Alberto Iacovoni on architecture and ceramics

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Alberto Iacovoni on architecture and ceramics - 1

Personally, I am fascinated by the possibility of using ceramics with a visual, graphic approach, to apply decorative features with visual effects to the architectural body,  adding a communicative level to space.

What does creating architecture today mean to you?

I continually seek to design locations and objects capable of restoring freedom, including creative freedom, to the people who live in or use them. I always say that I am more interested in the way things perform than in their form: a form is good and interesting if it leaves space for creative appropriation and interaction. I see architecture as a game, where the design produced establishes the rules but the game only works if the players - the people who live in the space created - have the right degrees of freedom. It is the architecture of a society in which needs and wishes are more and more varied, due to different lifestyles and cultures, in which creativity and play can be shared through the new digital interaction media.

Last year the IED in Rome, which you represented with a number of students, and other design institutes, took part in the “Ceramic Futures”  project, involving ceramic tiles. What led you to back this initiative, focusing on this specific material?

First and foremost I think it is essential for us to start to talk about the future again, in an age when we seem to be squashed into an eternal present, and science fiction - the place where reason meets imagination - has been supplanted by fantasy. We need the future, we must return to producing ideas capable of taking the distant view. And as the origins of the word itself tell us, every project is a “leap forward”.
And what better opportunity for the world of manufacturing and education to come together to discuss the future, for establishing contact between the ideas of creative young people from different countries and cultures and a major industrial player in the form of Sassuolo ceramic district?
The extremely innovative thing about Ceramic Futures was the way in which the project was run, by means of a social platform that expanded the opportunities for this contact, guided and encouraged by Stefano Mirti and Elio Caccavale, two amazing designers and thinkers.

What do you see as the architectural advantages of ceramics today, and on the other hand what do you think needs to be done to make this material more popular with the world of architecture and design?

There are a vast number of advantages, obviously arising from the infinite possibilities offered by this material, with its outstanding technological qualities. Personally, I am fascinated by the possibility of using ceramics with a visual, graphic approach, to apply decorative features with visual effects to the architectural body,  adding a communicative level to space.
We used this concept in our design for the library of the Lombardi school in Bari, where the facade created in ceramic tiles of various colours, representing the students’ faces, is the outcome of a participatory process that gave the project firm roots in its context.
In another project we have created for a residential building, also in Bari, the covering of the facade, with its geometric motifs, gives the impression of a house that has been “skinned”, leaving the interiors where domestic life is lived directly open to the street. 

I think that today, on the one hand we have to do even more research into technologies for transforming this material, apart from the more and more effective simulation of natural materials - wood and stone, for example - to give it unusual tactile and visual qualities, while on the other we have to rediscover the material’s real nature, partly by looking to the past, when ceramics were mainly a source of colour and geometric patterns