“Architecture is becoming a popular art form.”
It’s April 2012 when I ask the architect Massimiliano Fuksas: Have you just won a competition to renovate a luxury shopping centre in Beverly Hills?
Yes. Right now it’s a bit shabby, not on the same level as the products it sells. So we created a design that would almost totally reinvent it. Construction should begin at the end of the year.
You are also working on the Shenzhen airport in China, right?
It is a “town” of twenty million people that was home to 27,000 fisherman thirty years ago. It’s an extremely important industrial hub, with a large port full of containers to send to the West. So the airport is vital. The construction phase is well underway. It is an enormous construction site with 10,000 people, including 5,000 on site and 5,000 working within a radius of a few kilometres. My friend Giorgio Armani just bought a space for his store.
How do you manage projects that are this big, with each one different than the next?
I don’t. I let the project develop and intervene with a sort of “acupuncture.” I always try to get things back on the right track. When projects are important, we create a Fuksas studio right away, close to the construction site. We did this for the Vienna Twin Tower, the Fiera di Milano in Rho, then in Frankfurt, and for three projects in Hamburg that included a business centre, residential buildings and offices on the canal.
And how are things going with the new offices at the headquarters of the Piedmont Region in Turin?
Construction has begun. The tower is the tallest in Italy at the moment. In a group agreement with the railroad, region, and city, we came up with a “master plan” that would not only include a tower for the region but residential and office buildings as well.
You are also finishing work for the National Archives in France. When will you inaugurate it?
I hope soon, but aside from the electoral campaigns there have been dramatic events that have justifiably delayed the ceremony. The New National Archives project is the first landmark of the Grand Paris initiative that would give the suburbs the pride of being true cities.
And what are you doing in Rome?
We’re finishing up the Palazzo dei Congressi Convention Centre, which should be done at the end of the year. I’ll then oversee the transformation of the old building of the Unione Militare for the Benetton store in Via del Corso. It’s a large space with a huge, bright, lantern-style roof. Rome is at its most beautiful and spectacular from there.
So you are not feeling the effects of the economic crisis?
I’ve always done only a few projects – on the large side, but the same amount. With time and experience they have become even bigger, but not much has changed. There are projects that still excite me, like the classical music building and the contemporary art museum in Tbilisi, Georgia, because they are like two large instruments. They look like two trumpets overlooking the city, one in stainless steel and the other in glass. They’re in a huge park in a truly extraordinary setting.
In your opinion, what about your architecture will last?
Because I was influenced by conceptual art, I would like my architecture and I to disappear in an instant. I think it would be a blessing for many! Joking aside, it’s inevitable that something will endure when you build a million square metres like the Fiera di Milano or a 300-metre tower or an airport or the Palazzo dei Congressi.
Is architecture making advances? If so, how?
At the same rhythm as humans are making advances. In the end, art, music, and architecture run along the same line of logic, which is linked to the need for positivity.
What about art?
Perhaps this is its actual task.
What is the quality of architecture like today?
It’s definitely better. It’s current, and being talked about more. Luckily, architecture is becoming a popular art form, like it was during the Renaissance.
For a large-scale architect, are political relationships inevitable?
We should all have one, meaning a relationship with politics. Having relationships with politicians is more debatable. Local administrators and enlightened businesspeople are most important to our work.
Politics isn’t involved any more?
I’m not concerned with it. I feel lighter. I do my duty as a citizen and vote in the elections for who will give me more guarantees for a better future. Fortunately, the days of war and stupid conflicts seem to be over. At least I hope, that way I can spend more time doing things I know a little about. Like architecture.
You work a lot overseas. What do you think about the world today?
If you watch a film from the 1950s, it is evident that Europeans are better off today, not everyone, but most. This goes for China as well. In twenty years it has changed, and maybe the United States too, but the work has just begun. I think the foundation to improve conditions for people and to evolve into democracy in China might still need to be established, but it is definitely possible.
April 1st, 2012.
Photos © Archivio Fuksas