Italian architects Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas were both born and grew up in Rome. Both graduated from La Sapienza University – he in 1969, she a decade later. He started his studies as a painter, she initially persued the history of art. In the early 60s, Massimiliano assisted Giorgio De Chirico and after graduation worked for Archigram in London and then for Henning Larsen and Jørn Utzon in Copenhagen. He started his first practice, the GRANMA in 1967. Doriana joined him in 1985 and became an equal partner in 1997. Subsequent offices were opened in Paris (1989) and in Shenzhen (2004). In 2000, Massimiliano Fuksas served as the Director of the 7th Venice Architecture Biennale under the theme "Less Aesthetics, More Ethics." The duo’s most recognized built works include Museum of Graffiti in Ariege, France; Shenzen Bao'an International Airport; EUR Convention Centre in Rome; New Milan Trade Fair, Rho-Pero; Zenith Music Hall in Strasbourg; and Peres Peace House in Jaffa, Tel Aviv. I met with the architects during their recent visit to New York where so far, they completed only one project, Armani 5th Avenue Flagship Store. We discussed how they start again with every project, their preoccupation with the future, and why buildings should try to become something else.
Vladimir Belogolovsky: You both first wanted to be artists. Is art still a strong influence on your work today?
Massimiliano Fuksas: Yes, of course. But more philosophy than the art itself. We don’t care about shapes and forms. They come and go. Arthur Schopenhauer said, “Change alone is eternal, perpetual, immortal.” If you are going to ask me how I do architecture I will not tell you. But architecture is all about culture, knowledge, and education, not the economy. It is also about making our world a little bit better.
Doriana Fuksas: My approach is different because I studied art history, not art. I don’t paint, so I let Massimiliano start first. [Laughs.]
VB: Massimiliano, how do you start? You said, “For me, it is often a painting that marks the beginning of a concept.”
MF: I don’t start, I continue! I am always drawing and painting. And then the project comes. I need to be ready for a project to come at the right moment. I am building up the intensity of feelings and thinking that drives me. There is no inspiration; it is about getting ready to express our emotions to be able to give expression. A feeling of surprise is important.
DF: Ideas never come out of the blue; you need to look around and pay attention to how people live. Architecture should accommodate people, their environments and their desires. Architecture is for people; otherwise, it is a mistake.
VB: Every environment is very particular, so every project tends to be different, right?
MF: That’s right, I don’t stop thinking and drawing, but with every project, I start again every time.
VB: You said, “For me, architecture is the art of forgetting. Otherwise, you become nostalgic. Every day you have to forget what you did the day before.”
MF: Yes, we forget our past projects and start from scratch, every time. The question is – what is the future? I am an architect and for me now is the future. We have to envision it; for us the future is today.
VB: Wolf Prix said, “Two days from now tomorrow will be yesterday.”
MF: Of course, we always think about the future. But it is not just because we need to accelerate everything. It is not because the clients push us to work fast. We like working fast because we want to keep up with our emotions. We need to make immediate and spontaneous decisions. Otherwise, there is no energy, no intensity.
DF: There must be discipline and the decisions need to be made swiftly. Most importantly, we don’t want to repeat what we did before.
VB: Can you honestly say about your career that you are perpetually going forward? Do you think we live in the times when the future is celebrated? If you look around, you will not see many groundbreaking and risk-taking projects today. Look at the Center Pompidou, for example; there is nothing like it today. There is no need for that kind of revolution. Do you feel this reality in your work?
MF: Well, we are always engaged at the moment. I like working all around the world. We like the idea of understanding others and each other. But in the end, we are all the same. We have the same needs, the same feelings, and the same dreams. We don’t like to compare our projects.
DF: We move on. We have no choice.
VB: You often talk about emotions and mood that architecture can bring to people. What are the main intentions behind your architecture? What is your architecture about?
MF: We always have the same client – not Mr. or Ms. Smith, but a human being. We want to design something that would allow people to have a dream. And we don’t want them to have the same dreams as ours. We want them to have their own dreams. The world is for dreamers. One day all the dreamers will get together to build a fantastic world.
VB: What is a good building for you?
MF: What is a bad building for you?
VB: For me, a bad building is something I would not notice at all.
MF: Well, a good building is something that is capable of becoming something else, a dream.
VB: You said, “You have to have more dreams for your future than about the past.”
MF: It doesn’t matter what dreams you had in the past and how many were realized. You may have realized one thousand dreams, but you still need to have a thousand dreams more. It is all about the future.
VB: Architects now talk about context a lot. But you said. “The context is not only what we have in front of us, which is related to the past, but it is also thinking of the cities of the future. Being contemporary means working in an area considering how it will be at least in the next twenty years.”
MF: I see the future in every context. You can’t dream if you only see what’s in front of you now. You can’t preserve everything, only what is essential. To move forward we must change the context. The context is the future.
MF: Yes, it is all about being able to feel architecture with all your senses. You don’t just see it with your eyes. Beethoven could not hear his music, he could see it. What is architecture? We are just about to discover it. I am sure of it!