Paolo Cucchi Architects: designing with a “green” ethics
Paolo Cucchi Architects is an architecture office based in Italy and Malaysia that operates at different levels, from the small details in interior design until the complexity of the urban planning projects remaining always faithful to its deeply “green” ethics.
Paolo Cucchi, the founder, has given us a brief interview in recent weeks.
WHAT DOES CREATING ARCHITECTURE TODAY MEAN?
Let's set aside the widespread stereotypes that accuse architecture of having become self-referential and narcissistic, dismissing the fact that architects of the past were also narcissists: try to remember renowned partnerships between architect and photographer, where the latter was granted precious little creative scope to portray the given architectural creation. Avoiding the considerable trivialization of the new at all costs, which is something of a design obsession of our age, many up-and-coming young architects are producing top quality architecture with a strong focus on issues of re-utilisation, of application of suitable models of sustainability, in an attempt to limit damage and overbuilding and offer people a better quality of habitat and life.
There are, of course, examples of flashiness and vulgar originality and these will probably always exist, but the context we find ourselves operating in today, totally different to that of a generation ago, coupled with the contingent needs imposed by globalisation and serious environmental problems, means that architects' creative freedom must necessarily go hand-in-hand with a deep-seated sense of responsibility.
Designing with energy efficiency in mind, speeding up the construction process and hemming in build costs have become imperative; as essential as the choice of materials, are solutions as close to nature as possible, project compatibility with the surrounding context, and an openness that embraces the most sophisticated technological research.
There is a unique and complementary relationship between locality and universality and our work is increasingly multi-disciplinary in nature: the needs of global geography are part of our professional code of practice.
In Italy, still struggling to cope with the devastating economic crisis, the future will be not so much about designing new architecture, but regenerating what already exists, in a sustainable way, naturally.
Here in Asia, especially in the mega-cities that have sprung up with the unchecked boom in construction which is bringing with it a veritable annihilation of identity and social spaces, with a resulting sense of alienation and belonging, the concept of eco-sustainability - of paramount importance - must be embraced in its broadest sense: in addition to environmental and production sustainability, we must give just as much thought to social sustainability.
With the ability to make a profound impact on people's lives, we must plan with greater awareness, meeting the expectations of those who expect and demand better quality of life.
What we also need are legislative tools geared to innovative standards and a serious undertaking on the part of politicians and the world of enterprise.
The ‘beauty’ of architecture certainly depends on us, its authors, but also, as Frank Lloyd Wright said, ‘on the intelligence of the client’.
THE DESIGN BENEFITS OF CERAMICS.
HOW ITS POPULARITY IN THE DESIGN WORLD MIGHT BE BOOSTED.
I've used ceramics recently, in place of wood or stone, for a number of interior and exterior projects, much to the unexpected delight of my clients, who were unaware of the incredible progress made in recent years in this sector, both in terms of tactile quality and superb aesthetic, visual appeal.
Especially here in Asia, where I've been living for years, ceramics circumvent obvious problems linked to the very high levels of humidity and the presence of termites. The ease of maintenance, resistance to deterioration and speed of installation are among other much-appreciated benefits.
Everyone in the sector is well aware of the eco-sustainable advantages offered by ceramics: savings in terms of natural resources, eco-friendly production techniques and totally recyclable materials.
Unfortunately, I find that in Asia the prevailing mentality continues to identify marble alone as synonymous with a certain social status, so that only more educated and sophisticated individuals perceive the true value of ceramic tiles and other beautiful natural materials such as stone, earthenware and concrete, which are generally considered more ‘humble’ materials.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT PRESENT?
I'm working on a private house and an apartment which are very rewarding thanks to carefully chosen, premium quality materials and fixtures, like those used in Italy, something not common in this part of the world. Also as regards the interiors, the owners have voiced their great appreciation of the quality of Italian-made products and materials. Another project I'm working on is the sympathetic renovation of a colonial period villa, left unrecognisable by a succession of interventions in very recent times, sadly carried out without any notion of a methodological approach to conservation, despite the fact the residence is located in Malacca, a UNESCO world heritage site.
Of the other projects currently on the go, one is especially intriguing from
a sustainability point of view: a client of ours who is particularly passionate about the environment has commissioned us to build a dome made of steel and glass (46 m in diameter and 35 m high) which will be used for everyday office activities, though the office environment will include trees and green walls. At the top, hanging gardens will enchant guests and provide spaces for meetings and events, with a private area reserved as a living space for the owner.