A chat with Patrik Pedó of Monovolume Studio.
By Andrea Carloni & Carlotta Ferrati
Patrik Pedò graduated with a degree in architecture from the University of Innsbruck and, together with Jury Anton Pobitzer, he is the founder of Monovolume firm. Since 2003 the studio works in the field of architecture and design, passing from urban planning to interior design.
Hi Patrik, it’s a pleasure to meet you and it is more than a pleasure to get closer to the reality of Monovolume. We can start with the first question. How was born the idea of Ponte Tschapit project?
Ponte Tschapit is a project designed with the students of University of Innsbruck. It is a contemporary project but it appears as a purely artisanal bridge. For its construction, we went for ten days in the mountains, we worked there on the site with carpenters and skilled workers. We chose the trees directly from the forest, we cut them, left them to dry for almost a year and then we picked them up in the spring; that’s how we built the bridge. We can say that this is a bridge entirely made with raw materials sourced locally.
Tell us more about your education. Where have you studied?
We met at University of Innsbruck, in Austria and graduated with Kjetil Trædal Thorsen of Snohetta. With Snohetta we are still in touch and we often make some competitions together. When Jury and I graduated there was also Patrick Schumacher, a team member of Zaha Hadid. At the University of Innsbruck there were many positive and international influences and very good teachers. As long as 15 years ago, we used a technology that only today has entered in several Italian universities, such as the Cad and the 3D printer. When I went a year to Rome, they wanted me to draw everything by hand, they didn’t let me use the pc. In Rome I had super-equipped classrooms with computers, but nobody could enter. The paradox was enormous. In Innsbruck, there was a totally different atmosphere.
In Casa Carezza project, you used a type of construction that seems to use the dry system. Why did you choose this constructive method?
Casa Carezza has not been built yet. The whole part above the zero quota is wood. This construction method is widely used in the mountains because it makes the building process faster. For the load-bearing structure, XLam wood was used and it was intended to remain visible on the inside of Casa Carezza. Then on the outside there will be an insulation and also an external cladding made of larch, which seems to be a very resistant wood.
Do you think this constructive technique will be used in the future? What do you think of the future of housing? How will they be built?
The XLam wooden structures are really technological and in the last few years there have been many developments. Costs and times with XLam and wood are reduced, but they still produce very good structures. I don’t know if they will spread more and more, but I can say that we surely won’t use only bricks and cement.
My studio and I, we try to use every material and we also try to fully understand the advantages of each one. Cost and time of construction have to be evaluated. For the enlargement of existing structures, wood or partly prefabricated panels have surely their advantage.
For example, when extending a house, we removed the roof and added an extra floor with XLam wood. When we removed the roof, the ground floor was still inhabited and the choice of using wooden structures allowed us to reduce the time and complete the work in a shorter period. The house was a structure of the 70s, which is why we could not use too much heavy structures. Wood was in this case the best solution. Another advantage is that everything gets on the building site already assembled. The use of these materials allows greater controls both on the economic factor and on that of the unexpected events.
Looking at your projects we see that you use the most disparate materials. What’s your criteria on choosing one material rather than the other?
Above all what the form requires, the statics certainly affect a project. After this we evaluate the times and the costs, if we are dealing with an existing structure we must see how the situation of the static and the structure is. Based on these evaluations we choose the most suitable material. The choice is also aesthetic, and it affects the project too. If the client wants to create a warmer environment we use wood, if he wants a more modern and minimalist structure, it is better to use the cement on the face or the plastered cement. It depends a lot on client’s requests.
Casa T and Casa M have a contemporary language that doesn’t seem to be searching any particular bond with the surroundings. Why have you chosen to build these type of housing?
We have always worked on existing soil, meaning that we always worked with the current levels of the land. Both houses are designed for the site and the place where they arise and where they are built. The color and the finishing are usually chosen by the clients, according to their tastes and what satisfies them the most.
Could you tell us your design methods in broad terms? How do you deal with new projects?
Our clients, already from the website, understand what we do and our style, what is our direction. Now we are fifteen in the studio, it is a fairly small studio and we always work together, creating a creative group of work. We always ask the client a list of needs, we evaluate the cost, the land, what is around and the history. From these factors we then begin to draw and design sketches that we show to the clients. We use a lot of 3D, then plastic and 3D printers to study shapes and volumes.
The whole project from the beginning is developed in 3D, followed by rendering, then we show the client the first hypothesis. We make lot of physical models to study the proportions between volumes. The 3D printer is a faster and more innovative way to build three-dimensional models than before. We used to make them manually. The model helps both us and the clients, especially in the details. To study large-scale volumes we also make models by hand.
Many of your clients are companies and it seems that you have almost never used the method of competition to find new opportunities. Is it correct?
No, lot of competitions are private and by invitation. A lot of jobs are the result of competitions we won. At the moment we only take part to the invitational ones and only to those that really interest us, because our studio is not that big. With a small study, a competition becomes an investment. For open competitions we would not even have the time.
Now a question that I will not do only to you but also to other studies. Why in the areas of northern Italy bordering Austria and Switzerland, and in particular in the Trentino-Alto Adige region, is it possible to find high-quality architecture studies more easily than in the rest of the country?
One reason is certainly the tradition of public competitions, stronger in Trentino Alto Adige, in fact it has already more than twenty years. Public competitions for schools, museums, kindergartens, municipalities, fire stations. The province makes open or invited competitions to build these structures. The system of competitions has also expanded to the private sector. This structure of competitions, even if small, allows to widen the architectural variety. Instead of calling the architect I know I invite various studies. This is important to create more competition but also a higher quality. In the competitions that take place in South Tyrol, both German and/or Swiss studios are also invited, which is why there is a more international influence that would otherwise not exist.
These public works created a new and international modern architecture. Also smaller companies make competitions to find the best project. Many other make private competitions. Even the private who wants to build a villa invests more on the project and he invites several studies. There is an expense reimbursement. The client can choose the one that best suits his needs. One of our first projects, that of the Roto Blaas Company, was an invitation-only competition; we won the competition and we started designing the project. We were still students at the university, we stopped our studies for two years to build the structure.
I would like to dwell on this subject again. So, you are saying that in your territory many private entities use the method of the competition to select the designer?
Yes, exactly. Even if the companies are not too big, if they have to build a new office or make an extension of the existing, they often set up an invited competition and, with a small budget that serves as reimbursement of expenses, they have the possibility to select the project according to their own needs.
The usual approach is spreading also in the field of private homes, obviously I’m not talking about the house that is built by the town surveyor, but more important investments. It can happen that the owner sees the importance of the investment he has to make, using the inviting competition method to select the project.
What do you think about the situation of Italian architecture? What do you think is the right thing to do?
In Italy there are interesting studies. The problem is the time, It takes way too long. We also have several projects to do in Italy, in the Como area, but times are so long and years go by before we start to do something. In 1998 in Rome the “Maxi competition” was won by Zaha Hadid, but it took 10-15 years to build it. In Germany, for example, there are less rules, but more direct. Many of the Italian rules don’t exist, there are fewer but better thought out. It would be better to have less rules but clearer, so that it would be easier to have a high quality architecture.