It is a new discovery each and every time. The lock makes a creaky sound at the turn of the key, a stream of light brings new life to the spaces which have been left to guard their own shadows for years, and the layer of dust covering the floors rises in a puff. Another site, and a new laboratory open to possibilities.
Long conversations with clients and detailed notes taken, however the real laboratory begins “in-situ”, on a one to one level with the home.
Just as in the commedia dell’arte (comedy of the profession: a form of theatre characterized by masked “types” which began in Italy in the 16th century), where actors would recite according to fixed social types, it is the experience of working first hand on the building site that makes each one of our projects one of a kind. Lines, and colours and measurements are like our canovaccio (canvas), and the walls and floors scratched by time the backdrop that welcomes our creative experiment.
Those who are unable to look beyond the drawing phase miss out on an important part of the game: the sensory aspect of it. It is true, because working on a building site is a very physical, tactile, and scent-laden experience, where a reservoir of provocative ideas spring forth, ones which can lead to unimaginable solutions.
One example is the flourishing spread of porcelain stoneware tiles decorated with flowers found in an ancient Fasanese dwelling: a very unexpected discovery, one which would eventually become the common thread running through the entire proposal. Or the masonry masses of an old staircase supporting the thrust of an arch, held ‘stapled’ together with black iron in a restoration effort. We let ourselves be taken over by the evocative sensations that these environments stir up in us, with their history as our starting point, so as to be able to interpret their full potential.
But the unpredictability of a building site is also based on the encounters that take place there. Engineers and geologists, master builders and labourers, and plumbers and electricians. The bricklayers, who measure space in meters, carpenters who “reason” in centimetres, and metal workers who are able to combine brute force with precision, even down to a millimetre. The project in its original form then passes from hand to hand and, subsequently, becomes enhanced through suggestions made by everyone, undergoing modifications and becoming honed thanks to the practical experience of the experts themselves. A building site is, after all, where relationships take shape and, as everyone knows, there is always something to learn from a relationship.
We inspire each other, and we help each other: like the time when an old lamia structure was saved, in a last ditch effort, from collapsing in on itself thanks to the intervention on the part of the workers who promptly wrapped a spider web of tie rods around it to hold it together. And that image of such a ‘martyred body’, and of a space criss crossed by lines so full of energy, remains quite vivid in our memory as being the epitome, in and unto itself, of what our building site experience is all about.
This is what a building site is: an experiment in creativity that evolves within the body of a house laid bare. A somewhat hectic, but fruitful moment in time which is full of surprises; one which you almost wish could go on and on infinitely so as to never have to interrupt the game halfway.