Giacomo Ardesio, Alessandro Bonizzoni, Nicola Campri, Veronica Caprino, Claudia Mainardi
Lara Morrell: Let’s start with the name Fosbury Architecture, can you explain why, back in 2013, you decided to call the collective after high jump champion Dick Fosbury?
Claudia Mainardi: Dick Fosbury was an athlete who won the gold medal for high jump at the Olympic Games in Mexico City in 1968, by jumping back-first for the first time with what would come to be named as the Fosbury flop. By simply inventing a new way to jump, he won, despite not being a physically gifted athlete. What we saw in this figure was not so much a hint towards progress and invention, but rather the potential to overcome an obstacle from a different angle or approach.
Alessandro Bonizzoni: We met in the last years of university, they were difficult years (after the economic crisis of 2008) as young architects, we were constantly facing difficulties and came to understand that we couldn’t act, or we couldn’t find a place in the market with a so-called ‘conventional’ way of practicing. So we had to find different ways.
Giacomo Ardesio: Basically, it’s about changing the rules of the game. Or playing differently within a defined set of rules. That’s what Dick Fosbury did and that is what we are also trying to do with this project.
Lara Morrell: The pavilion is called “Spaziale: Everyone belongs to everyone else”. Could you tell us about your notion of belonging and how the project has been activated in the months leading up to the Biennale?
Veronica Caprino: The general idea behind “Spaziale”, was to use the exhibition in the Italian pavilion as a vector, as an opportunity to initiate various projects throughout the peninsula. We took on a slightly complex trajectory, the first stage was about preparation and activation and the pavilion itself is a synthesis, whereas the different projects will continue beyond the Biennale itself.
Nicola Campri: We wanted to deal with interventions for a specific context and/or community, in this way we structured a complex alliance among practitioners, advisors and incubators, as representatives for the local communities.
Giacomo Ardesio: The sense of belonging comes in because the projects are thought out especially for those specific contexts. It’s not something top down but rather bottom up. In most cases, we have selected places where the practitioners had existing relationships, such as in the case of Taranto and Post Disaster Rooftops, as well as in the case of Belmonte Calabro and BelMondo Tracks: long-lasting projects that have been active for several years. In other locations we have developed similar networks from scratch.
*Post Disaster Rooftops interprets rooftops as unconventional urban spaces –suspended between public and private. Each episode unfolds as a series of temporary occupations transforming into performative stages the places in which they intervene. Is disaster in progress, or has it already happened?
*BelMondo Tracks, conceived by orizzontale and Bruno Zamborlin, fits as an extraordinary chapter within the cultural and territorial reactivation activities that La Rivoluzione delle Seppie has been implementing since 2016 in Belmonte, a town located in the Calabrian hinterland in a panoramic position on the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Nicola Campri: Grounding the projects locally was very important for us, from the very beginning.
Lara Morrell: What can visitors expect from this year’s Italian Pavilion, considering that your modus operandi is more interested in process rather than form?
Veronica Caprino: Our aim is just that, to show the process behind each project and the intrinsic relation between each of them, not so much the product but rather the one-to-one project which has been already showcased, and part already in the Italian peninsula. The nine interventions have now been activated, so there will be a sort of synthesis in different forms.
Alessandro Bonizzoni: There are different formats through which each activation is physically translated inside the pavilion. In some cases, it is the transportation of an artefact from its original location to the pavilion. In other cases, there is an abstraction of the spatial condition which has been created. In others it is a prototype of the local intervention.
Nicola Campri: There is a visual narration in the form of a film installation, for which we partnered together with Giga Design Studio and Alterazioni video. A video representing all the activations in the different territories so to strengthen the idea that the Italian pavilion is not just limited to the boundaries of the Tese delle Vergini at the Arsenale but is dislocated and expands beyond the boundaries of the Venice Biennale.
Claudia Mainardi: I think it is important to stress that the project is not about the pavilion itself, but the pavilion acts as a ‘hub’, or a place where all nine projects, which up until the Biennale were isolated, come together and unite. The pavilion becomes a platform where to see them all together. But, which are rooted and which happened already before, long before, in the sites. So in the various territories in the Italian peninsula. What we try to demonstrate with our video installation, are the overlaps, the intersections between the different projects. Which also gives the name to the pavilion; Everyone, belongs to everyone else.
Giacomo Ardesio: Each project has a similar nature – they all deal with space. One thinks of architecture as physical artefacts, but architects should deal with a wider context. For this project we intended to establish strong relationships with local communities or associations, and mediate among all those that belong to the design process. We called the pavilion “Spaziale”, because we think that we need to enlarge the domain of action beyond the built environment to recover a wider agency over space.
Lara Morrell: In what ways do you think architecture has the capacity to bridge the spatial contract between man and nature, in the perspective of future climate change?
Giacomo Ardesio: In the curatorial brief, we identified impossible challenges that characterise the contemporary such as climate crisis. Yet one cannot really solve climate change as a challenge altogether, we don’t have the power to do that, architecture doesn’t have the power to do that. This is something for the politicians, to make policies to tackle the theme of climate change, and this is how it should be. They decide to reduce emissions by 1%, we don’t, we are just making small gestures in that direction, in a local context. The responses that we have in this project are just simple actions.
Veronica Caprino: What we want to do, is pioneer projects that somehow go in the direction of responding to those challenges. We don’t have the complete answer but the hope that small bits and pieces will eventually create a solution. If you add up a number of small actions you might eventually have an impact on climate change.
Alessandro Bonizzoni: Each team is composed of a spatial practice and an advisor from another discipline in order to devise a trans-disciplinary response to each challenge, since traditional instruments of architecture might not be sufficient.
Claudia Mainardi: We ultimately believe that architects should become mediators between different areas of knowledge, and we have attempted to transfer this approach into the spirit of the project.
Lara Morrell: If we take the fragility of the city of Venice, as emblematic of the future of climate change – in true Fosbury fashion, by overcoming an obstacle with a lateral approach – what would be a pioneering or alternative action for its safeguarding?
Giacomo Ardesio: One possible way of thinking about it is to expand the view, by not just thinking of Venice as an island. That is why we have activated the project in Marghera and Mestre. When talking about the island, the big challenge to tackle is tourism, how can we create a spatial contract between the inhabitants and visitors? If on the one hand tourism employs a lot of people, on the other it’s reducing their agency on the city. The municipality is trying to tackle the problem by establishing a fixed number of entries per day, but perhaps they should act on the “extractive” nature of this type of tourism, by looking for ways to reduce their impact on the life of Venice’s inhabitants. So, in this context, the only thing that you can do is find a negotiation, there is no simple solution. If we were to trigger a project on Venice mainland it would have probably been a translation of such a negotiation into space.
Lara Morrell: How did you go about selecting these 9 areas in Italy, why do you believe it is necessary to present this alternative vision of Italian architecture? How easily do you think this magnification of nationwide collateral stories will translate to an international audience?
Veronica Caprino: We can’t avoid the crisis we have been living with for many years. As professionals, as architects, we hold a responsibility.
Claudia Mainardi: Probably the architectural euphoria which has characterised the turn of the millennium, is not something we can keep pursuing from an ethical point of view, and on the other hand architects are no longer the figures guiding urban transformations.
Alessandro Bonizzoni: The nine areas are contexts which pose a particular spatial challenge that architecture should tackle. While architecture always seems limited to making a building, we are trying to highlight the wider spectrum of things that an architect can do. Not necessarily only an architect, but rather a spatial practitioner who might not have studied architecture in school, but who has the same capacity to work with space.
Nicola Campri: We live in a very complex conjuncture: there are a lot of architects without jobs and yet there is an entire world that requires experts in space – it seems as if there is no match between demand and supply.
Giacomo Ardesio: Architects are probably among the few professional figures capable of mitigating through space the impact of current challenges. We would like to give voice to a broad number of colleagues who are trying to move in this direction developing what we call the antibodies to disillusionment, or the recovery of an agency for spatial practitioners.
Lara Morrell: How do you think this will translate to an international audience?
Veronica Caprino: With this project we aim to tackle Italian challenges, such as the inclusion of the peripheries, multicultural coexistence, the digital divide between cities and countryside, and so on, which might have a meaning for the rest of the world.
Nicola Campri: We are playing with this sort of tension and friction between scale and geographies, and that is why in some cases we have invited Italian practitioners which are living abroad to collaborate with local actors.
Lara Morrell: This year one of the 9 activations will be based in Venice mainland, could you tell us a little about the project Concrete Jungle with Parasite 2.0?
Claudia Mainardi: The project by Parasite 2.0 and Elia Fornari (vice-president of the street wear collective brand Brain Dead) explores the ambiguous relationship between natural and artificial in the human-nature interaction. On the one hand, the idea of a man-returned animal within a wild metropolitan space and a daily struggle for survival is perceived. On the other, the urban condition often drives to escape in the hope of rediscovering an ancestral and unspoiled dimension of the landscape. In this perspective, climbing is undoubtedly one of the activities central to this dual tension. The challenge between the human being and the wall to be climbed brings the man back to his harsh confrontation with the hostile environment.
Alessandro Bonizzoni: Such idea stemmed from a similar project of Elia in Los Angeles, where climbing structures were used as a means to give access to a sport perceived as elitist to inhabitants of run-down neighborhoods. The nice story is that while we were location scouting, we discovered a consecrated church equipped as a gigantic boulder.
Nicola Campri: There is a local association of urban climbers called “SgrafaMasegni” which takes care and utilizes these structure. The project is imagined for this community and speaks about sport as a community maker, as well as exploring alternative uses for existing buildings. It’s a sort of cross programming if you think about it: an active church and a climbing wall at the same time. Ultimately, among the multiple narrative layers in the project, there is a friction between the flatland around Venice and the act of climbing, which is a contradiction in itself.