Eco-architecture, responsible and sustainable architecture, bio- or natural architecture... An interview with Emanuele Bottigella / Tiziana Monterisi, Nova Civitas - Architecture office of Cittadellarte Fondazione Pistoletto
Cristiana Bottigella: What is sustainability in architecture according to you?
Emanuele Bottigella / Tiziana Monterisi: An intense research of materials with natural or recycled origin represents the first step to encourage a deep and radical change in “construction art”. The Natural Architecture believes that sustainability is above all an investment in human intellect as a resource, because the awareness that the impact of our choices can inevitably affect everything that surrounds us, is a necessary behaviour to living socially. Natural Architecture is therefore not just a formal discipline but also a technological one, an integration to the architectural form that along with progress addresses the theme in a structural and rational way.
Natural Architecture (also known as sustainable, eco-compatible or bio-architecture) should respect two essential fundamentals: the respect for humankind and the respect for the environment. Today these principles have become lost perhaps blinded by the dream of International Style, but luckily for many years they have been the basis for Architecture.
CB: The Architecture Office was born within Cittadellarte. What do you think are the connections between art and architecture?
EB/TM: In 2007 the Architecture Office gave birth to Nova Civitas, a company designing and marketing products of sustainable architecture. In this enterprise a consistent aesthetic and ethic expression of creativity is essential, which is also behind all the activities by Cittadellarte whose mission is to “Inspire and produce a responsible change in society through ideas and creative projects.” The products we create and sell are the result of careful research. We also collect and exhibit these items, that mainly come from natural or recycled materials, resulting from a synergy between technology and accountability towards the environment.
Cittadellarte is a model of artistic and cultural institution that puts the art in direct interaction with the various sectors of society. A place where ideas and projects converge, that combine creativity and entrepreneurship, training and production, politics and spirituality, ecology and architecture. The mission of Cittadellarte is incorporated in the myth of the Third Paradise (New Sign of Infinity by Michelangelo Pistoletto, 2003), a new level of civilization created by the merger between the first and second paradises, the very basic elements on the planet.
This concept is also reflected in the field of architecture as it places the living as a primary hub of the organic relationship between the person and the environment. The house is the third skin for all of us: the first is the epidermis, the second is the house and the third one is the skin that we build around the house, which is the protection for excellence, but also the connection between the individual and society. The home sets the relations between individuals and the complexity of common life.
In all the housing nucleus, society is formed and organized. Hence the concept of Living Housing Organisms, because we intend home as alive thing, part of nature. We create this organic skin, just as we are organic, we and the world around us. The birth of such a company within Cittadellarte is a statement of commitment that art and architecture are in the process of responsible social transformation.
CB: How is it possible to imagine for eco-architecture a role, not merely functional but able to stimulate thought and reflection on the contemporary world?
EB/TM: What Nova Civitas suggests is a concrete alternative to the use of materials from the petrochemical industry. We look for eco-compatible products necessary for eco-friendly construction....
...and we are looking to upgrade an architecture which becomes ethically, culturally and technically deeply committed to returning the territory, the city and house, to be a living organism again, part of a larger ecological system that seeks for balance: a “slow-tech” architecture, less technology and more simplicity, a beautiful (aesthetic sustainability) clean (environmental sustainability) and right (social sustainability) architecture. We think that this ethic is perfectly in line with the problems and the expectations of the contemporary culture and society....
CB: Does it make sense to you to propose a return to the past, and to traditional materials while the world is increasingly spreading an “international style” buildings which are not required to give a more aesthetic strong bond with the culture of the place where built?
EB/TM: Through careful and not nostalgic reading of history and tradition of good build, you can resume an interrupted technology path, giving practicality to a forgotten wisdom and recovering, with contemporary instruments, to give simple answers to basic needs such as living healthily. The sustainability of a material is defined in relation to reducing the minimum terms of its environmental impact related to the life cycle. In short, a material is much more sustainable because the less the energy consumption and waste, and this applies to all stages,...
... from extraction of raw materials to the realization, by cycles of intermediate processing packaging, transportation and distribution, use and consumption and possible reuse or recycling, and lately for its disposal.
CB: Statistics show that one billion people around the world now live in city slums and their numbers are set to double over the next 25 years. Sustainable architecture can play a role in the design of these areas and homes?
EB/TM: The respect for humankind and for the environment in sustainable project planning can be exercised in many different ways. We aim at improving people’s quality of life, looking to satisfy the needs of wellbeing that are both physical and psychological, and that’s possible by putting first the lives of those living and their safeguard now and in the future.
Using eco-compatible and preferably local materials of natural origin or recycled, a lot can be done to change this, especially in the developing countries where raw naturals materials are abundant and energy is in shortage. We can call it a sort of dematerialisation: less materials in order to obtain the same or better efficiency.