By Marco Lurasch
Mario Cucinella Architects is one of the most important international architecture firms, with two offices, Bologna and New York, and a team of almost 100 collaborators. One of the characteristics of Mario Cucinella’s works is to be totally innovative and with a focus on sustainability, with an approach that he defines as “holistic”. Mario Cucinella Architects’ projects integrate technology with environmental and climate strategies.
Mario Cucinella has received many international awards in recent years (the Honorary Fellowship of the American Institute of Architects in 2017 and the prestigious International Fellowship of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 2016). Among the latest projects are the Coima headquarters in the Porta Nuova area and the Unipol Group Headquarters (now under construction) in that area. Cucinella through the pages of “Il Settimanale” launches a strong and clear reference to the values of architecture, in a context that unfortunately seems confused and not inclined to quality.
Architect, what is the relationship between architecture and commissioning? Has it improved or worsened? “I would say that the relationship has changed. Clients in Italy have changed, they are more prepared and demanding. Investment funds require much more attention to budget management. There is more and more attention to costs and this stresses the creative work of the architect”.
Let’s talk about design: the revolution of BIM sees many supporters in comparison with as many sceptics. Where are we with the cultural revolution of the project? “It’s a strange debate, BIM is for us a working tool, more complex in the management of a job order. BIM does not improve or worsen the creative aspect of an architect. I don’t see any disadvantages from using BIM, because it is a tool that helps the architecture studio to increase its competence for the use of a tool that requires a lot of precision and attention. The real theme is that there was no impact on the fees for using the BIM. The client must begin to understand that for an architectural firm, BIM requires a great deal of commitment and level of knowledge, attention, precision, coordination and economic investment. Mario Cucinella Architects is made up of 100 professionals, we have placed 3 BIM Managers and invested in training for 80 people. The investment is valid for everyone, it is a cost that must be shared because, in the long run, the benefits go to the client. It is essential to review the economic balance at the level of risk, it can’t be all borne by the architectural firm since the BIM is especially useful to the client who must understand that it is a very important qualitative investment.
The theme of sustainability is central to your work: what does 360° sustainability mean in the world of design? “It’s our philosophy, but there are no other options on the table. It’s a complicated subject because it involves so many different topics, the energy aspect, comfort, CO2 emissions and costs, so it’s confusing to understand what true sustainability is. In this case too, it is necessary for the client to take a step forward, which in the beginning is always ambitious but then sacrifices sustainability in favor of cost savings. It’s true that it’s a story that has just begun and the next steps are always the most difficult, but we’ll get there. Sustainability must be an attitude that comes from afar, that always wins over profit. The investor must carry a social message: value is different from cost. Having said that, today is better than ten years ago and so we are on the right track.
What is the project of your studio to which you are most attached? And what about the next one you’re building, which you consider to be the most significant?“Now I like to mention the Etruscan Museum of the Rovati Foundation, a wonderful story where architecture becomes the protagonist. It’s not just an archaeological collection. It’s not just a container but a true architectural work that dialogues with history”.
Do you often go abroad?“I’m often in the United States, a very selective country and also very attentive to change. Architects are more united, there is a fair competition but on the big battles the category is more compact. I’m based in New York and we’re developing two projects for a developer in Boston and Pittsburgh. They understand the added value of quality architecture, even if it’s not always easy.