A conversation with Filippo Pagliani, co-founder of Park Associati Studio
Thanks to the country’s rich architectural history, one of the most significant challenges for Italian architects practicing in Italy is to seamlessly blend the old with the new, both in terms of structure and materials, to create an urbanscape that is respectful to both the past and the present.
Park Associati is one of the leading studios that strives to use traditional building techniques and applications in their prestigious projects while giving shape to their design visions through intuition, listening and experimentation; the three words sum up the company’s philosophy and approach to practicing architecture across all its projects.
More recently, the studio has collaborated on several projects and initiatives with Fantini Mosaici. These include the new headquarters for the world's largest eyewear company, Luxottica, in central Milan, where both studios worked in unison to present a high-tech building, conceived as a transparent crystal featuring a luxurious handmade terrazzo floor created using traditional artisanal techniques.
“Our studio first came into contact with Fantini Mosaici for a very particular reason – the new HQ for Luxottica. This occasion challenged us to ask if we could reinterpret terrazzo as a material, a product that would be appropriate and suitable for this important building,” says Filippo Pagliani, partner and co-founder of Park Associati studio.
“We combined our forces and knowledge. I believe that today, the representations of mosaic on the ground floor at the HQ [and at] the Piazza Cadorna and the historic gardens of Palazzo Litta are excellent examples of the quality that can be achieved for internal spaces of projects, and how technology and artisanal skills can live [together] harmoniously,” Pagliani adds.
The leading studio's approach to architecture is analytical, pragmatic and bespoke, anchored in tradition yet capable of approaching each new project with a fresh, experimental perspective, as seen in this edifice. The interior combines tradition and high technology, both cornerstones of the Luxottica brand. Sharp, clean lines, cutting-edge techniques and quality materials were used to define an architecture that focuses on innovation, beauty and functionality.
The ground floor entrance hall and reception and the two magnificent staircases were clad with Venetian terrazzo, or seminato, with large marble inserts installed by hand by the Fantini master artisans. The beauty of this bespoke flooring was further enhanced and enriched by the abundance of natural light flowing through the building's glass façade.
“The floors in Venetian seminato and gneiss, and the wooden coverings and burnished metals of the two large scenic staircases, recall Milanese elegance and are combined with highly technological elements with a contemporary aesthetic,” Pagliani says.
“The strength of this technique or material is that it has never gone out of date. Terrazzo is a material with a long history that has evolved over the centuries to meet the requirements and demands of each period,” he notes.
The architect, who also teaches at the prestigious Milan Politecnico, adds, “In all honesty, being able to dialogue with a traditional company like Fantini Mosaici was an element of enrichment, for it allowed us to reinterpret – in terms of expression and quality – a material that has never aged.”
One of the critical pillars of Park Associati's modus operandi is experimentation, which led to a project that interrogated how the hand-crafted ancient technique of Venetian terrazzo, which Fantini is renowned for, could be modernized.
During Milan Design Week, Park Associati commissioned and presented ‘Estetiche Sommerse - Unveiling Hidden Beauty’, a set of two experimental works designed by the multidisciplinary design studio CARA \ DAVIDE, whose vision was brought to handmade life by Fantini's artisans.
The project, presented at the Park Hub in Milan, revealed how the discarded digital components of computers and other electronic devices could be given a new lease of life as the components for the 'digitalized' electronic terrazzo floor. Here, the traditional chips of marble were replaced with disregarded technical elements such as electrical boards, giving a new function and aesthetic that reflects the digital era and demonstrates how it can be combined with heritage techniques.
“In this project with CARA \ DAVIDE, we were able to create a successful collaboration between the artisanal Venetian terrazzo technique and technology and digital materials to create an innovative Terrazzo surface – a contemporary interpretation of an antique technique embedded with disused digital technology. We were able to start a new dialogue and push forward the terrazzo technique, giving it a new expression and complexity,” Pagliani confirms.
With its analytical and pragmatic approach, rooted in the tradition of working with industry leaders and avant-garde designers, Park Associati has proven its ability to generate new dialogues that will help ensure tradition and modernity flourish, generating new ideas for future generations.
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