I graduated with a great design critic, Giovanni Klaus Koeing
I would be willing to die in order not to abandon an ideal or a dream!
I strongly believe that a man is genuinely happy when he lives fully in his world in the world.
Participating in competitions is not a simple thing, but I believe that for young people it is a useful tool, even though I personally believe much more in communication than in competition.
When I work out a new interior project, I don’t furnish, I architect inside.
Simone Micheli is one of those architects who honestly believes in his work and does not easily abandon his ideas and dreams. He comes from a family linked to the art world, which has affected him deeply. He deals with his profession in a transversal way, from architecture to design, giving much emphasis to the communicative aspect, which he considers the cornerstone of this profession.
As we read in your biography, you opened the studio in 1990. Would you like to briefly describe your training path?
My training began with my parents, from my father, who was a great artist and my mother who taught art history and painting disciplines. I have always lived in the world of colour and form thanks to my father, whom I saw paint every day. His family and professional life were as one, as they are for me too. Subsequently, I studied at the Faculty of Architecture in Florence, where I graduated with a great design critic, Giovanni Klaus Koeing. During my university course I spent time in some wonderful meetings, even if outside the academic context. One of these was certainly the one with Giovanni Michelucci. I met him in Fiesole when I was 23, on the occasion of an exhibition of furniture produced by Poltrona Frau. On that occasion I took my mother with me. Her grandfather had been the first stationmaster at the Florence train station, and she remembered the inauguration of Santa Maria Novella very well, in spite of being a child, so she went to Michelucci [who designed Florence’s train station that opened in 1935 – Ed] and told him that it was an honour to meet him. Michelucci, who was a truly kind-hearted person, replied to my mother kindly saying:
“Don’t call me a teacher, I’m an architect, but before that I’m a man; call me Giovanni.”
After these words I “fell in love” with him madly, and immediately asked him if I could go and visit him at his foundation in Fiesole. He said I could visit whenever I wanted. I began a kind of weekly pilgrimage, which saw me accompany him until his death at the age of 100. Every week I went to him to be enlightened, to be the recipient of his significant messages, thoughts, and reflections. He has given me so much, in both professional and human terms. He was a true mentor for me, a grandfather and father figure from whom I drew infinite stimuli related to complex architectural processes.
The other fundamental meeting, during my academic career, and again, outside the University, was the one with Bruno Zevi. I collaborated in his magazine L’Architettura when I was still 23 years old, before graduation, and I also stayed in close contact with him until his death. Michelucci and Zevi were decisive for me, not so much as for formal or aesthetic issues, but for everything related to content and thoughts.
What does “Architectural Hero” mean? Why did you decide to call yourself that?
Simone Micheli Architectural Hero is a company that I founded together with my wife Roberta. When I told my mother that I had named my society as such, she said to me:
“Simone you were wrong to call it that, because heroes are ready to die for their ideals…”
I told her that she was right and that was the meaning. I would be willing to die in order not to abandon an ideal or a dream! This name connects me to how I perform my daily work. I have never given up on dreams but have always battled with public administration and superintendence in Italy, to keep my ideals alive and keep faith with my creations. An architectural work is a work of architecture, for which I have always fought fiercely! The name of the studio essentially derives from my desire to engage in battle and not give up on the dream, to build a qualifying architecture that strengthens and enhances life.
So, the sentence we read on your website homepage, “My goal is to build sustainable buildings to qualify the landscape,” has to do with what you have just said …
Sure! I work like all architects who have a heart and a thinking head, and do not only deal with giving “a pleasant or appealing aesthetic”, words that I can’t stand in the most complete way, to build sustainable works of art. Every architect of intellectual depth and great heart, who tries to respond with his own voice and thought, through performing gestures, to meet needs, both old and new, in a dynamic and disruptive way, deserves great respect. Everything that I have built in these 30 years of my profession heads in the direction of the qualification of life through signs that belong to my identity. To do my job, I therefore have to find adventure companions whose vision is in tune with mine, because as I have repeated several times, I am not willing to give up my dreams. I strongly believe that a man is genuinely happy when he lives fully in his world in the world. I am really lucky, because I am happy, and I live in harmony and with wonder in my world.
Your work is quite broad and ranges from architecture, design, visual communication, etc. How do you approach a new assignment? Do you have fixed goals, or do you try to adapt your work to the circumstances every time?
When I meet a new client, it is because they have chosen me. I am never in competition with others. The job I do can be similar to that of a stylist. Whoever approaches me, due to the intense communication work that our company develops under the masterful guidance of my wife Roberta, it is because they want me, and have an intellectual identity akin to mine. My international visibility allows me to attend to clients who are interested in my hand in the architectural work, not merely connected in one dimension to the uniqueness or distinctiveness. Contradictions with the client basically do not exist; there is always a wonderful, osmotic intellectual exchange in order to identify functional, logistical, and entrepreneurial paths that lead to the creation of extraordinary and extremely vigorous works from an expressive point of view.
In relation to what you have told me, what do you think about architecture competitions?
Competitions are quite an interesting topic; clearly it is a matter of “shooting blind” and having the luck to meet a jury that has an aesthetic and intellectual conscience that values the most highly accomplished projects. Participating in competitions is not a simple thing, but I believe that for young people it is a useful tool, even though I personally believe much more in communication than in competition. Communication, for those with a lexical identity, provides presentations 100 times greater than those of competitions, in architecture and beyond, because continuous communication regarding a style that says uniqueness has a considerably higher value. I am an advocate of communication and not of competition, although I recognise that the latter, clearly not in Italy but abroad, can be an interesting topic.
Observing your works, especially in the interiors, seem to be catapulted into a “futuristic” dimension, where brand new objects interact within antique contexts. How do you manage to achieve this union?
In architectural recoveries, of whatever type they may be, I always try to safeguard what exists, working with the logic of philological restoration, to then introduce first of all, content-related themes, aesthetic, formal and that function for those who inhabit the spaces. I always try to give a new visual order to “things”, but with a visual identity that allows, through a deliberate dissonance between past, present and future, to reveal a new story. When they ask me for my thoughts about the city, I reply that for me the city is a blank sheet where many people have written and write with continuity and diversity. The city is beautiful for this reason, because there are many tunes that create a dissonance with each other, many fragments that cross one another. It’s continuous writing and rewriting, and I strongly believe in that. I feel like a man from the year 2150, indifferent to the terrible visual scenario that characterises our present. When I work out a new interior project, I don’t furnish, I architect inside. When I deal with a restoration, I never work with the logic of emulation. When talking about externals, I am always super eager to talk about the iconic history that belongs to our time, that is able to approach the narration of the past with intentional dissonance, to ensure that both situations become denser with truth and meaning.
This allows the enveloping and the enveloped objects, created by me, to become hyperbolic communicative flywheels.
Even the irony or the simple strength of a photographic image are important points in your work to resolve a space …
Absolutely yes! I recently finished a job in Verona, where the project was made up of few signs, few furnishings, essential and neutral materials. The intellectual fun was to involve a dear friend of mine, the intelligent and sensitive Maurizio Marcato, to interpret the city, through his photographic images, capturing visual fragments that only he could grasp, and then transforming these visions into murals, recreating an allusive game that once again transports you to the world of artistry. In this case, on a few of the walls of the real estate compendium there are no iconographies attached but passionate reflections conducted by a great man in love with details. The photographic tapestries have therefore become an integral part of a limited-edition, perfectly connected to the exteriors of the historic city.
In these new times in which we are preparing to live, what will be the role of the architect and what means will he use, in your opinion, to carry out his work?
That’s a good question… I deal with projects ranging from masterplans, architecture, interiors, design to corporate design, so my reading is transversal. At the moment we are developing many design projects for the emergency and for what awaits us in the near future, such as masks, sanitizers, modules for restaurants, columns for the distribution of gels, etc., but the most important issue, in my opinion , is that until there are intelligent guidelines and a process of international standards that conduct our work in the right direction, the contribution of the designers can only be partial and inaccurate. Once the general regulatory framework has been clearly determined by the legislator, the task of the designers will be to find effective and intelligent answers to the questions that the world asks us, and thus transform objective needs into functional realities.
Would you like to tell us about your “Aquatic Cave Luxury Hotel & Spa” project?
This project was shared with the architect Cosimo Dell’Acqua, who was both my client and colleague together with other partners. He followed the part of the philological restoration and the architectural distribution, while I took care of the interior architecture, the lighting project, and my wife Roberta took care of the visual design project. The idea was to work not for mimesis or emulation of “archaic” stories, but to insert particular aesthetic connotations, which would make this project a work of art to be experienced and communicated as such. The project has already won three international awards and received endless acclaim from the international press. The prolific talk about the work has brought significant advantages to the investors. The structure has infinite distinct characteristics and it would take an afternoon to highlight them all. I have tried not to touch anything of the existing and to save, together with Cosimo, all that could be preserved. The illumina-technic system is defined through plays of light and reflection, which, starting from the floor, the only thing we wanted to alter, spread throughout the rooms to create incredible visual performances. As the patrons pass by, extraordinary shadows are generated on the vaulted ceilings; all this confirms an intended and desired suggestion that passes through the project of light. In this space, the present, the past and the future coexist in harmonic dissonance.
Would you like to tell us something about “Houseboat”?
Houseboat is quite a small 55 m2 residence. It is called this because each space has a functionality that belongs more to the world of navigation than to that of the canonically known dwelling. The house characterised by a living-dining-kitchen area, a bathroom, and two bedrooms, in which there are eight beds. Since the second bathroom was missing in the tiny house, a toilet and a washbasin with mirror have been concealed in the wardrobe of the master bedroom, whereas a second shower is in the garden. The spaces were optimised beyond belief and the high-performance comfort is expressed in every detail, making it truly the “boat of boats”.
Would you like to tell us about your DoDot lights?
DoDot, I define as an iconic glowing body of imagines that appear in architecture thanks to colour, and that disappear through its pure geometry. It is a combination of technology and form capable of truly shining in the world of design for its lighting performance and incredible adjustability as an invisible-visible lighting body.
Compact and highly performing, DoDot is made up of two small hemispheres that can be adjusted by +/- 46° and is characterised by technical excellence in terms of power and quality of light. The luminous flux is around 2,000 lumens and is dimmable. The light beam, emitted by the 17.6 W LED source, can be oriented by an aluminium reflector, for an opening angle of 15°, or by a glass lens for an opening angle of 48°, depending on customer needs.
Can you tell us about your Slice bed project?
Slice is a real modern sculpture with an exasperated fluidity deriving from a complex rotational mould. A single block in plastic material with an incredibly contained selling cost. The perceived value is remarkably high despite being a democratic product. It is incredibly ergonomic and offers a truly spectacular comfort! Slice can be left outside to weather the elements for an infinite amount of time, its ideal location is by the pool, on refined beaches or in spas. It adapts to a multitude of situations by virtue of the extensive range of colours that can transform its appearance chameleonically. It is a piece of furniture with a strong identity.