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orto

Paolo Catrambone
Maria Ave Romani 
Italy

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«We like to think about Architecture as the definition of a limit, a void space, that will gain sense and meaning only when it will be succesfully filled by human life.»

«We like to think about Architecture as the definition of a limit, a void space, that will gain sense and meaning only when it will be succesfully filled by human life.»

«We like to think about Architecture as the definition of a limit, a void space, that will gain sense and meaning only when it will be succesfully filled by human life.»

«We like to think about Architecture as the definition of a limit, a void space, that will gain sense and meaning only when it will be succesfully filled by human life.»

«We like to think about Architecture as the definition of a limit, a void space, that will gain sense and meaning only when it will be succesfully filled by human life.»

Please, introduce yourself and your Studio…

We're Paolo Catrambone and Maria Ave Romani, two young italian architects who initially started orto one year ago.
orto is a collective of architecture, we're developing in parallel with our current employments in two international practices in Switzerland. 
The name orto come from an unserious metaphor of the equivalent italian name, meaning the idea of something beginning: a common ground of proposals, projects and competitions, defining a personal path into the field of architecture.

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Portrait . orto

Portrait . orto

Portrait . orto

How did you find your way into the field of Architecture?

PC . I've always been very interested in cities when I was younger but I never figured it out as an interest for architecture. It appeared more clear to me after reading a small book-interview to the italian architect Renzo Piano by Renzo Cassigoli, titled "La responsabilità dell'Architetto".
That book and the way the Italian Architect was describing our job pushed me to begin studying Architecture.
Later the opportunity of meeting other context as Portugal and Switzerland made my passion for our work deeper and more aware.

How did you find your way into the field of Architecture?

PC . I've always been very interested in cities when I was younger but I never figured it out as an interest for architecture. It appeared more clear to me after reading a small book-interview to the italian architect Renzo Piano by Renzo Cassigoli, titled "La responsabilità dell'Architetto".
That book and the way the Italian Architect was describing our job pushed me to begin studying Architecture.
Later the opportunity of meeting other context as Portugal and Switzerland made my passion for our work deeper and more aware.

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References . orto

References . orto

MR . I found my way into this field because of my costant interest on how things are made. I've always been interested by the work of craftsmen assembling pieces of different materials to create things according to their tradition and their history. This personal interest extended to rural/vernacular architecture with its deep connection to a specific place, climate or history. The opportunity of spending such a long time in Portugal working with generous architects, gave me the chance of exploring my interests even more, giving them a more substantial professional structure.

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A Winery in Sulcis . Sardinia

A Winery in Sulcis . Sardinia

What are your experiences foundingorto and working in a collective structure?

The interesting thing of beginning our collective is the possibility of having an own platform where developing a personal path into the field of architecture.
We began getting some positive result and prizes from our first competitions and we decided of putting together our works to start our personal research.
Orto is an open structure that we hope to extend to more people in future.

We both have had important working experiences in different countries as Portugal, Japan and Switzerland. The possibility of having a collective allows us of being each other influenced by the Architects we worked for. In this way we can always make a specific synthesis putting together the most interesting things we’ve learnt all along these years.

The Spanish Architect Alejandro De La Sota defined very precisely this process speaking about “Shared Creativity”.
Shared Creativity is that process that allows ordinary people making extraordinary things.

We are very young and far away from any extraordinary thing, but we like to work with this aim.

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Light Landmark . Lisbon

Light Landmark . Lisbon

How would you consider the experience of working abroad on your method?  How is the context of different places influencing your work?

Working and studying abroad has been something absolutely important for us and for our first works.
Portugal, Japan and Switzerland are the countries where we grew up as architects and the places where most of our references come from.
In Portugal we had the opportunity of working with very generous Architects as Gonçalo Byrne, Aires Mateus, Barbas Lopes, Pedro Reis, and João Nunes.

These experiences gave us the bases of our way of working.
The humble approach of simple and precise gestures, always focused on themes as context, landscape, light and spaces is something we learnt from that country becoming a constant reference for us.
Something we found very interesting when we later moved to Japan, has been discovering an interesting range things in common with our previous experiences.

Living in Japan and traveling around that inspiring country made us discovering other ways of emphasizing the same topics of context, nature and lights, giving us a wider range of possibilities of reading the themes we’re mostly interested in.
Switzerland is now something that could represent a synthesis of all the things we’ve seen before. Swiss Architecture is one of the most interesting environments in Europe nowadays. 

All the themes we've mentioned before are here investigated through the experience we can have of a building.
Experience means going through designing, thinking about human behaviour, about perception and how we as human beings could relate to a space or to a part of the city.

This approach related to human experience is something we first discovered in Japan and we found again when we came back to Europe.
The smell of wooden old structures, the grain of a paper partition, the interior shadows towards the landscape or even the sound of a rain drop on a stone, are all things we can emphasize through architecture. 
Here again we go back to this idea of defining a personal path made by things we found so connected to each other even belonging to very different environments.

Our background isn’t a linear story but a constant back and forward through memories and experiences we like to relate to each other.
For us all these places have been fundamental not only for our job and we keep discovering other nuances of our background that we like to investigate letting them influencing our work.

What is the essence of architecture for you personally?

I don't feel we could be already aware of what is the essence of Architecture, but I've personally always found very interesting a simple definition made by the Portuguese Architect Gonçalo Byrne. He considers that Architects are always designing "Contenitori di vita" litteraly in English "Containers of Life".
I think that this simple sentence bring our work towards the real meaning of it: building spaces for other people. Working with this idea in mind allows us to focus on themes as context, history, references, memory, in order to give the most precise response to each place. 

We as Architects define a limit, a void space, that will gain a sense and a meaning only when it will be succesfully filled by human life. 
We don’t know if this could be defined as the essence of Architecture but is a position we try to keep in our work.

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Santa Clara Market . Lisbon

Santa Clara Market . Lisbon

Your master of architecture?

A Book:
 
MR . Le Lezioni Americane, Italo Calvino
PC . La soledad de los edificios, Rafael Moneo
 
A Person:
 
MR . Alvaro Siza
PC . Goncalo Byrne
 
A Building:
 
MR . Piscinas das Mares, Leca de Palmeira, Alvaro Siza
PC . Centre George Pompidou, Paris, Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers

How do you communicate / present Architecture?

In our opinion presenting a work is always very related to every specific situation. Communicating a work to a client, to other colleagues or through social medias could be always quite different in order of getting the best response and understanding.
Despite the diversity of the target we defined a personal language on images that we began during our education period.
On every project we always try to produce a range of images in between renders and drawings.
We like emphasizing an atmosphere more than an over realistic world.
We work with textures of different materials to present them not as a glossy perfect surface but as something aged, with reflections, unperfections and its real appearance during the passing of time.
This way of making images is something we consider quite specific from us and we’ll keep investigating towards a better level of precision.

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A Water Courtyard . Asti

A Water Courtyard . Asti

What has to change in the Architecture Industry?

Something we feel important nowadays is the need of reaffirming the importance of Architecture as a cultural value.

Maybe is not something to change but it’s an important quality to bring back to our work.When we speak about culture we don’t want to speak about any kind of theoretical approach. We speak about the role and the responsability of making buildings. – A church, a square, a theatre or a school have always been a recognizable element for a community: a place of built memory telling us the story of a place and of the people who made it possible.

Today this awareness of our building environment is weaker and making architecture often become an aesthetic exercise following new directions brought by different fields as economy, finance, international markets or short term fashion tendences. We need to face the future with the consciousness of the opportunities that our work could give to improve people’s everyday life.

Architects are not the only responsible figures on this process.
Politics, burocracy, insititutions must understand the importance of cities for people and how design could be a fundamental tool to increase the quality of life. We as Architects must understand such a responsibility, working with all the cultural values that a building represent.

Project

The Link
Alba
2017

We like to shortly speak about our first built project.
In 2017 we inaugurated a project called “The Link” a big urban and landscape renovation we developed in the small city of Alba in the north of Italy.
The site is very vast area in between the river side of the city and the historical urban fabric. The location is a starting key point for our work because of this buffer position between nature and city. Renovating this zone improved a lot the qualities of this area generating a urban node for sport and open air activities.

The program of the project was specific about golf practice, with diverse areas for playing, teaching, relaxing or meeting.
The project was divided in three main topics: the renovation and extension of an existing timber frame structure, a new system of paths and the general landscape renovation.

The existing structure, now used as covered T-Line, has been cleaned up from all the addictions, keeping the simple archaic system of columns and beams, providing shadow and calm open-air rooms for the players.
Something very important for this project was thinking about the connections we need to provide in between the areas.
Since the beginning we understood the importance of an iconic element on this intervention to make it recognizable by the people.

A simple squared slab in concrete of 150x150 cm is the piece generating the entire system of paths we have in the project.
Putting the slabs consecutively generates a pedestrian promenade, displaying the slabs side by side creates the relax areas and the single piece standing in the ground could host an open air shot station.
With one single element we structured the entire project making it coherent and iconic.

Vegetation has been also curated by us and threat it as a material of the project. We used different types of plants, colors and densities in order to generate differing feelings according to the program. Some time we emphasize visual connections, clear separations or just a natural calm atmosphere we want people to feel when they are playing.
This work is a very small one in terms our concrete intervention on the site but represent an important keypont for the city of Alba, converting an abandoned zone to a lively sport areas, activating and interesting piece of the city.

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Instagram: @o__r__t__o
Images: © orto
Photograpy: © Paolo Catrambone
Interview: kntxtr, 02/2019