Barozzi Veiga: how to set the tone for each architecture

By Nico Fedi & Paolo Oliveri

July 2019

Fabrizio Barozzi is from Rovereto but moved to Barcelona where, together with his colleague Alberto Veiga, he set up his studio. He is one of the most promising young architect worldwide. The ability to find the right balance between architectural specificity and autonomy has allowed the studio to win several international competitions, among them the ‘Mies Van der Rohe’ Award in 2015 with the Szczecin Philharmonic in Poland.

Fabrizio Barozzi

Regardless of the current crisis within the competition system, do you feel this is still a valid tool for making and promoting architecture?

Yes, absolutely and we fully continue to support it not just because it was fundamental at the beginning of our careers but also because I firmly believe that it is still one of the most effective tool for those starting out. It is a matter of understanding how the competition works and how they are structured, etc etc. The competition system is broad in the sense that there is a large range that varies from ideas to open ones or to those on invitation only and every country has its own specificity. I believe there is a specific and suitable competition for every project.

Barozzi Veiga, Philharmonic Hall Szczecin – Szczecin, Poland 2007 – 2014 – Photo: Simon Menges

In your opinion, what’s the difference with being an architect in Spain and in Italy?

I personally don’t think there are massive differences. I feel the one thing that differentiates the two is the university course: in Italy there is a more humanistic approach to architecture, whilst in Spain it is more technical which means Italian and Spanish students have slightly different knowledge, even though this distinction was perceived more a few years ago whereas now they both start on the same sort of level. Even the working practices are roughly equal; the differentiation lies in that the market is not the same therefore work opportunities are dissimilar.

Barozzi Veiga, MCBA Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts – 2019 Lausanne – Photo: Simon Menges

Would you say there are more job opportunities in Spain?

No, right now not at all! Ten or fifteen years ago there was a much more dynamic market, with many competitions even for young architects. At the moment the current economic crisis has brought the system to its knees; as a consequence, we haven’t worked in Spain for more than ten years! This gives you the idea of how many opportunities there are …

Barozzi Veiga, Music School Bruneck Brunico, Italy 2012 – 2017 – Photo: Simon Menges

Would you like to broadly explain your working practice?

Although as of late we carry out less and less projects, when we are about to commence working on a new assignment or competition we put together a team depending on the scope of work. The very first stage is dedicated to researching the project and everything that this entails. Both Alberto (Veiga) and I give ample margin to the team to work on their own so as to come up with ideas and proposals Once he and I get to familiarise with the project and everything that it involves, we join forces with the team. As soon as we establish what we would like to achieve and how we wish to proceed, we invest ourselves fully.

Barozzi Veiga, Philharmonic Hall Szczecin – Szczecin, Poland 2007 – 2014 – Photo: Simon Menges

In your work you seem to prefer to use solid and bulky materials like concrete and stone rather than lightweight substances. Can you tell us why?

Yes, it’s true; in our work we always research monomateric buildings which give the idea of  volume and bulkiness. This is a recurring theme for us and although at the beginning is was not a conscious decision, it has become a part of who we are and our approach and it has definitely turned out to be a dominating trait of our work.

Barozzi Veiga, MCBA Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts – 2019 Lausanne – Photo: Simon Menges

Our buildings are always physically and simultaneously “ingrained” as if they were born from the ground; from here it stems the desire to utilise bulky materials. Although every building tends to have its own specific identity, the concept of volume is clearly present in our work.

Barozzi Veiga, MCBA Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts – 2019 Lausanne – Photo: Simon Menges

In the past you have claimed that your work has a balance between architectural specificity and autonomy. What are the reasons for this kind of approach? 

This is part of who we are and how we came about;. In the early days and out of necessity, we have always worked a bit all over the places, competing everywhere which meant that we had to learn to deal with different situations and sensibilities, never imposing any of our ideas but rather absorbing the strengths and identity of a specific area. After all, architecture is a discipline with its own historic baggage but not only; we have learnt many things that we carry on other projects as they are not tied to a specific context, but are almost universal. We are fully aware that there is a desire for buildings to be relevant regardless of the location they are in. Ultimately, we noticed that all our projects were always orbiting between these two antipodes: being part of something and somehow independent at the same time. Over the years we have realised that this working practice as well as our studio were the products of the two opposites and they both have now become part of our approach to each project.

Barozzi Veiga, Music School Bruneck Brunico, Italy 2012 – 2017 – Photo: Simon Menges

Your work is presented always with black and white images. Why? 

The way we work, we like to bring the building to its key and basic forms. By expressing this aspect of our work in black and white, without the use of colours, is in line with our thinking and ideas. When you work in black and white there are no frills to the image; you can clearly see the shape of the building, how it is lit and how it fits within the designated area, without having to embellish it with futile things. The same “rawness” of certain design reflects in the way the building is presented.

Barozzi Veiga, Philharmonic Hall Szczecin – Szczecin, Poland 2007 – 2014 – Photo: Simon Menges

Many of your projects are buildings intended for education, like museums or auditoriums. Is this because you feel close to this subject or was it a professional choice to focus on these kind of buildings? 

I would say both. What we aim for is diversity and we never wanted to focus or specialise in certain type of assignments. As of late and because of a series of competitions that we have won, our work has been mostly about buildings of a cultural nature. Perhaps that’s because there were more competitions within this area, who knows. Working on buildings of this nature was a bit random but then it became intentional in the sense that we looked for these kind of projects because we are very much interested and like to be involved in these assignments. Truth to be told, we very much like to do a bit of everything and we don’t limit ourselves.

Barozzi Veiga, MCBA Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts – 2019 Lausanne – Photo: Simon Menges
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