issue #35: Integration
The Conversation between Marco Magalini, Editor-in-chief of Caleido, and the architect Simona Malvezzi, co-founder of the Kuehn Malvezzi studio in Berlin, tackles the theme of Integration, which means how architecture is often faced with a dichotomy: to integrate with the place (risking a weaker and more compromised final result), or to accentuate its differences (with a more marked visual impact, but more discrepant and divergent). Welcome to Caleido, the Kaleidoscopic Observatory on the world of creativity / Read the Editor’s letter here.
1. @kuehnmalvezzi is a firm known for its innovative approach to architecture. What are the main guiding principles and values that guide your work?
A deep interest in conceptual art and its production processes underlies our approach. In addition, we have always been more interested in public spaces than private ones, and in how public architecture can impact political and social issues. This approach is a constant in our work. In every project, even private ones, we try to add an element that becomes a public use, sometimes even going against the demands of a competition notice.
2. How has your design style evolved over time?
We never worried about style or signature. When you start a project, you should not worry about these aspects… What we were most interested in there were the books on our shelf. If you ask me how our library works, what order it follows or what kind of books we had at that time, I answer that on the shelf there are mostly art books. Even more artist’s books. Books made by artists.
3. How do you address the issue of local identity in your projects? What strategies do you employ to create architecture that integrates with its surroundings?
The word integration almost sounds like disappearance. Instead, we are interested in differences and the dialogue between them. An element foreign to the local context helps bring out something that already exists in an unexpected way, and vice versa. This does not mean ignoring the local context, but analyzing and understanding it. Never imitate it.
4. Architecture can have a significant impact on the community and the people who use it. Can you share an example where you have seen your work have a positive effect?
A few years ago we participated in a competition that called for a new facade for the @berlinischegalerie in Berlin. Instead of a new facade, we submitted a design for a square. The design was that of a large game, the scarab, with all the names of the artists in the museum written horizontally. For us the problem was in fact not the facade, but the large abandoned area in front of the museum. Strangely enough, we won and with our new plaza we reactivated the neighborhood made up mostly of popular residential buildings. Residents and especially children use the square as a playground turning it into an urban event.
5. How do you address sustainability challenges in your projects? Do you have any examples of sustainable solutions that you have implemented in a project?
An example of sustainability is the reuse of existing buildings, that is, instead of building something new, we try to reactivate what is already there. We work with the ready-made concept, which is to build a new context around the existing to change its perception and meaning. It is different from the Duchampian concept, which instead moves the object into a new context. This is still a great challenge in an urban environment that is already filled.
6. Architecture is an ever-changing field. How do you keep yourself and your team abreast of new trends and innovations in the field?
With constant research, both theoretically and practically, my partners and I are also engaged in teaching, and this allows a great deal of freedom to explore with students new methodologies and design approaches.
7. Is there any artist who has particularly inspired you in your career? If so, how has it influenced your approach to architecture?
We are not interested in a style nor are we interested in art understood as a decorative object. We are interested in the processes of producing a conceptual artwork. If I have to mention names, Michael Asher has certainly been instrumental.
8. What advice would you give to a young architect who is starting his or her career?
All images are taken from the interviewee’s Instagram account, and are an integral part of the interview’s editorial storytelling. See the interviewee’s Instagram account for full credits.