An interview with Italian architect and designer Doriana Fuksas about globalism, urban interiors and designing objects
Mrs. Fuksas, you and your husband were born and educated in Rome. Today you work on projects on almost all continents. How far has Italian architecture and design of the last decades influenced you? Do you see yourself as part of an Italian tradition?
Partially yes, but not entirely. This sort of tradition was probably stronger in the 20st century when people travelled less and there was no internet. Today, as soon as you type an idea into your computer, it becomes accessable to everyone. That is good because you never lose the connection to the world. But it also means that ideas become more global. If you want to buy something typically Chinese, you don’t have to go to China anymore. You can get it in Rome or Paris. Just the people remain quite different.
Right in the centre of Rome you have refurbished the “Ex Unione Militare” building to turn it into an impressive department store. How do you create urbanity in such a project?
This is a very important building, but it was in a sad state. The historical architecture had been occupied by offices and the interior had been entirely destroyed. It is located close to Piazza di Spagna, with a very nice view from the terrace on top. But only the people working in the building had been able to enter it. We tried to open the ground floor as much as possible to create an inviting space like a market. To the south, the faÃ§ade is almost industrial and we had the idea of an urban “theatre” where you can see that things are happening inside. It is also possible to do performances in the building. It has been sold, but our original design was for Benetton. As this is a company aiming at young people and also children, our interior design was taking that into account, with individual colours on every floor and furniture conceived like toys.
Many of your designs seem to consciously support movement. How important is this aspect?
We try to provoke a sort of flow. But the most important things are the light, the quality of the space, the proportions. At the opening of our Terminal 3 for the Shenzen Airport, it was amazing to see how people were overwhelmed by the space and the light.
You design furniture as part of your interiors as well as in direct commission for companies. Is there a difference in terms of “architectural thinking”?
In fact we began designing objects by doing it for our own buildings. If you design a house, it is sad if the furniture doesn’t fit. In the end it is of course a matter of money. So we started with our own designs, as a last act out of love for the building, trying to create something good but affordable. Since then people have more and more asked for interiors. For the airport, too, we did almost everything, exterior and interior. That was nice, but a crazy amount of work. But of course, objects which we do as direct commissions reflect our thoughts on architecture, too. The scale is certainly an important aspect, but furniture can be thought and constructed very much like architecture. The design can be quite complex and take as long as the one of a building.
Last year you wrote regular design columns in the Italian newspaper “La Repubblica”. How much awareness is there in the Italian public for architecture and design?
The column was very much followed, also by people that are not architects or designers. That is quite incredible. But maybe it is also about the way in which you give information to people â€“ that it is clear, fascinating, something that you can remember. Then the people might start to follow something that they were not interested in before.
Doriana Fuksas leads Studio Fuksas together with her husband Massimiliano Fuksas. Over the past 40 years the internationally renowned company has worked on a wide variety of projects, ranging from urban interventions to airports, from museums to cultural centers and spaces for music, from convention centers to offices, from interiors to private houses and design collections. With headquarters in Rome, Paris and Shenzhen, the practice has completed more than 600 projects in Europe, Africa, America, Asia and Australia, receiving numerous international awards.
The interview was conducted by Broekman + Partner