February, 21 2013

Posted inArchitect

Simone Capra (Roma 1978), Claudio Castaldo (Latina 1978), Francesco Colangeli (Roma 1982), Dario Scaravelli (La Spezia 1981)



"STARTT Studio: architecture and territorial transformations". What does it mean?

As architects we oppose the current trend that has been going on for the last 20 years: creating a brand to become “archi-stars” whose signature makes official any mark on the territory. We want architecture to be directly related to territorial transformations. The work of an architect must always take into account the study of the area in which you operate, be it social, purely architectural or landscape. We architects are not gods who can place an object detached from its context; instead we need to always consider the relation that architecture has with the land.


Your training took place in the Faculty of Architecture in Rome. Talk to me about Labò.

Labò is a research project on a contemporary metropolis that started in 2003 by students in the Student Committee of the Faculty of Architecture, a great teamworking experience that has been important for all its participants. Born in the period of disputes in Genoa, we wanted to build a self-training lab that challenged the usual taught classes we were accustomed to, with seminars and conferences held by teachers from all over the world, Sydney, Barcelona, London and Switzerland. It was the breeding ground where different generations met, giving us the knowledge and understanding of the value of teamwork that we now practice in our daily lives.


Talk about the competition you just won in the municipality of Lugo.

It was a design competition in two phases for the redevelopment of the historical city’s portico Pavaglione, the old silk market in northern Italy measuring 120m x 100m where today’s silk market still resides. As a result of the Industrial Revolution the economy changed and with it many business needs. The square lost its original function and became a space for fascist gatherings at the beginning of 1900. The competition required to re-qualify this 8000 square metres of urban space within a town of 30 000 inhabitants. An oversized and peculiar space right at the heart of the town, it is like a fence that overlooks on the ancient Roman forum. The project was carried out with another design team from Cesena called P’Arch and Matteo Zamagni. Unfortunately we have some constraints for the dissemination of this project, imposed by the competition. 


The YAP. Why did you participate and how did you chose the project?

The YAP curators selected 35 young professional studios to participate. By the end of the selection there were only 5 finalists, each presented by a curator. We had Alessandro D’Onofrio, a MAXXI critic. And so came the victory. The idea for the project came from a discussion between the three of us and the architects Andrea Valentini and Francesco Colangeli, who also participated in this project. The competition required, among other things, to design the space outside MAXXI with water, shade and a seating area. For us, then, the key issues to be addressed were that of the garden and the “urban scale”, taking into account the size of the MAXXI and its surrounding buildings. Colour and materials were also important elements in our design as the MAXXI is placed in a context of grey cement, “Roman baroque”, 1970-style buildings and high-fenced barracks in Via Guido Reni. Therefore we asked ourselves: “How can we design an open public space that is visually and emotionally closed due to its location?” Our first plan took inspiration from origami, but after a week we changed. The second week we made spheres, in the third week we designed glasses with circles and bubbles. The fifth idea involved a green hill that magically made everyone happy. So we started to design a place where we could insert some green within this mono-material environment. But we still needed an element of impact: at the beginning we thought about drawing leaves made of iron that moved in the wind, but in the end we made huge red poppies. 


Whatami Project by Studio STARTT. Photo by Cesare Querci



Did you encounter any problems during the implementaton of the project?

The construction of the hill was pretty easy, we had a team of workers at our disposal that followed us around. The timings were tight and we had difficulty finding the straw suppliers from which the hills were made. But all in all it went well.


Well, a project with tight deadlines is also an advantage as well as a problem, right?

It was one of a few competitions in Italy that was accomplished in only 6 months.


From winning the competition to the completed construction, how long did it take?

We won on the 16th February, and we inaugurated it on 26th June.


This competition is connected to the MOMA, were you in contact with the United States and MOMA?

We met some people from MOMA here in Rome. Our project was exhibited at MOMA PS One and now is part of their collection. We were also on show at the award ceremony of the 2012 edition of the competition.


YAP in Rome is in its second edition, how about in New York?

In New York they are at the thirteenth.


Your project was a great success with the public, giving new life to a place that already had a very specific identity. What are the reasons? 

In Rome there are not many green areas with easy access, and in that area the parks are neglected and abandoned. And, our project is beautiful! Surely it had a high degree of complexity, but everyone could understand it and live it the way they wanted, from children to the expert architect. It was therefore possible to comprehend and live the project on different scales. Furthermore, MAXXI believed in the project and provided great communication support, connecting stakeholders and the press, creating great expectations and attention. The choice of working with nature was winning. A natural hygiene… that is missing in Rome, our parks are poorly maintained. 


Whatami Project by Studio STARTT. Photo by Cesare Querci


Whatami Project by Studio STARTT. Photo by Cesare Querci



Did you ever hope it would be a permanent project?

Informally, many have asked us to make it permanent, but it was not possible because the YAP is a yearly event. In any case, the dismantling date of our project had been extended thanks to an official request by the International Film Festival of Rome, which took place in November.


If it had been a permanent space, what kind of maintenance would it need?

That of a normal garden with some extra technical devices. It withstood the flooding in Rome in November 2011!


A year has passed and now we have the new edition of YAP. What are your thoughts?

It’s a conceptual project that has very different requirements. This year’s competition requires more attention, as well as interpretation, of man’s behaviour in respect of physical space and living environments. It therefore addresses the issue of design and its ability to promote socialization in public spaces.


After a year, what has this project given you?

Certainly more white hair! Seriously though, it brought us fame and more attention from the media and the critics.


Did it bring you more work?

More opportunities for work… and we are still reaping the benefits. There is a greater sympathy towards us and we can reach out with less difficulty than before.


In your opinion, what is Italy doing for young architects?

Nothing! Laws and bureaucracy are the main obstacles for the young. The Procurement Code and the various systems to ask for grants act as a filter. It is impossible to have a curriculum such as those required, even for small contracts. If we wanted to create a small garden with the same requirements made for the MAXXI, we would have had to demonstrate that we had done at least 4 similar projects in the past 5 years. Only if competitions are organised by private entities then things can start to change.


In this regard, do foreign countries offer more possibilities? How was your experience abroad?

In Italy it's not just a problem of politics but also of bureaucracy, like Federico Chabod used to say. Administration in Italy is completely unqualified. Architecture hangs on the incapacity of the public administration to manage projects.


And abroad things are different?

Absolutely. There is more of an architectonic culture.


Which is your favourite project?

Once a project is completed you must look forward.


Which was your first project with all of you three together?



What is the relationship between architecture and society?

We are missing the architectonic knowledge that allows us to asses a project and understand it fully. As if to say, how can you evaluate a painting or a movie without artistic or cinematic knowledge? During history architects were blamed for this… but not anymore, as saying it would be like shooting at the Red Cross; for an architect the ability to work depends on the ‘protection’ of large engineering companies that inevitably compromises the quality of the project. It is also important to consider that architecture is the culture of our country because twenty years of trash buildings inevitably compromises the ability of the individual to perceive the aesthetic value and quality enshrined in article 9 of the Constitution (Longo) as social value. Figurative culture also derives from what one has been handed down: if you want to live in the house with faux marble and you are used to that style, it is difficult to change things!


Whatami Project by Studio STARTT. Photo by Cesare Querci


Whatami Project by Studio STARTT. Photo by Cesare Querci










FUTURE: Architecture e(s)t Paysage. stARTT



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