Our interview with Peter Pichler, young promise of international architecture.
By Andrea Carloni & Carlotta Ferrati
Peter Pichler is a young architect with Italian origins who had an international training. As we can see from his curriculum he made important projects like installations and constructions of big housing places. He was nominated as “Emerging Architect of the Year” by Dezeen Awards 2018 and as “Young Italian Talent” by the National Chamber of Architects in Italy.
Good morning Arch. Pichler. We can start our interview with a question related to your studies. From your biography we can read that you studied in Wien and also in a very famous University in California. After graduating with Zaha Hadid and Patrik Schumacher as mentors, you went to work in their studio and then, for a short period, in Rem Koolhaas’. After that, you founded your own studio. Do you think your high level job training may have affected the work you are doing today?
From the experience I had with Zaha Hadid, I really learned a lot, especially how to work in a big team. What really interested me was not the architectural style but rather the structure of the studio and how to manage a big project. In a high level project we need to take into account different variables including the management and the partnership with clients and consultants, also the foreign ones. I had the possibility to think the architecture in a different way. It was an important step for me.
Mirror Houses project has a clear and contemporary language, both for the materials and the shape. You decided to use mirrored surfaces so that the structure would blend in with the surrounding apple orchards. This demonstrates that it is possible to create a contemporary architecture perfectly integrated with the territory without using materials that can be found locally. What is the relationship you have with the context when making your projects?
The context is essential.
Now we have several active projects in many different countries where we are making studies and analysis that go beyond the physical and immediate context. Cultural parameters become significant and they strongly affect our projects. History, people’s minds, technology and culture are important elements that need to be taken into account when drafting a project. We always try to take these parameters and reinterpret them in a new and more contemporary way. So basically, social and cultural aspects of the location become the filters of our projects.
In Oberholz Mountain Hut project, whether you see the layout or the aerial view, you can see very well how a singular volume turns into three. What inspired you? Could you please tell us more about the project?
The idea always starts from the context.
We inspected and analyzed the place and we find out that there were lot of huts built with wood, that is a material that can be easily found in the area. Talking about sustainability, the relationship that people have with materials still exists. Another typical feature of the area is the sloped roof shape. Starting from these elements we decided to reinterpret them in a contemporary way. For project needs, we had to host a number of people within a quite small space, but still avoiding a “canteen effect;” our main goal was to find a solution to come up with intimate spaces. From the above reflections and needs it comes the idea of creating three different volumes that gradually develop and face towards the mountains, making the latter the main characters.
Could you tell us about the Future Space Pavilion installation that you presented at the Salone del Mobile 2018, in Milan?
Future Space Pavilion is an installation designed inside the court of the University of Milan in collaboration with DomusGaia. The building is purely Renaissance and therefore it represents an interesting historical context with the typical features of the age: proportion, geometry and symmetry. The structure of the installation is contemporary and sustainable, we wanted to show what can be made with a material such as wood. The structure allows a nice chiaroscuro effect during the day thanks to lights and shadows. That is why we have designed benches to sit on to enjoy the view.
Also in this project there is a strong relationship with history and culture. The context, a Renaissance court, becomes something to be reinterpreted in a contemporary way.
After this answer, I would like to ask you about the relationship you have with the structural section.
From the beginning of the project we involve engineers and we try to go beyond the “classical structure”. For us, the engineers are not enemies, but an integral part of the project. Working in team is our strength.
Now, a question that I will ask also to some other studios. Why do you think in the Northern part of Italy, at the borders with Austria and Switzerland, as in the region of Trentino Alto Adige, it is easier to find high-quality architecture studios than in the rest of the country?
Upbringing and education might be the motives.
I think that in the faculties of architecture in Vienna or the ETH in Zurich or in Germany the educational level is much higher than in Italy. These universities affect the architecture of the present. In the west part of Austria or in Switzerland, together with international studies, we can find also small but high-quality institutions. I think this is in part a consequence of the universities where the designers studied.
Italian universities should be more international. Only few universities in Italy can be considered international, I am referring to the “Polytechnic of Milan” or “La Sapienza” in Rome. The others are focusing too much on the past and just a little on the future, they are too close to art and history. Real architects who make real architecture should go back to universities and teach. For example, in the ’70s and’ 80s the center of the architectural world was in London and very important architects studied at the AA School.
Looping Towers project, a big complex that hosts not only residential apartments, but also many public facilities such as courts and a running track. The building becomes a small vertical city and it has communal areas. These ideas are close to those of Le Corbusier.
Could it be a right interpretation?
No, I think that Le Corbusier wanted to divide the living space from the working one, while this project combines the two spaces. It is an all-purpose space. Looping Towers project is very important for us since it is going to be built in an almost abandoned area, where only few offices and houses are. Fun fact, this project is going to be a driving force for the surrounding area, as it has already happened in Milan with the Fondazione Prada building. The area around Fondazione Prada has now a different value than the past. In our project we do not see only the single building, but the area all around. We need to create a connection between our project and the existing buildings or commercial services.
There is also another purpose behind this choice: the replacement of cars with trains and bicycles, as it is already in use in Northern Europe.
Can you think of one big change that new technologies brought to architectural spaces? If yes, do you think they are dealing properly with it?
After the introduction of new technologies, the first thing that comes to my mind when talking about great architectural change is the use of new and sustainable materials. Making a joke, we can say that we are in the iPhone’s age, but cities are still trivial on so many levels. Apartments won’t change much aesthetically, but technologies will make them more and more comfortable and will simplify our lives. Just think of the 3D technology that allows direct printing of materials and structures. To give an example, there are more and more houses that are completely printed or built with new materials. These allow a saving of forces and time.
Cities will be smarter than the current ones we live in.