraic function, the doubt about which work to put in, will be addressed later, «with the client, who must complete the architect's work with something that represents him», explains Dallaiti, «There is a need for a dialogue between designer and client in a path of education in art and the purchase of art".

For this reason, «the architect must provide the client with a white wall on which to place a work that represents him. Then the space will become his, even though it was born as an artifice: the weights are built in the space as in a graphic and the content will be discussed with the client, who must be accompanied in the idea."

Andrea Parisio, art director and designer of Meridiani, seems to follow this philosophy. For him, «art and architecture integrate perfectly to enhance their meanings of content and container».

But the surprise effect seems to be guaranteed in both cases, whether you think about the content or the container. Because «art adapts perfectly both to environments designed down to the smallest detail to welcome it, and to spaces where it seemed impossible it could be present».

Precisely for this reason it is necessary to establish a relationship of trust between the client and the designer. Then you can play. And it will always be imagination that wins.