A design studio nestling in Barcelona houses two Italian guys, who are looking to leave their architectural imprint on the world. With ongoing projects in Russian, Brazil and Spain, they’ve now got their eyes set on a canoe club in Messina Sicily. Swide's Ben Taylor caught up with CaSA to find out more.
There is something romantic about the idea: leaving your homeland, forming an established architectural studio and returning to make your mark on a famous coastal landscape. Well, that is exactly what Andrea Serboli and Matteo Colombo of CaSA Architecture are hoping to do with the famous Thalatta Canoe Club of Messina in Sicily.
The duo has drafted an impressive proposal for the renewal of the club, one which has been building (literally) on its reputation since 1938. They want to challenge the perception of the site, a site which sits against a backdrop which, itself, holds a huge presence.
The infamous Fata Morgana on the horizon.
Utilising the theme of Fata Morgana into this idea - an Italian phrase to explain the complex mirages that a the distant horizon seem closer (on the sea for example, as seen above) - they want to incorporate, ‘a stripe that is railing and sunshade at the same time blends the elements of which the building is composed, creating the illusion of reflections’. This will be explained further below.
It’s the location that has inspired the use of Fata Morgana and they are interested in bringing it from the horizon line of sea level to urban level. This isn’t the first time that CaSA Architecture have worked with the urban landscape (a project in Brussels was met with great success), and so it’s exciting to see what could happen if their Sicilian proposal gets snapped up.
The urban project of Brussels
To get a clearer insight into the work of Andrea and Matteo, I caught up with them to get the low down on this Sicilian adventure:
Tell me about your studio CaSA Architecture
We, founded CaSA over two years ago in Barcelona, shortly after meeting each other.
We built different backgrounds before moving to Barcelona: Andrea has great experience in landscape architecture and public spaces and studied and worked in Lisboa and Buenos Aires, while Matteo has studied and worked in Milan and Dublin mainly on housing, retail and interiors. This allows us to offer a wider range of approaches and scales. By complementing each other, architecture, interiors, design, branding and corporate image, are all in our vocabulary, with a philosophy of using the project limits as guidelines, define a strong concept, and maximizing and concentrating resources in few key elements.
Currently we’re working on a small studio apt. in Sitges, a flat and a big house in Barcelona (all refurbishments), building three little holiday houses in Paraty, on the coast of Brazil, we started to design a luxury multi-brand fashion store in the heart of Saint Petersburg for Babochka, and have a delicious collaboration with Marangoni, a crafty chocolate brand for which we’ll develop a limited edition product and packaging. We take every project, big or small, as a challenge., and we’re interested in upcoming markets.
Andrea and Matteo photographed by Paul Sepuya
Seeing as you are both Italian, how do you feel your heritage and knowledge of Italy has influenced your approach to the Thalatta Canoe Club project?
The Italian schools of architecture have something good, which lies in its profound interest in analytical research of the whys and the attention to detail.
We think in our approach to the Thalatta project this way of work is rather evident.; as much as in any other project of our studio, we define a clear concept and bring it down to the last detail. Everything contributes to make the initial idea even more manifest, the concept which dominates the whole project from the volumes down to the technical details.
Tell me more about the use of Fata Morgana and how this figure and form of mirage connect to the work you are both doing in Messina.
The canoe club's very own Fata Morgana incorporated into the railing and sunshade.
We were looking for an idea that being contemporary would be strongly and deeply rooted in the territory and its culture. Messina is Andrea’s city, so we had knowledge of the place.
Fata Morgana is a mythological figure that, even though having Celtic culture origins, has become the most important of the Strait of Messina.
This kind of mirage that still bears her name fits well to the situation of the project site. Messina was in fact rebuilt after the earthquake of 1908 on top of its ruins and this has created a sort of double horizon: the line of the sea (do not forget that Messina is a linear city that follows the sea for almost 40 km) and the one almost three metres higher, on which the current city lies.
The illusion called "Fata Morgana" has precisely this feature: it splits the horizon in two and mirrors the images above the higher horizon below it. This fits perfectly with our will to create two parallel realities in the project, both at city level (the area of the historic Club with its hall and terrace) and at sea level (the area of the sport Club with equipment, gym and remittance of canoes).
In your proposal, you mention juxtaposed intervention with regards to the canoe club. This is obviously an unavoidable form of development and redevelopment that buildings and sites go through and is seen all over the world. When is juxtaposed intervention limiting?
Generally speaking it is fascinating to take into account the pre-existing layers. The ‘Place’ always gives great suggestions, it teaches you, silently. So we always prefer to let ourselves be guided by the ‘Genius loci’. As we mentioned, we like to transform the project limits into assets. It works, and to listen to the place is always a good start.
In the case of the Thalatta Club we tried first to adapt the project to the existing structure, but we then discovered that, in order to comply with modern regulation, it was more expensive to refurbish then to rebuild its old metal structure. Nonetheless our project follows the pre-existing structures, as a way to continue the historical layering.
The Messina coast and Thalatta Canoe Club highlighted.
This is a canoe club you’re dealing with. Are CaSa any good on water?
Yes indeed we are. Andrea has license for kayak, and can do kite-surf and surf. As for Matteo, he goes to swim in a pool in front of the sea every morning he can.
You’re also in tune with social media and blogging. What is it you want to do with social media platforms?
We use these media to communicate our work and research, to reach to new people and market our studio. Our website is the most ‘official’ one, while our facebook allows us to keep people updated on our day-to-day work (photos on building site, things we do, conferences, etc..) and tumblr we have used it especially at the beginning not only as a promotion tool, but to show what we like define our style and what is “CaSA” and what’s not (although recently we neglect it a bit).
Social medias also allow collaborations with people in other disciplines: through them we recently contact the great portraits photographer Paul Sepuya to take studio shots of us. We always try to match the image we project with the philosophy of the studio, that’s uncomplicated, straightforward and we think, fresh.
Tell me a stereotype of architects that isn’t true?
It’s a great question! Unfortunately most stereotypes are real.
A topic that’s not always true: all architects have beautiful homes. Architecture is too serious a discipline, to be taken too seriously.
For more from CaSa Architecture, follow the links below:
Interviewed and written by Ben Taylor
Image of photo on coffee table by Paul Sepuya