“Architects and Architecture is in a privileged position to face the environmental challenge, collaborating and allying with science and technology to help define a way of building that respects nature”, says Alfonso Femia, Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia
What you think can mitigate the effects of climate change?
Forests are fundamental for the survival of our species and can contribute to mitigating the effects of climate change, this has been verified in scientific terms and widely disseminated to all sections of the population around the world using appropriate language. However, this does not mean that it is a locally or globally received message. The apparently climate change denier attitude of Brazil’s President, Bolsonaro, is a clear demonstration of it. Political awareness is an element that is positioned upstream in forestation strategies and it is also strongly related to an environmental awareness that puts water management at the forefront.
Forest fires are a growing challenge across the world. What do you have to say on this?
The fires in the Amazon and in Australia highlight a dramatic situation, which is a direct consequence of climate change. If you add to these events the political will to deforest the lands in order to create space for crops and new urban centers, it accelerates to a point where turning back is not possible anymore. Territories must be respected, now more than ever, and if it is absolutely necessary to transform them, it must be done with great caution.
What is the significance of Sustainable design and Green architecture for you?
I do not like labels, “sustainable design” and “green architecture” just remain words, if one does not understand their real meaning. Architects and Architecture is in a privileged position to face the environmental challenge, collaborating and allying with science and technology to help define a way of building that respects nature. Each of my projects is sustainable, meaning that I feel responsible for the environment and for man, through the research of balance between territory and matter.
Tell us about the safety in buildings.
The buildings that “go into crisis” today and suffer from pathologies so serious as to endanger the lives of those who live in them – a painful example is the Grenfell Tower in London, destroyed by a fire in 2017 – have been built 30 or 40 years ago, a historical moment when building speculation mortified design and technological quality and supplies were contracted without paying attention to the durability of the materials and to environmental factors. So, now we are paying for the bad building policies that the western area had chosen to undertake from 1950 until about 1980/1990. This is an assessment related only to part of the construction of that period which counts many excellent examples and cutting-edge experiments, in the field of social housing, infrastructure, service sector, etc.
You have done many projects so far? Which are the ones very close to your heart and why?
In twenty-five years of work – this year my studio turns a quarter century old – I have designed many buildings in Italy and France. Among the most recent: Dallara Academy in Parma (Italy, 2018), the new BNL-BNP Paribas headquarters in Rome (Italy, 2016), Les Docks de Marseille (France, 2016), The Corner in Milan (Italy, 2019), a residential complex for social housing in Milan and Paris (2020).
Recently my studio has won international competitions for the First State Mint of Italy in Rome, an innovative accommodation system in Europacity/Paris (France), for the new city of Sports in Cosenza (Italy), and for the Annecy Campus in France. As I said before, the Milanese Ice Factory project, realized in 2008, is very close to my heart.
What is your philosophy to success?
Education is essential. The school of architecture determines the cultural background and imagery an architect draws from. To travel, to see, to discover and get to know things is part of the architect’s education, it contributes to their maturation and growth. Architecture is the social, cultural and time meeting value, it is and must remain a discipline of Humanism!