2A+P/A. This abbreviation is the formula that establishes the correct sizing of a staircase
Our architecture absorbs and draws from a fairly heterogeneous but circumspect poetic, theoretical and cultural universe.
it is exceedingly difficult to enter into the Italian public institutions; paradoxically it is easier to go and teach in an English college.
The problem of rendering, from the author’s point of view, is that in the construction of the image you are forced to describe your idea as already part of reality.
Matteo Costanzo and Gianfranco Bombaci have been working together since their university days, with their strong desire to create architecture that pays particular attention to art and philosophical thought. They love their city, Rome, where they decided to maintain their studio, and not emigrate abroad, as many of their colleagues have done. The reference universe of 2A+P is quite varied but at the same time circumspect. The key figures of architecture and design of the 60s and 70s of the twentieth century are their reference points.
2A+P/A is an abbreviation for art, architecture and thought. What do you think these three words mean and how do you manage to keep them together in your work?
This choice in name goes back to our origins. We were a group of friends who studied within the “La Sapienza” faculty of architecture in Rome. Over time, the group has grown and at some point, we decided to launch a magazine called 2A+P/A. This abbreviation is the formula that establishes the correct sizing of a staircase, i.e. twice the height measurement added to that of the tread should give 63-64 cm. This operation had a particular meaning for us. It pushed us to move in a more independent way without halting at what was being taught to us, at the time, at university, which to us seemed a little too reductive and in some ways trivial. The magazine played on the fact that, for us, architecture was not just a simple rule to apply, but a more complex system of meanings. We thought that it could have relations with art and philosophical thought. 2A+P, therefore, wanted to be a starting “base” to approach the project, since the subtitle was “design magazine”. At that time, we were a collective that had a name, but not a design studio, then a few years later we opened our associated studio, still keeping the abbreviation, 2A+P.
Like other young Italian architects, you decided to stay here rather than leave and work abroad, even though you have many relationships outside of Italy. Why did you stay?
When we started, our group was quite well-nourished; at the moment, except for Gianfranco and me, who are the two partners of the studio, the others have all gone. We remained here thanks to our love of Rome, as well as a whole range of matters related to our personal lives. From the beginning, we have always invented ways to be able to work and do what we like, even away from the city. All the things we have done are outside Rome and also outside Italy – in Afghanistan, in Spain, in France, etc. In Rome we have a program of projects, competitions, and research, but not any professional activities, even though we are starting now. It takes time!
How is your way of working formulated?
This question can be faced from two points of view. The first is related to the operational nature, and almost always occurs in different ways, since it depends very much on the condition of the studio at that time. The second, on the other hand, or what is the production of the idea that we have in mind, after many years together we can say that we have “built” a nature of the things we do, which has repercussions in the studies we have carried out and in the summation of a series of interests. Our architecture absorbs and draws from a fairly heterogeneous but circumspect poetic, theoretical and cultural universe. This universe almost always provides us with a way to find the answers we are looking for. We believe in what is called “design theory”. Whenever the project raises a problem, this theory gives us the tools to solve it from different points of view, such as formal, aesthetic, etc. The elements that help us are in reference to a universe of architects and designers who come from more or less the same historical moment, that is between the 60s and 70s of the last century. from this starting point, we became interested in the transformation of some ideas conceived in those years and carried forward in the 80s; the analysis of figures and collectives such as Ettore Sottsass, Archizoom, Andrea Branzi, and Superstudio has been and is still very important to us. We draw from these designers not only elements of an architectural nature, but also in reference to a universe of shapes, or in the understanding of the relationship between man and nature.
Would you like to tell us about your teaching experiences abroad?
I’ll answer this question by following up on the previous one. We live in Rome, consequently we enjoy this wonderful context, but at the same time we suffer from all the difficulties that the capital entails. For several reasons, it is exceedingly difficult to enter into the Italian public institutions; paradoxically it is easier to go and teach in an English college. London has been a very hospitable city for us. After a series of workshops and lessons, and an exhibition at the Architectural Association, London has become a familiar place, where our work has been recognised and we have had the opportunity to establish a dialogue with that extremely large community.
In your works, the representation of architecture is particularly important, through very colourful drawings, very detailed plastic models, collages etc., leaving less space to render photorealistic and too defined images. Where does this choice come from?
In architecture there has always been, cyclically, an approach-departure from drawing as a communication tool and verification of some project contents. In our case, everything stems from the fascination during the training period of some magazines and publications from the 1960s and 1970s, such as Casabella, Lotus and Domus.
This observation and the consequent reasoning allowed us to rework a certain visual vocabulary: we started by reusing wire drawings, axonometry, perspective sections, axonometric exploded views.
It may seem like a provocation but after years we are once again interested in real renderings. When an instrument becomes mass, like a certain type of drawings and collages today, the intensity of the message inevitably tends to run out.
The problem of rendering, from the author’s point of view, is that in the construction of the image you are forced to describe your idea as already part of reality. The abstraction phase of the project is immediately eliminated, and a real simulation is entered into directly.
This also forces you at an early stage to an “extreme” definition of any choice, which for some architectural languages works very well, but for others less so.
An example, Aldo Rossi’s rendered projects would never have had the same effect and allowed the world to understand what the author was trying to express.
Would you like to talk about the project for the Modigliana School ?
We have worked a lot on the theme of school. A few years ago, we were fortunate enough to be able to build a school in Afghanistan, and it was one of the most touching experiences of our professional life and beyond. In addition, we have worked on different school models, participating in various competitions; in the case of the Modigliana school we had a specific situation to solve. We had to add a new building to an existing school complex. We decided to present a very compact element, so as not to impact too much on the other school buildings; then we thought of using the roof of our project as a sort of open-air room protected by high walls. The project at times appears austere, the organisation of the plants follows a very regular geometric system; we like to go into simple and compact forms. The staircase to access the roof instead becomes an independent element, outside the building, which guarantees the use of the independent terrace.
Would you like to talk about the project for the Lorenteggio Library?
The library is a remarkably similar project to that of the Modigliana School, and although the program and the final appearance are completely different, they have common elements. The announcement required the design of a new library, the reorganisation of the entire park and a new square, as well as the inclusion of new public services and functions that would revitalise the entire area. The intention was to design an element that would live and occupy the park by providing the city with a new infrastructure; a large porch located at the entrance of the library that crosses a transverse path of the park in line with the new square; a long bench all around the building modelled on that of Palazzo Farnese in Rome, where the building not only defines the background of a space, but generously participates in public life. The project itself was quite a simple and abstract object, completely covered with yellow tiles, while the internal space had a large double-height room populated with bits and pieces and two wings organised on two levels.
Can you talk about the Cabinet of Curiosities project?
This project has quite a long history. We initially made it for the 2012 Venice Biennale, where with the group of San Rocco magazine we wanted to respond to David Chipperfield’s theme “Common Ground” with an installation on the theme of collaboration, inviting several authors to present two projects created in collaboration with other authors. We had presented two projects: one developed together with Andrea Branzi for a competition, and the other instead we understood it as an “impossible” collaboration with an author we love very much who is Ettore Sottsass.
We chose a design that we know very well from its boundless production, which fully reflected something we would have liked to do. Since this is the only design, we completed the project by presupposing the other two façades that the image does not show, that is an object with strange proportions with a black barrel vault and the all-encompassing title, “Monumental Architecture”, which it was not clear if it was more a provocation or a serious title. There is no text to this project, but it is part of a series of drawings presented at an exhibition in the Antonia Jannone gallery in Milan in 2003, entitled “Attenuated Architecture”. We also designed the interior, imagining what it might have contained; we wanted to turn it into a house, since from a video about Sottsass, we discovered that he had done this drawing on the terrace of his house in Filicudi facing the sea, and therefore we imagined that this house could have been there. Our project was selected for the Orleans Biennial, and in this instance it became a pavilion for the city, whereas now it has been rebuilt as a permanent pavilion in the Parc Floreal in Orleans, together with other pavilions including an extraordinary one by Jean Prouvè.