Fabrizio Michielon and Sergio de Gioia founded MIDE Architetti in 2010, after studying together with the IUAV in Venice. Despite their young age, they already have many projects underway.
Extremely tied to the territory of origin, they decided to “stay” rather than leave for abroad and carry out the profession in another country. This patient attitude, in addition to a good dose of courage and skill, has allowed MIDE Architetti to be one of the most promising studios in the Italian panorama and beyond.
Could you tell us about your educational path, not just in the university environment, and what were the highlights?
There is a long-standing friendship between Fabrizio and me that goes back several years, since high school. We both graduated, and subsequently enrolled in the IUAV in Venice. After a rather common path, we came under a strong influence from the Swiss world, I attended the Erasmus in Mendrisio, and subsequently decided together with Fabrizio, to undertake our thesis under the supervision of the brothers Manuel and Francisco Aires Mateus in Mendrisio, going backwards and forwards between Switzerland and Venice for about six months, for revisions. All this allowed us to breathe a little “Swiss air”, also in terms of design influence, which then emerged in our projects. I think it was the most important moment of our training, because it influenced us a lot in researching guidelines from a theoretical and planning point of view. In the professional field, after graduation we had some minor experiences in studios in our area, although graduating in 2007 was a rather unfortunate conjecture, because it was immediately followed by the global crisis in the construction world. All this on the one hand initially discouraged us, but on the other, it “compelled” us, more or less forcefully, to try to do something on our own, therefore we started up our own studio. Not being children of art and not having any clients in the beginning, we had to look for all our customers from scratch; the first ones we tried to win over were public customers through competitions, and at the same time we completed some smaller interior projects, which we sponsored through web channels. From there, our work gradually triggered a response which has now, fortunately, consolidated, and led us to bigger and bigger jobs and also an increase in the level of the clients.
We read in your biographies that you graduated from IUAV with Manuel and Francisco Aires Mateus; What is this choice dictated by?
During the training period there was a similarity between the design process they adopted and the pragmatism linked to our personalities, as well as an empathy towards them. Their working method is very didactic, quite clear and repeatable, from which we learned a lot; it is a very effective approach in the university field because it is easily replicable, reassuring, and for a student it is very useful.
You were very young when you opened your studio in Italy. Knowing all the problems that your profession is going through in this country, why did you decide to stay rather than go to work abroad?
That’s is a good question. Firstly, I’d like to say that all in all, we are very attached to our territory. Then, the need “forced” us to stay, since not having many customers, we imagined it was easier to start business from here rather than from abroad; staying and being patient was a forward-looking choice to build our own business, compared to going to work abroad in a large studio and finding ourselves making certain choices years later, when it would probably have been more complex.
Could you briefly describe your approach when a new assignment arrives?
It is not easy to summarise in a few words, but let’s say that at the base there is always a certain analysis of the site, which stems from our Venetian training, where we search within the context of the design stimuli and suggestions that can be reinterpreted in our work. So, there is always a solid analysis and consequent reading of the site, not only from an architectural and urban point of view, but also emotional and evocative. All this, of course, closely linked to the ambitions of the clients.
Your work is heavily directed towards a private clientele; what do you think of competitions and how much effort, both in terms of time and energy, do you dedicate to them?
Participating in architectural competitions is a lot of fun and is an excellent opportunity for professional research and improvement, however we often ask ourselves what is the “essence” from an entrepreneurial point of view. In the beginning, when Fabrizio and I did them at night, they were more or less at a zero cost, whereas now we have a structure and collaborators who work with us, so competitions involve quite a cost, which if you win but then nothing eventuates, it makes our blood boil, and you wonder what the point is in continuing to do them. Unfortunately, they are “a curse and a blessing” in our category, because I believe that we architects are among the few professionals who invest a lot of money, time, energy and sleepless nights for very small chances of victory. However, we continue to participate, indeed, this year we have participated in more compared to past years (almost 20 between contests and competitions); they are an excellent opportunity for research and comparison, which often does not exist when working for private customers. The discussion would be much broader, and it would be nice if there were a more serious and structured criticism of the whole competition system; today the Italian conditions of architectural competitions (and not only) are very serious, and one of the challenges our generation faces is to improve them. Competition criteria is often poorly communicated, and budgets are not calculated accurately.