Interview of:

Alfonso Femia


From Realtà Mapei International n° 74 - 5/27/2019

Perception-based architecture

Interview with the architect Alfonso Femia, who designed Dallara Academy.

Location icon Varano De' Melegari

In 2017 your project entitled Dallara Motorsport Academy won the prestigious prize for “Best Future Building of the Year - Under Construction” at the ABB Leaf Awards. Do you see that as a crowning point in your career or a new beginning?

All projects are a continuation of those that preceded them and a stepping stone towards those that follow, so it is just a stage in a journey giving me the enthusiasm and courage to experiment and dialogue with architectural design.


During the presentation you described the Dallara Academy as “a complex focusing on the topography of the land, its incorporation in the landscape, and the two ways it can be perceived (from the outside and from the inside)”. Is the surrounding landscape always an important part of a project?

We love to imagine, to treat a project as the desire and responsibility to create a landscape within the landscape or, in other words, to attempt to interact and converse with the setting, a way of attaching to it and revealing its traces or the ways in which it might evolve. The setting is important because it forces us to think, to slow down and open our eyes to see places and territories, i.e. the community.


The Academy is not just an exhibition space, it is above all a training centre. How much did that affect your project?

It is the most important part of all, because it brings into play the future in constant interaction with the past (history) and the present (experimentation). It is the pulsating heart and soul that we attempted to turn into something almost sacred, enveloping it in a space that only takes in light from the sky. A pause, a slowing down in the mechanical dynamics of the other spaces.


The other striking thing about Dallara Academy is the use of only very “stony”, textured materials and the incorporating of natural light and glass on the inside. Is this a leitmotif in your projects or is it just a one-off?

We always engage directly with materials. Every material has a soul and architectural design is the coming together of people and the soul a place has. Material reacts and interacts with light. It can make a building and its spaces either full of life or ascetic. It takes constant research and experimentation to bring together thought and action.


The importance of building materials in architecture. How have the selecting and introduction of new materials changed building work? How much does it help to be able to count on fully-tested cutting-edge products like those Mapei manufactures?

Focusing on materials means constant interaction with research carried out by companies investing in innovating, providing and developing products and solutions really in synch with projects, their intrinsic qualities and durability over time. This kind of interaction needs to return to how it was in the Renaissance, when everything was fundamental and related to everything else.


In this project, a notion of high-quality architecture takes pre-cedence, partly underlined by the products used. Do clients realise the importance of good architecture and quality products?

Good architecture means good design, good design means quality interaction between thinking, action, materials and dreams. We believe in perception-based architecture in which “all our actions come from perceptions” as Leonardo da Vinci taught us.


Project data sheet

Yard exterior and interior interventions
Location Varano De' Melegari, Italy
Subcategory MUSEUM
Built in 2017
Opened in 2018
Application supply of products for new construction and installation of ceramics
Start and finish date 2017/2018
Application Type Cementitious & resin flooring systems, Floor/wall covering, Admixtures for concrete, Waterproofing systems
Contractor company MARIO NERI SPA
Architects AF517 - Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia
Specialists involved AF517 - Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia
Credits image courtesy of AF517 | copyright Stefano Anzini
MAPEI Coordination Carlo Alberto Rossi - Francesco Di Chiara - Andrea Bettini (Mapei SpA)
Realtà Mapei Tags: #architecture #interview #insights

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