An Espresso with Andrea Maffei

Andrea Maffei from AMA

1) What is the "mission" of an architect?

The architect has the task of explaining his thoughts on the way of life of people and their city. Every building we design does not exist at the time. So each building is a piece of the future. Our role is to explain, with the shapes and materials, what we think of that type of building, of how to live today and in that context. If a message is not presented accurately, then the architecture remains silent. A project can never start from the form alone, otherwise the work will age rapidly and become outdated in a few years. If instead the idea represented is interesting then the architecture overcomes the limitations of the time.

2) What are the differences between an Italian approach and an international approach to architecture?

In the past there were many more differences because people traveled less and there was not the internet and means of communication that there are today. Globalization has exceeded the localised limits of certain architecture of the past, with its advantages but also disadvantages. Today a lot of people complain that some architecture, which we can find in Milan, reminds them of Dubai or Shanghai. This criticism is not wrong. Just look at the EXPO even, where the pavilions are all equally different. It’s a bit like channel hopping television or scrolling through different sites on Google. The risk of the international approach is to not relate to the local context and to not interpret the culture in order to create a project that is unique for that place. Some international firms design the same project whether it is located in Miami or Prague. The Italian approach has a greater culture of architectural history, as opposed to certain British or American approaches. Italian architects pay more attention to materials and local cultures.

3) Despite your many travels and experiences around the world, what are your design roots that remain unchanged?

Travel and work abroad helps to disengage from certain local prejudices and to see things in a more international manner. It also allows you to see Italian culture from the outside, through the eyes of a foreigner and therefore differently. It's always interesting to think about the same project from different points of view. My design roots are more related to certain schools of thought and certain figures of architecture. Not so much to certain places, to geographical boundaries or certain types of architecture. Italian architecture was very important in research on the international level in the 60s and 70s. The climax was the exhibition at MOMA in 1972 “Italy, The New Domestic Landscape” curated by the great Emilio Ambasz. I think we should start from that point to resume the same courage in experimentation and research as Italian architects of the time, rather than just apply an international style that is now the same everywhere.

4) What can’t you live without in an architectural office?

A large meeting table. In an office, the discussion of a project is always the most creative moment, where we compare different ways of seeing the project and various points of way. Listening to different opinions helps to perceive the theme like Pirandello, from various points of view. Being around a large table with other colleagues and discussing the project stimulates ideas to grow and makes them even more interesting.

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