What exactly is meant by contract? How does it fit into the notion of the project and in the different contexts in which it is applied? From hospitality to the workplace, from schools and museums to skyscrapers: Gianluca Peluffo (Gianluca Peluffo & Partners), Alessandro Adamo, (DEGW, the brand of Lombardini 22), Marco Casamonti (Archea Associati), give distinguishable reflections on a complex topic. Matteo Ruta, the Director of Arketipo, is the moderator.

From the subject of the brief to the project itself, contract represents a fitting agreement between the designer and the companies. From the perspective of general project management, streamlining complex architectural systems seems to be one of the main objectives. However, contract also means personalizing spaces through innovative and qualitative choices related to materials and engineering processes. The following design challenges therefore make up a guide and offer an opportunity to highlight some requirements that emerge in the study phase: how to confer the Italian identity abroad, bearing in mind the cultural nature of the location and landscape, or how to create continuity in endorsing a new, beyond simply functional, architectural style.

And then there is the opportunity to create a dialogue with local suppliers, consolidating constructive choices that also meet the economic needs of the location, trying to connect architecture and the arts, with the increasingly topical objective of designing in a sustainable way. Responding to the client’s needs means starting off the planning phase by observing the space. The designer also has the task to identify practical solutions for the people-space ratio, aiming to enhance the time spent in the workplace but above all to create strategies in designing “paths” associated to the activities and the use of technologies or mobility itself.

What relationship is forged with suppliers? Often an underestimated skill is to choose to interact with suppliers who have an artisan approach to the creation of details and who can apply their creativity to the requirements imposed by budget constraints. In architecture people are at the center of the project, in an almost Renaissance vision in which art and science, as well as rationality and interpretation, can create new paths and new significant styles. The Contract sector almost always offers the opportunity for the designer to experiment: as in a process of artistic creation, he imagines aesthetic solutions by testing the results, getting to grips with the constant operation of cost control. A rapport of opposites, in which Italian companies thanks to their great versatility, ability and style also find plenty of opportunities abroad.

Gianluca Peluffo – Gianluca Peluffo & Partners.

When it comes to contract a central theme is represented by the dialogue between extremely different cultures. We often find ourselves planning and designing outside Italy and having a strong identity is in itself an essential communication tool. We are currently working on some large projects in Egypt, in desert and mountainous places where often the only spatial interaction between the elements is the one that runs between the building and the sky or between the buildings and the sea.

The two main projects, from a size point of view, are both located near Cairo. The first area is a mountainous desert area on the coast, 150 km from Cairo and is often considered a holiday destination. We were assigned to draw up a large Masterplan providing for 8000 units which in turn include 30 different types of housing and 3 hotels. The first lot under construction is for an impressive 2000 units. The first challenge we faced when we were confronted with such a large project was most certainly that of creating an architectural style as well as focusing on the area from a functional angle as well as its organization of public spaces. For this reason, there was an initial, intense, preparatory research phase which allowed us to enter into the spirit of the location: a search for images and historiography aimed at finding connections between the lexicon of form and shape in Italy and Egyptian culture. In the specific case of this location, the architectural viewpoint affected the first stages of the project: overlooking a marina, we thought of buildings as bodies, elements fostering the view of the landscape.

We were able to make essential choices in selecting the materials based on technical information such as wind paths. On the outside we tried to work with materials whose characteristics could communicate with the local traditions and with the rudimentary characteristics of the surrounding nature. At the same time we brought typical Italian quality to the processing of materials, such as ceramics. The building choices depend on the local economy in many cases, but most importantly on the features of the location. The second project based in Egypt is related to a university site, again in this case approximately 8000 units, in close proximity to Cairo in the region of the Red Sea. The intention was to maintain a central university area with 3 campuses and 4 pre university educational blocks. The brief identified a downtown infrastructural system along the main streets of the city to build student residences and residential complexes. We wanted the university system to generate movement, for this reason we created an urban network of connections and public transport to endorse this non-dispersive propensity.

Alessandro Adamo – Director and Partner at Lombardini 22, DEGW

I joined DEGW when I was young, and I deal mainly with the aspects connected to workplace design. The company provides bespoke Consultancy and Design services in the workplace sector. Right from the start, the four founding partners were convinced that space had to adapt to the needs of companies in order to enhance their business models, from this idea a company providing an exclusive service was set up. Dealing with only one single design characteristic is a rather exclusive activity and today we are within a much larger group, Lombardini 22, a group that firmly believes in the exclusivity of design in various sectors. We have a luxury division, another one dedicated to physical branding, as well as the division I work in, which focuses on the world of workplaces and offices.

Observation and analysis are two extremely specific activities that make up our method of design and planning: we take all the necessary steps to understand exactly how the office space is used during the working day. This method was patented by DEGW approximately 20 years ago, thanks to our professional experience with telecommunication companies. A great deal has changed since then. Once, companies were not very attentive to the idea of usage, while today they are beginning to understand the importance of investing in projects that enhance productivity. This preliminary analysis has become highly requested in recent years particularly in the financial services sector. It is thought that today an employee spends on average 60% of his working day in the office and approximately 40% at his desk. This data explains why we mainly deal with space-planning, taking all the necessary steps to understand the specific needs of different organizations. A significant change that has redefined, and in some cases revolutionized, workflows, is due to new technologies allowing for the non physical presence in the workplace (workplace mobility or smart working) and workflows have therefore become more decentralized than in the past. The issues of space, mobility and teamwork are the three points we reason out.

Mobility most certainly didn’t exist in the 1970’s and working in teams was a not a common occurance; workplaces were mostly closed offices looking out onto long corridors, while the percentage of support areas was extremely low. Later, in the 90’s, organizations began to work on the issue of efficiency, increasing the surface areas as people no longer worked in offices but in open spaces. Organizations place great emphasis on the speed of information and the quality of teamwork and to achieve this they seek the support of technology. There is a shift in importance from the effectiveness of the space to their efficiency and to the diversification of spaces according to their use. Working on the planning of work spaces today also means engaging in a new idea of work: hierarchy has become increasingly less important, companies reason less on an organizational level and more on the type of activity that is carried out and on workers’ characteristics- whether they are office based or mobile.

In-house restaurants and canteens are also seen as potential resources that can be used during the working day for meetings. In the study phase it is of the upmost importance to take into account two different complexities: objective analysis and subjective/perceptive analysis. The data obtained from a first phase of work is the result of constant monitoring in relation to time and to the number of people involved; we combine this data with the results of surveys and questionnaires of a sample of selected participants. This allows us to have a broader range of emotions based on the individual’s perception and sensitivity in relation to the place and to the change.

In addition to observing, understanding the ideal model to implement, define activities and types of work, it is also necessary to work on technologies so as to combine the innovation of the spaces with their operability. In this regard, a telling example is Microsoft, who moving to their new location in Milan, to the building designed by Herzog & De Meuron, downsized from its previous headquarters covering 20,000 smq to its current 7,000 smq size. Today companies ask us for simplicity in sizing and design. A particular focus should be given to tall buildings: an incredible experience, involving Rimadesio, which has just finished, was the project of the Allianz towers.

And right now we are working on a project for Price PwC, the third tower in the City Life district. Today the subject of skyscrapers presents us with complex elements but which must however be efficient and functional at the same time. Compared to other buildings, a tower has extremely different efficiency characteristics: for example the possibility to modify the internal layout is an important factor, this allows for a proper management of the different flows: having an open plan layout puts people and their needs at the centre of the project. And because we believe that people are the real value of an organization, we also believe that, when there are projects that bring about change, it is extremely important to prepare the people to live the new spaces through involvement and engagement.

Marco Casamonti – Archea Associati.

We have been dealing for many years with the relationship between architecture and the arts, figurative arts, cinema and in particular literature, which I believe is the most indicated to “read” architecture. If I had to teach a young first year student how to write an essay on architecture in a language that was not his own, I would tell him not to think about architecture but to think about a story using the tools in his posession.

The reason why literature and architecture are so closely connected lies in the fact that it is very complex know-how, an equation with many unknowns. I am very interested in words and their meanings and architecture is one of those disciplines where all too often we associate words without knowing how to give them their right worth like “smart city” or “green architecture”… I asked myself then about the word contract, it is nothing more than a contract between the designer and the companies, and I thought that in this case Italian companies are unique representatives, able to solve a problem through streamlining a complex know-how. I think it is extremely important nowadays to work with companies who carry out research, who have a specific know-how and expertise, knowledge which the designer can take advantage of in order to shape his project. To use a word that was mentioned a short while ago, the designer should be “smart”, able to find the best way to connect all the project’s resources in the best and smartest way and at the same time, deal with all the contract issues, in short, choose the best artisans who are able to streamline problems without losing any aesthetic qualities.

At the end of the day the architect designs with the world of the arts in mind. Kant said that “architecture is a lesser art because it has an objective” (“pulchritudo adherens”), as opposed to art which is done for pleasure. But I think it is more difficult to create something that is functional, that has a purpose, where there are complexities to work on. An architect today must also be an artist, he must be able to design his own material, to keep companies involved. In this regard Italian companies are ahead in their game: they are made up of artisans able to produce original solutions offering a quality equal to that of industrial production. At the end of the day architecture is all about material and tactility,and an architect should know how to design its bricks.

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