C33 Editorial:
Living the Interiors

by Andrea Pane

Scientific Director Compasses Magazine

This issue of Compasses – 33, symbolic in many respects – comes out six months later than the expected date of  March 2020, due to a health emergency that has kept (and still keeps) the whole world in check. As we write, in fact, most countries are experiencing the gradual recovery of activities after three long months of lockdown, but the near future of over seven billion people on Earth, in terms of life, work, leisure, still appears uncertain.

In the months that elapsed between the previous issue of November 2019, devoted to the themes of Green Architecture, and the one we present now, the world has had to laboriously accept restrictions, confinements, radical revisions of economic horizons, but above all grief and mourning. In the field of architecture this has led to interruptions of projects and construction sites, but also postponements of major events, all deferred to 2021: from the Salone del Mobile in Milan, to the Venice Architecture Biennale, the 27 th Union Congress International Architects of Rio de Janeiro, until the most awaited of all, EXPO Dubai 2020, which will keep this name despite the opening scheduled for October 2021.

This issue was initially planned for the Salone del Mobile 2020 and was therefore dedicated to the theme of interior living. The schedule was set in the course of autumn 2019, with further adjustments in early 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic has plummeted into our lives. It is superfluous to underline the surprising coincidence between this editorial program and the real context in which we all found ourselves living until recently: suddenly the interiors, and even more the domestic spaces, have jumped to the center of each individual’s attention, gradually occupying the scene of debates on architecture. Today, a few months after the beginning of the lockdown, we can say that the issue of interior spaces in which to live, work, study, have fun, still represents a crucial theme for the future of architecture and cities. Despite the delay in the release, therefore, this issue appears to be very topical, precisely because it explores – more generally – the theme of «living the interiors», on which shortly before Covid-19 the attention seemed to have dropped even at the historiographic level, as Giovanni Menna explains well in his article that opens the [essays] section, highlighting the fundamental role of the «interior revolution» in determining the fortunes of the Modern Movement. But today it is the theme of the kitchen that emerges even more as a crucial value of the home, because of its protective and vital function. So, an article already planned before the pandemic – that of Imma Forino, author of a relevant book on the subject – reveals its burning topicality, retracing the history of this central environment of living between the utopias and heterotopias of the 20 th century. This is also ideally connected to the first of the in-depth analyzes of the [focus] section, dedicated to a kitchen-dining-living room created by the Amezcua studio in an underground space in Mexico City, which also in the title – Notes from Underground – seems to evoke the forced confinement in the domestic hearth that we have all recently experienced.

Talking about interiors also means dealing with the issues of detail and decoration: it is on these aspects that the article by Paolo Giardiello focuses, on a theoretical and methodological level, drawing inspiration from a travel experience in Morocco. Here the author, questioning himself on the concept of ornament and its etymology, focuses on the «necessary» role of decoration in the interior spaces of Islamic countries, where it «is both an underlining and understanding of the material and constructive reality […] and a transfiguration of the material». The theme of the ornamentum – in the Latin sense – thus runs through the whole [focus] of the issue, both in its most accentuated expressions (the restoration of the Park Avenue Armory in New York by Herzog & de Meuron or the restoration/restyling of the Mandarin Hotel in Milan by Antonio Citterio and Patricia Viel), as in its almost dissolution (the restoration of a small jewel by Oscar Niemeyer, the Tea House in Brasilia or the minimum Duplex in Naples by Gambardellarchitetti). The theme of detail returns in the [architecture & plan] section, in the two interviews by Cristiano Luchetti with two of the most relevant and prestigious UAE architecture firms: ANARCHITECT and X-Architects. It is in particular the first interview, addressed to Jonathan Ashmore, owner of the ANARCHITECT studio, to dwell on the role of the small scale in architecture. Referring to the work of a great Italian architect like Carlo Scarpa, Ashmore underlines how detail constitutes the crucial element of any true architectural creation, testifying to this affirmation through the beautiful images of two creations of his studio: Al-Faya Lodge in Sharjah and Hilla Villa in Dubai.

The rest of the issue keeps constant attention on interiors and living: ranging from the new Casa Fantini hotel on Lake Orta (Lissoni Casal Ribeiro) to the recovery – here too for hotel use – of an abandoned hill town in Umbria (RA Consulting), up to the design experiments for the new mosque at the Creek in Dubai, where the COdESIGN studio conceives an internal religious space starting from a triangular module that guides the whole project. In the [academia] section three projects are dedicated to the theme of living, selected from the best works by the senior students of the Bachelor of Architecture program at the American University in Dubai, all dealing with the delicate theme of the Community Responsive Design in a city that has staked everything on luxury and glamor. Finally, the issue ends with a stimulating review by Marella Santangelo on the recent exhibition dedicated by the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris to a great female architect, artist and designer such as Charlotte Perriand, and a dutiful tribute by Maria Vittoria Capitanucci to a great master of Italian and international architecture, Vittorio Gregotti, who left us in the dramatic days of the Covid-19 emergency.

While aware of the difficulties of the moment, ultimately we hope that this issue can stimulate reflection on the meaning of living, at a time when interior space appears to be the center of our attention. Living in the time of Covid-19 can in fact also mean living in the time of design, imagination, desire for change. Because it is known that human beings are adaptable and can endure restrictions for a long time, but also that they will never give up dreaming of a better future.

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