Caleido interviews Nicola Andò of Studio Didea, an architecture firm based in Palermo. Welcome to Caleido, an inspirational diary, that narrates many stories: about creative people, trends, travels, objects. / Read the Editor’s letter here / Watch the Instagram live interview here (in Italian language)
Diary by: @studio_didea
1. I can only start with a question about the concept of Palermitudine (“Palermo-ness”): a neologism that links Palermo to a precise attitude, which has to do with contamination, with beauty, with culture and art, with conviviality, with a sometimes decadent charm. What do you think this “Palermo-ness” consists of in the field of architecture?
I believe that Palermitudine is a distorted attitude that leads to the awareness of coming from a context dense with culture and history, but also leads to neglecting knowledge and appreciation of it. A sort of lazy melancholy, the same one that leads us to understand the grandiose beauty of this city when we are far away, elsewhere.
2. Establishing one’s own aesthetic is a complex process for an architect or designer. What are 5 Instagram profiles that, in some way, inspire your work? And that help us to fully understand your identity?
We actually have several Instagram references, we like to observe what contemporary ‘social creatives’ share on their profiles. We are usually fascinated by those profiles that focus on the concept of “less is more” and it is interesting to us how you can manage to communicate something by finishing your creative process with an extreme synthesis. Specifically, the profiles we like to see the most, in addition to the profiles dedicated to architecture, are: the beautiful images of @minimalism, the mystical landscapes of @luigi_ghirri and the creative posts of @itsnicethat.
3. Still talking about your creative identity: I imagine that it sometimes “clashes” with the tastes of the clients, although those who come to you know your DNA well. Do you like to relive your interior projects even after many years? How do you assess the relationship between architecture and time?
Our approach to design is based on the work adapting to time, changing and transforming for the benefit of those who live in the space and is contaminated by the trends and fashions of the moment. This involves extreme research based on the functionality of space and neutrality over time, outside of any trend. We imagine architectures that can contain temporary objects and infinite mutations.
4. In your work you are always in contact with the new generation of architects, who want to collaborate with Studio Didea. What will you be looking for from the MM Award contestants?
COURAGE. I will look for that. I would like to find the fascination of creative recklessness that distinguished the great masters of the past. I always talk to new collaborators in the studio about the extreme fascination of the Villa Savoye and how Le Corbusier in the 1930s had the folly and courage to create a work that was extremely unrelated to that era, putting man and function in the foreground and applying his famous 5 principles of architecture.
5. What is a place that fascinates you every time you return? Would you like to share a memory of it in our Diary?
One of the places I deeply love and return to often is the Cathedral of Monreale, for the Byzantine mosaics. It is an emotional place that gives me a great sense of serenity; here the concept of spatiality and light finds its highest expression for me, and it is exciting how a man-made place can provoke the same emotions, I would dare say almost mystical.
6. If I had to summarise the character of your projects I would use: intensity (of light), purity (of design), rigour (conceptual). Many of your projects are also based on a dialogue between materials, so much so that there is a well-stocked material library in your studio in Palermo. Which materials are you most attached to? How does the choice of materials intervene in the creative process?
We have always been fascinated by how light is diffused within a space and, in our work, we imagine environments capable of dialoguing with light. The design process therefore starts with a simple geometric criterion and develops on the sartorial construction of volumes in space. In the final phase we like to dress the space with natural materials that envelop the functional volumes, so as to define the design concept. The concept is therefore the element that makes the project functional and characterises it on a formal level. An indispensable role in this methodology is played by the workers, who are fundamental in controlling the details, an element that enriches and gives the project a personality and makes it unique, and conforms to the needs of those who will live there. Our creations are the expression of the different personalities of our team. The comparison between ideas, suggestions, solutions, is the fundamental lever from which the creative process is generated, leading to a final design system.
7. What were the most recurrent thoughts during this ‘slow’ pandemic period? How did you reorder them and then convert them into projects?
We think that the pandemic quickly changed the perception and functionality of spaces, both private and public. From the first post-lockdown meetings with the client we immediately perceived a different way of living in the home, which had become a container for functions that previously took place mainly outside the domestic context, such as work and conviviality. In particular, the space dedicated to work, which pre-Covid was limited to a small desk suitable for a laptop and housed in small spaces, now plays an important role due to smart working and conference calls which are increasingly present. In the restaurant sector too, restrictive measures have generated a new way of thinking about spaces, also stimulating creative processes in the interior design sector towards new design themes such as partitions that become furniture.
8. Are you a creature of habit? Do you have a fixed routine (if so, which one?) or do you like to change rituals (in what way)? Which activities make you feel good?
The love for my work leads me to spend my whole day on projects, but it is just as important for me to keep myself informed and to grow through discussions with colleagues, company representatives who train me, and professionals in fields including art and music, from whom I often draw inspiration.
9. What is one object in your home that you would never give up? What is the memory attached to it? Would you send us a photo taken by you?
The statue made by my grandfather. He was a sculptor. I inherited his passion for art and architecture. I always remember the times we spent together when he would model his statues and I would stop to look, fascinated, at his hands and the simplicity with which he managed to give form to his works. In particular, I cherish a bronze sketch he made called ‘the cupids’.