journal

刊物

Beijing, September 2016

 

Eleonora interviews studio O

 

"When I was asked to curate studio O’s events and exhibitions for Beijing Design Week 2016, I didn’t hesitate to accept the challenge of being a small bridge – almost imperceptible – in the attempt of bringing together architecture and art, as these two would even need our human help. That was another one of those adventures and experiences where giving is never enough when compared to the amount of what is received back.

It was as clear as crystal that those diversity and beauty and peculiarity that studio O is constantly looking for in all the architecture projects it is involved with, has a strong connection with the diversity and the preciousness that distinguishes the two partners. 

Those two completely different colors, speeds, smells walking together towards a same common vision."

 

Eleonora Brizi

 

Name?

 

E: Enrico

F: Effi

 

Where are you from and where are you going to?

 

E: I'm from Poggibonsi, a little town between Siena and Florence.

Where am I going? For sure not back to Italy. All other options are pretty opened, Italy is good for retirement.

F: I came from the ashes and I will go back to the ashes.

 

What do you do for job and what did you wish for your job to be when you were a kid?

 

E: I'm an architect and I graduated ten years ago.  My mother is an architect as well and when I was a kid, after school, she would take me around on construction sites while checking on her work. We used to go once a week and every time I would be so fascinated by the workers and by seeing these people making things, building walls, it was kind of magical. On the contrary, I absolutely couldn’t understand what my mum was doing with all those drawings, so one day I just told her that I would have liked to be one of them. My first dream as a kid then? To be a worker on the site. While I am talking to you, I can even smell the concrete and the wet bricks. It is a really nice memory and I think it influenced me in the final decision of being an architect.

F: I am currently an architect and when I was a kid I always wished to be a rock-star. But later, while learning architecture, I understood that the arts in general are something I would like to explore in my life, also because I still don’t think of architecture as an art.

 

What person you became and what person will you be in your next life?

 

E: I used to be a more dreamy person, also considering my profession, but I unfortunately became more pragmatic. As soon as people start working, they clash with all the economic inputs and interests involved with architecture, and this shows sometimes a really sad side. Although, I always push myself in order to find new motivation, which I often happen to discover in places as the Venice Biennale, for instance. Issues like the discussion about social architecture – which I actually believe being the future of it – and the possibility of meeting people who believe in this kind of approach, rather than constructing buildings like CCTV, give me those new stimulus I am always looking for.

F: First of all, I don’t know if I will be a person in my next life, I might happen to be an animal, a plant or any another living or non living creature. As for now, I think that I am becoming a better person day after day. With the passing of time, I will keep becoming a better one, I hope. 

 

Do you like what you do and why?

 

E: I like some aspects of it. For example I enjoy working at the studio, with my partners and other professional figures, I really love these moments. I like working with people and I would never be able to make architecture by myself, also because I really enjoy to exchange opinions and collaborate with those who are not related to architecture, as it was for the video collaboration with the artist Elisa Cucinelli, or for Beijing Design Week with you, since you are also not from this field. Working with different specialists, coming from different worlds, it is a real exchange. This is the side of my job I prefer, but there are many others I am not really crazy about.

F: I love what I do, what I do is my life. This is not only a profession, if we speak about architecture. In general, I am a very curious person in life, and anything I do is done with passion. Architecture opened my eyes to many other fields, either related or unrelated to it. So I am interested in everything, it could be cinema, food, traveling or knowing different cultures.

 

(Let’s test your ability to summarize) What is architecture?

 

E: Architecture is an important discipline, in between of art and technique. There is a lot of technique, requiring the knowledge of all the properties of the materials, the qualities of them and more on. And then there is an artistic side. It is a mix, and as you can see in the studio, this combination always finds different balances. Who is it for? If you scroll the titles of the last 20 years Biennale, you will clearly understand that it is addressed to various kinds of people and used for different purposes. Sometimes it is really social and sometimes there is a strong economic interest behind, which is when my passion for it really gets turned off. When you understand that some people are putting themselves in this economic chain and you are part of this system, it becomes really sad.

F: Architecture might sound like a very complex profession or discipline. Doing architecture is finally expressed physically, it is a physical presence in most of the cases. I like to understand architecture – knowing that simplifying is always the most difficult thing to achieve – as the very basic idea of how putting two or more materials together. It is the combination of them and the possibility of how joining them together or how not joining them together and the proportions in them.. This discussion can go really deep. I guess architecture is for human beings, but not only. It is the need of creating a space, and animals also create their own spaces. When we think of architecture we think about a building which is a bigger space, part itself of our cities, which are part of a country and then part of the world. From the very small to the very big, it is all about space.

 

Should architecture answer questions or raise questions?

 

E: Both. Sometimes it raises questions and often it has to answer them.

For instance, in the last Biennale a lot of questions were raised without finding any answers. But the act of asking questions is itself already good, since it makes people think. And dedicating time to think would be nice, especially in China, where deadlines coming from institutions and projects management are so tight, causing sometimes a lack of time for reflection and discussion in order to keep producing.

F: Architecture should definitely answer certain issues and it should raise questions at the same time. We are operating in a specific period of time and we are inheriting what was previously done by other generations - historically speaking but not only - which raises questions all the time but to which architecture should be able to give answers. There is an interesting side about giving answers. Many of my colleagues are managing to do this in a time frame that I consider to be too stretched. Solutions must be thought for an immediate need and this could be a new way of thinking an architecture not supposed to last forever, since necessities are changing all the time. It is about providing immediate answers to certain issues, that eventually can raise themselves questions in a very short time, as for instance whether they are really needed anymore or should be modified or even deleted.

 

How should people who are not specialized in the field have a confrontation with architecture and how should they perceive it?

 

E: It is always constructive to have a confrontation. Looking back at the past years until 5 centuries ago, the most relevant architecture projects were created by groups of people that were not only including architects, but philosophers, sociologists, painters. Any kind of professional figure was involved and the results were really great. If you leave architecture to the architects only, it can be dry.

F: I am not sure, maybe it is too pretentious to understand or dictate how people should approach it. People are constantly surrounded by architecture or spaces that define architecture. Architecture is done for non architects, we are just a tool to transmit some kind of feeling or atmosphere or environmental space. People should just perceive it naturally, when they enter a space either they like it or they don’t. It is like a piece of art, you get touched or you don’t. They can go deeper and ask how it is done, but it is already really professional. People should just feel comfortable in a space.

 

Is architecture necessary for people or it is people that are necessary for architecture?

 

E: People are necessary for architecture, without people there is no architecture. But it is also true that architecture is a need, it has always been like this since the homo sapiens when protection from the weather was a necessity.  It is obviously a vice versa, but I would finally say the people are more necessary than architecture is.

F: Architecture is done for people but not only. It is about space and this space is also for the environment or for the nature. I see it in a more natural way. Since ever, we need some kind of protection from the environment, so architecture is necessary for people. But without them, it doesn’t really make sense anymore. Maybe architecture is more needed for architects.

 

In Chinese language, the word ‘architecture’ means ‘to build, to erect, to construct’. Looking at the definition, we can already feel that it is more about ‘making’ than about theories. How does Chines architecture lack in this and how does European architecture – coming from a completely different etymology where the architect is a guide, someone who excels in inventing, creating, building – might be slower in practical realization? 

 

E: For sure architecture in both China and the Western world are completely different, in terms of speed and quality of execution - which is also a consequence of speed. True is also that many theories rule the architecture in Europe and here in China the approach is more practical, but it is still really difficult to trace a line, especially now when everything is pretty melting. The biggest firms of architecture came to China to realize their own building, sometimes they were good and some others they were a total failure that it would have been better if they stayed in Europe or in the USA, since here it is a  completely different culture which needs to be understood. It happened that they tried to work here from their studio abroad and they couldn’t understand much about the local habits and the background, they were aliens. It is a different approach, and I have to say that the best results in China have been achieved by five or ten Chinese architecture offices, one of them is for sure Wang Shu.

F: I would start speaking about the speed, either of the creation of the idea or the execution of it. Maybe it is not a lack of theory in China, I actually believe that the European or western way of dealing with architecture is a bit out of date, we give it too much of a thought and we are thinking to deep. What I have been learning in China is to trust the first instinct without thinking too much. Obviously there is a background of experience and knowledge that allows you to do that, but I think that the fact that times are short in China develops that ‘killer instinct” for which you have to feel immediately, and to face specific situations, answering questions without analyzing too deeply or trying the whole range of possible options to understand which one is the best. There is never time for this. It should be a spontaneous instinctive way of thinking and a starting point to discuss whether this is not a better way to deal with architecture in the western world as well.

 

studio O, 0, a circle, an ellipse?

 

E: It is a circle. There was a big discussion about the name to find for the studio, but this finally comes from the character 中 of 中间, which in Chinese means ‘something in between’. Chinese roots, after all our studio was born in China, our first seed was planted here and even if in the future we will move somewhere else, we will keep our base here. “In between”, we are in between, I feel in between of something, Europe and here. And this also gives me a feeling of anxiety because sometimes I don’t feel confortable in my own place - in this case China – due to the barrier of the language, since I don t speak Chinese for example. So yes, we are definitely in between.

F: An imperfect circle. Not an oval either, it is something ‘in between’, and it is exactly what it means in Chinese. It was born as an ‘O’ but it was never a perfect one, it was a deformed circle. Going deeper in exploring what perfection means you will find the imperfection, understanding that only in that place you can get closer to the perfection.

 

What is studio O and what will it be in ten years?

 

E: studio O is a studio of architecture, which is also enjoying to explore the wide surroundings of architecture, since this discipline is strongly linked with art, philosophy and many other different arts. So let’s see what will happen.

F: I would like to believe that studio O is still understanding how to define itself. We have been existing for 3 years, all the partners have very different backgrounds and the studio itself is adapting to daily different conditions. If we consider our projects, it might be even not possible to trace a clear link among them, but we are aware that this is also our strength. I hope in 10 years it will be more or less what it is today, with a smart evolution and adaptation to the future current time. But I also hope that it will remain as pure as possible. It means that we started all this in a really natural way and our main goals, from the beginning, are to enjoy every moment of it and to have fun - which doesn’t mean we are not serious about that. In every project we try to find the beauty and nice things about it. In a naïve way this is how I would like to think of it.

 

How was it born and why you chose to be in Caochangdi?

 

E: We didn’t want to be in the city but more in the boundaries, in fact we are – in Caochangdi – officially outside the 5th ring road. It was also the dimension of the village we really liked - we prefer to be here than having an office somewhere in a skyscraper - and the fact that we wished to have collaborations with artists. We didn’t discover Caochangdi, it was already famous for artists as Ai Weiwei. We also had a friend of us based in the village, the artist Not Vital, and I came here for the first time 5 years ago to visit his studio. I was working for another firm at the time, but in my mind it was already clear that, if once I could open my own studio, that would be in Caochangdi.

We opened studio O with Effi, one of my partners, because we had a shared idea about what architecture should be and what kind of path we wanted to explore. We kind of met by mistake through a Japanese architect friend of us, the same one who designed the studio for Not Vital. We would often meet for drinks at an usual time, around 3am or 4am, with this Japanese friend and yes, it was more like being ‘drinking’ buddies. But we finally started talking seriously, it was really natural, it was kind of cool. And while drinking we discovered that we had a common vision.

F: It started on a bar’s napkin. The day it was actually born I was having drinks with Enrico in this bar in the hutongs and we kind of had slightly more than just few drinks. Suddenly, we started to sketch and to speak about what studio O would be, and it was all done on this napkin, that I am afraid unfortunately disappeared. A lot of simple things were born that time, on that table of a bar. I guess drinking allowed us to feel freer to express our emotions or feelings. So free that we got to the technique, we were actually really precise about the business plan and how much we should invest. It was pretty amazing and it was done in a night of drinking. Everybody knew Caochangdi, and 3 years ago it was really the backyard of 798, where the real artistic production was happening. We thought that this environment, where people were creating and producing, would be somehow the right one for us. Previous experiences brought us to work in really chaotic surroundings and this was exactly everything we were not looking for. We were just looking for Caochangdi, which is a little bit of a Chinese monastery.

 

What are studio O’s goals? Have you been achieving them or reality is different?

 

E: First of all, the real problem is that I am never satisfied. That doesn’t have anything to do with the enjoyment of the results we achieve – which I am of course really happy about – but with the fact that I am always concentrated on the problems and on what is not working or could be better done next time. We didn’t set real goals, each project is a challenge. Even if it is a small one, we try to challenge ourselves in the study of some details or pushing the limits or explore technique abilities in China. Each intervention has its own goals but it is not about ‘ego’. We don’t have a ‘business strategy of development’, or anything like this. Everything is really spontaneous and we are constantly changing, as it is for the studio itself which is completely different compared to six months ago.

F: I think we achieved all goals, beyond expectations so far. It sound very pretentious but our goals were very humble and therefore our first one was to survive the initial period of an architecture office, which is not always very easy. With clear ideas in mind, we set the right goals and we achieved them in a pretty smooth way. For sure we also had difficult times, but I think that by working hard, putting ourselves in what we do day by day and being natural and spontaneous, brought us where we are today. After 3 years we are growing little by little, and this is part of the program of studio O.

 

What does studio o have that other studios don’t?

 

E: The white floor. For the rest, other people should say, I am too involved.

F: studio O’s strength is our way of doing things with the heart in a really sincere way. This is expressed through our works and through the relationship we have with our clients. It is a very natural pure way of working far from a pretentious or snob attitude, which are all issues we had to deal with in the past in our previous experiences. We want to create something really fresh, new, natural. We are not trying to make something different looking at the others, we just do what we like and it has been happening in a really good way so far.

 

What is the right formula for an architecture studio, in 2016, to be contemporary and global without loosing identity?

 

E: The identity is a big issue and it is even not a goal.  Each project just has its own one, according to the site, the genius loci, the inputs from the clients, the local materials. We absolutely don’t believe in homogenisation and this is why I would say that we are not maybe too smart business-wise and economic-wise speaking. We don’t have a catalog to show details - for example - that we always use, because we are trying to constantly find something new, to change something or to reinvent something through a long time big research process. But this is also why we enjoy to do it so much. Generally speaking, of course we are global, we are part of this world and we are influenced by the surrounding media, social media, everyone is global in a certain way. But with strong differences. Inside the studio we are provided with really remarked diversities as well, we are all from different countries – except for me and Cristiano. So yes we are global, but we keep our peculiarities which are the greatest richness of our society.

F: It is definitely not one of our goals to be global. We are obviously dealing with different architecture projects around the world but said that, what we would like to be is this kind of artisanal office that could be considered a contemporary way of franchising ourselves, in various parts of the world and adapting ourselves to other conditions respecting and understanding other cultures, going to other places with all our backgrounds and trying to make the difference.  When saying being global, I think identity is automatically lost. A studio should find what they are really specialized in and what they are really good at in order to leave a mark.

 

Gaobeidian intervention: dialog between old and new. How easy is it to judge what should be kept and what should be canceled forever? Is it actually possible without using personal filters?

 

E: Personal filters and unavoidable, each choice is made looking at the world through them. It is really subjective. But speaking for example about Gaobeidian intervention in the specific, what we chose to keep or not was kind of easy because of the restrictions, safety issues or masterplans. The intervention was made on a building from the 50s or 60s, so we are not here talking about buildings of 1000 years ago. But I still think that any choice is based on people’s own experience and sensibility, so an objective filter cannot exist, just a really subjective one. 

F: You have to use personal filters, and that is where you basically make it customized, your intervention will be different from any other studio. I am not only speaking about architecture studios, but about the individual difference from person to person. Even in the same office, if it is my operation I would see values that another person from the same office wouldn’t, and vice versa. It is difficult to detach ourselves. Also for us as architects, another important issue is considering what are the clients values and trying to find the right way to get them, because it is a bit missing the point if we are judging by ourselves without considering the clients behind.

 

751 intervention: what do you think is the biggest difference between Chinese and European concept of public space?

 

E: I think Chinese people have less filters, they do anything they wish on the street: they wash their hair, they play mahjong, they smoke cigarettes, they fight. In Europe it is different, we do have filters and we care about our appearance. We would never wear pajamas on the street, and this is something I really like about China, this honest sharing of the spaces. This really pure use of public is cool, our way is different because we are really aware of our image.

F: In China public spaces are still very precious and social, they are still used to get together and to create events, especially for the old generation. The new generation, though, adopts already the European way. So I don’t actually think there is such a big gap. The only one I see is that historically speaking, public spaces in Europe were way more important and we now consider the interior public spaces rather than the outdoor ones. In China it is the opposite, they don’t have this sort of interior public spaces, they are still enjoying the outdoors. So maybe it is also the time for the new generation to understand how to use them. Regarding the 751 intervention and the idea of creating this ‘theater’, it is about bringing back something nostalgic, people can come to read a newspaper or speak about something. It will be just amazing if they can feel that it is theirs, it is public. 

 

Where does studio O trace the border between architecture and art, where is the limit?

 

E: There is no limit, there are not limits between disciplines and here we are going back to the choice of being in Caochangdi. This is one of the main problems about universities and education, especially in Italy – other universities are more opened about it, for example in France the first year all kinds of arts are taught, painting, sculpture, and later you can choose to move forward with architecture – where you are only allowed to choose architecture as your specialization. The Italian methodology is such a shame, the other arts should also be part of the program, because architecture is so much contaminated by them, and it is reacher if there is dialog with other disciplines. Otherwise there is nothing, there is not soul.

F: This is an ongoing investigation. From what we have being seeing, architects have been trying more and more to get closer to artists and artists have been trying to get closer to architects, it is funny but it is true. I think architecture is really different from art, it is finally a really physical presence. That might be the case for art as well, but not always. Where is the border? As architects, we always have certain restrictions and budgets to respect, clients, basic needs that are not personal choices. I understand this can also happen to the artists, but this is where the border is. For example, our friend and Swiss artist Not Vital is always coming to our studio and while looking at what we are doing and how we are going through budget program deadlines issues, he is always shocked on how we can work with so many restrictions. It is really different from him, who is the client of himself and has more freedom even in basic technical condition. This is the main difference, the limit I don’t know, we are still trying to define, I would like to blur it. But it is still very far. 

 

What studio O would be if it was a a movie, an artwork, a trend or a –ism?

 

E: ‘Shining’, at night when we have all the lights on. I am waiting for the small kids to come.. kidding.

Really humbly speaking and comparing something really small to something really big, considering the way we are working and our approach - for which we are trying to connect many various disciplines - I see we have some seeds of the Bauhaus, where people with different skills were working together. This is what we wanted to create with Effi, a studio not just with architects but with graphic, videos, curators, where we can all share out different knowledge. 

F: It would be an O-ism.

If it was a movie, it would be ‘Arizona Dream’ by Kusturica. Every time watching this movie, people might have different feelings, one time crying, another one laughing, sometimes might get really depressed. This is how I like to imagine studio O, as something changing all the time. If it was an artwork, it would be a Basquiat, a very naive childish drawing where you can trace whichever for using whichever color and erase as you like, where there is just freedom.

 

Who are you, did you understand yet? Who will you be in ten years?

 

E: I am thirty-five, so I pretty much understand my body and my brain. I don’t know who I am going to be in the next ten years. I think I will still be Enrico but I hope not the same as now, and I wish to go through a path that will lead me to be different.

F: I am who I am. I am the son of an architect who was himself the son of another architect. So I guess I became an architect as well because of that, even if it was not my beginnings. I would like to believe that I am a real person and that in anything I do there is the intent to produce something good, either in architecture or any other field. In ten years, I hope to develop what I am today. As I already mentioned, I think I am becoming a better person day after day, and this cannot be separated from being a better architect. This is what I am today, myself. And I would like to keep being myself also in ten years or twenty years or until whenever I can.

 

What are your goals as a person? And what are the ones as a human being?

 

E: As a person, I don’t really have goals at the moment, as creating a family or that kind of things. If it will, it will happen naturally. I would like to grow more cultural-wise, I would like to read more, to do different things not only concerning architecture. I would like to have more time for myself in order to enrich my knowledge. If I work 24h a day I am not able to do this, I could become a really good architect who even doesn’t have the time to read a book. As a human being, for me it is also related to the time you can use to grow. Growing as a human being could come from an interior research, but also from doing good things. Time to think, not only about the profession, this is what I miss now. To think, both wide and personal.

F: Isn’t it the same? I relate myself as a human being and as a person and definitely not as a personality whatsoever. For sure I have my personality but still as a really common person in the middle of this humanity.

 

But is it more important to set goals or to achieve them?

 

E: Most important is to fail goals. I always find more energy when I cannot achieve something, when I cannot do it, when there is something not going in the right direction. This is how I feel pushed to do it better and how I learn more and find more motivation from the mistakes. When I achieve a goal I think I am done.

F: Neither. I think it is very important to set goals and definitely to achieve them, but the most important is the ‘travel’ from the moment you set it to the moment you reach it, the ‘in between’ point.

 

What is your personal relationship with time – past, present, future – and how is it influencing your architecture?

 

E: On the personal side, the past is extremely important to me. It is about my roots, my family, the memories of my grandpa and old friends. I am able to understand through the past who I am right now. And also through the traces of special people I met during my life, that might not be here anymore but who I still feel being with me.

As an architect, it is important as well. Everything comes from the past, we are now doing the contemporary, we are living our daily life but all that culture and the history of architecture, so fundamental, are all coming from the past. Present and future, who knows.

F: First of all I am very conscious that no matter what I lived in the past is influencing what I am doing in the present, I know exactly what I went through in my life as a person in the past. Since I ever remember myself as child and the simple and basic experiences I had, they all formed my person as I am now. I guess we are the result of our previous experiences, and even if this is a 'cliché', only with the understanding of those you can be really on top of how you live your present. As for the future, my relationship with it is really odd, I would like to live day by day. My future is tomorrow and it is not after tomorrow. I don t know what I will do in a couple of days, where I will travel next. This is the most far I can see.

In architecture it is pretty much the same, first of all because my personal life is totally linked to my professional one, in a good and in a bad way, since it is all about feelings and experiences, so I rather not detach it from it. This is my relation: Effi as an architect, in the past present and future.

 

Is there actually a time or it is a continuum?

 

E: I think it is a continuum, there is not a line. “Panta Rei”, as someone would say.

F: I think there is a very defined time. You can blur these limits but you still have a very clear a past. Nowadays the speed of time is so fast that even the perception of time changed a lot, but it is definitely there. I started to answer your question and I feel that ii is already passed. It is flowing. There is a clear past and future, the present is more fuzzy.

 

You live far away from your roots: that was brave. What is your relationship with space/distance as a person and as an architect?

 

E: Being far away from roots brought me a new perception of distance. Six years ago I would look to Asia from Europe as somewhere really far away. Now I fly fourteen hours to go back home and I feel it is like taking the bus from Caochangdi to Lama Temple. The idea of distance changed radically for me in the last years and since when I have been living here, I really feel the world is more compact.

Architecture is also about space and distances, there are various specializations involved in it but in the end it is about space and how you shape it. Going back to discuss the social and environment-friendly architecture, more than how to shape the space it is how to think social and green, looking at the future. The entire generation doing crazy staff is gone, we have to face a limit of resources and cannot keep going crazy for personal ego or national pride or success of a company. That is a complete failure.

F: I wouldn’t again detach the person from the architect. I grew up in a family that was traveling all the time. My roots are not as deep as many other people, which in some cases I would consider being positive – as you are for instance more flexible – some others not really, since sometimes I wish I had roots just to hold on in one place. My Jewish side comes from my father, who is coming from Russia and Poland, and my Swiss side from my mother, coming from a family half catholic and half protestant. So I am asking myself what my roots are. If you ask me where my home is I would answer that it is the place where I would sleep tonight. I really don’t have only one place that I can define home anymore. And it is somehow positive because it makes me easily feel home: I feel home in Milano, in Tel Aviv, in Geneva, in Zurich, in Beijing. I am pretty happy to be in this condition but sometimes I really envy people saying that they are missing home, since this is factor is a blurry one for me as well.

 

Do you think that the real integration between different cultures achieved once the differences are leveled or once understood how deep they are?

 

E: I think it is fundamental to understand how deep differences are, it would be a huge mistake trying to level them. Otherwise we would become all the same and that would be sad. As sad as looking at these Chinese cities, for instance Beijing, where the capitalistic imprinting is so strong and every place looks more and more the same. Homogenisation in Chinese society is prevalent and it is worrying since it is necessary to preserve the distances, China shouldn’t model itself based on Europe or the US. We don’t need to level, we just need to respect each other. As we can experience looking at the many China towns abroad, it is maybe not integration but there is respect and everyone is living their own life, it is a good coexistence.

F: I don’t think we should reach a real integration, and I don t think that it is even possible other than not very useful. I think an identity should be kept and understood in a deep way, but that is not what can define us. Different people, different cultures. For me it is more about knowing about each other and respecting each other. Integration is a more political act, but culture can sometimes jump the political borders. I once had a professor, at the time mayor of Venice, philosopher Massimo Cacciari. He was talking about integration in terms of an utopia that would never happen, as a united Europe communicating through only one language. Actually, this idea of the European Union created even a stronger identities, a little bit as in Medieval times, considering for instance cases as Catalunia and many others. So what is integration? I feel it is a forced process.

In conclusion, for sure it is not about leveling and the key words are the respect and the understanding of each other. It is an exchange that needs to be really smooth and wanted from both sides.

 

Do you wish to give a contribution to this as an architect and as a person living abroad?

 

E: According to the reasons I previously explained, I don’t really see the point of giving a contribution for integration. For sure I would love to give some for other aspects, as we already said.

F: I hope I am and I know I am, but I also feel that I am not the only one to contribute to this. Other people – as in this Chinese experience – are contributing for me. I am receiving a lot from China and Chinese people, and I can say the same about wherever I have been to in my life. I didn’t come as a colonialist here, I came to absorb. And to give, of course. It happens everywhere: you take and you give.

 

What is your limit?

 

E: I have my limits of course, there are due to the level of my strength, to my body.

I don’t have any defined ones, of course the limits caused by my education and my way of thinking. But it really depends on how you read the word “limits”. Honestly I feel pretty free. I put my limits and society also does, so we are limited of course. What we do is to play between them. 

F: I would like to believe that I don t have any limit, but if you don t have any limit you already put yourself in a limit. Anything I do does have limits but I don t like to define them so. I would like to understand how I can deal with certain situations. I think that the real limits are set by other people and not by myself. Yes we do have them but we don’t necessary have to define them, so that they don’t exist anymore. Also - you know - we are architects and our job is to create limits. What is a wall? It is a limit. But it depends on how you deal with that. I lived previously in Israel, so I know well what it means to live in a place where a wall separates cultures. The limits are set by other people. I would not limit my limits by defining them.

 

Can you break it?

 

E: Yes we can break limits. We put our limits so we can also break them.

F: Naively, I don t have any. Just air...