As an architect, a professor at the Milan Polytechnic and cultured and refined researcher on new living scenarios, Davide Fabio Colaci considers the home an emotional machine, where shapes, materials and colors combine to build the density of an experience.
It is therefore almost natural to ask him to evaluate, especially in light of the new relationship we have created with our homes since the beginning of the pandemic, what is the key role of surfaces in our daily home.
What changes did the (forced) rediscovery brought about during the lockdown of the physical and material dimension of our home?
The house has always been the theater of our existence and represents all our strengths and weaknesses for better or for worse, often even unconsciously. One thing certain is that the lockdown period has generated greater attention to the quality of our spaces. Of course, we still have to solve problems of housing needs and minimum standards of comfort for the weakest segments who have been most affected in terms of response to change. And it is perhaps too early to say whether this condition has generated a real push towards renewal. It has certainly triggered a greater willingness to question certain dogmas.
What impact will this health crisis have on our way of experiencing the domestic stage and the relationship with objects?
Today it is very difficult to identify trends, even after they have taken place, precisely because our society tends more and more to self-reform. Let me explain: through our ability to adapt, even involuntarily, we generate questions and needs for a pulverized and constantly evolving planning. And often this planning cannot be summarized in a single trend as it happened in the twentieth century.
All this does not always contribute to determining positive balances but it is certainly helping us to rewrite our idea of living. The domestic space acquired during this health crisis the value of a golden prison, an enclave ready to be refounded, modified, customized for our needs and connected with the rest of the world. Perhaps all this has made us more open to change, both functionally and in terms of vision. And this last aspect frankly seems to me the most interesting.
You often design furniture as architectural devices. Which direction would you go now? Will you think of them for open spaces or for spaces that can be modulated as needed?
During the pandemic the furnishings were perceived, even if for me they have always been, like characters in a comedy, as elements of a daily life often written but never predictable, capable of adapting and triggering unexpected processes. Chairs for gymnastics, tables as a laboratory... In truth I don't know what role they will play in the future and when I make predictions I'm always wrong (laughs). I listen to my clients and my students without prejudice and try to intercept something interesting. Perhaps it seems a bit simplistic, but the thing I perceive the most is the rejection of luxury understood as ‘brass and velvet trimmings’. We need more freshness, perhaps even less fiction for our interiors. The models presented by the media are also starting to feel very weak, especially by people outside the sector. Will it be necessary to invent a new neo-neo-realism? Maybe.
In your interior, design and architecture works, research on materials is always very important. Where and how does a good project come from?
Perhaps the combination of contemporary design could be: ethics/aesthetics. Two words almost in one that include all those practices of attention and sensitivity to beauty. We must understand that beauty is a value linked to sustainability and that ugliness is a very powerful form of pollution that should not be underestimated. Technically, we live in a world that does not want to reduce consumption and demands more and more performance from materials and surfaces, exasperating their performance. But it is never taken into consideration that instead of implementing such performance, we can learn to accept that a material ages, deteriorates, can be “mended” or needs more care. In short, perhaps we need to understand that innovation cannot go through technique alone, just like a good project.
Let's talk about an educational project. What is important to communicate to students today?
I always say to my students at the Laboratory of Interior Architecture of the Politecnico di Milano, quoting one of my teachers, that the school can only train self-taught. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean that school doesn't teach anything, but that the will to learn and curiosity are the only engine to develop one's personal knowledge.
In fact, every year I change the theme of the laboratory to keep the interest of our research group high, heterogeneous and interdisciplinary even among teachers.
Last year we had a group experience in Lanzarote (read here). The goal was the self-construction of a metaphor (see Sottsass) inserted into the landscape. It was an opportunity to imagine a formal and material discontinuity with the island's territory, working on the themes that the culture of the project is facing or should face: climate change, hyperconnection, the conquest of new territories, the rituality of daily gestures, the theme of the sacred and much more. Students are very sensitive on these issues and we must carefully cultivate their attitude.
The materials played an important role, both from a technical and a symbolic point of view. We used primary materials, present on the island: earth, lava, water and sands, working them little or hybridizing them with artificial materials such as iridescent fabrics, elastic, mirrors or natural pigments. This led the students to design, elaborate and self-build their installations with all the limitations of the case; but limits, as we know, lead to sharpen ingenuity. We have produced ‘other’ very interesting metaphors.
What kind of projects are you working on now?
The work of the studio is always a challenge. We have just completed the new headquarters and showroom of a leading company in the handle sector: Dnd. Here too our choice was that of creating an ‘open’ and highly modifiable workspace. With Giulio Iacchetti as art director, we imagined a device that can always be modified and reversed over time: a cloud that allows the company to independently compose new collections according to needs and customers. Then we have our interiors scattered throughout Italy: Rome, Milan, and, I'll tell you, I have never given up on the project of the domestic dimension, for me the only real test of contemporary design. Finally, we are dealing with two new small buildings: two single-family residences in Milan and in the much loved Salento. I confess that I like to think of them as interiors ‘dressed’ in matter, but this is just my perversion.