Interview with Pietro Carlo Pellegrini: "building inside a building" - ISPLORA
Pietro Carlo Pellegrini

Pietro Carlo Pellegrini: "building inside a building"


Our interview with architect Pellegrini on rebuilding and redesigning historic buildings and on research as an integral part of being an architect.

Architect Pietro Carlo Pellegrini, what does being one of the ambassadors at the Italian Design Day mean to you? Which message and lesson can we export to countries outside Italy?

The mission carried out in Luanda – Angola was very interesting and emotional, I held two conferences, the first one on March 20 and the second one on March 21, 2019, both at CEICA - Centro de Estudos e Investigação Científica de Arquitectura ULA - Universidade Lusíada de Angola. The first one was institutional and the second one was for university students. In both cases I was in front of large audiences, press and TV journalists, and at the end of the lectures I was asked many interesting questions, which flattered me because this showed interest for the topics discussed and the message I wanted to convey. In my opinion it proved the attention and recognition for our country and our way of designing when aimed at reusing historic buildings.

In your projects you have often had to work in and on historic contexts, how could you define the operation of “building inside a building”? What does relating with the historic heritage mean, from a compositional point of view?

Building on what is already built means attention, research, knowledge dedicated to the history of architecture narrated by the buildings if we are lucky – and patient enough – to work on. I mention luck, because when you have the chance to design inside a factory with a thousand-year-old history, made of events which are whispered to you by its materials, shapes and proportions, it provides unique joy and a great opportunity. Patience, because “reusing” a historic building means praising calm thoughts, informed decisions, where no mistakes are allowed and “respect” is a word which cannot be forgotten.

To give a shape to these thoughts, could you tell Isplora’s editorial staff something more about the project for the Recovery of the Ex Furnace in Riccione? In this case the intervention was marked by a different use of bricks, which not only allows us to recognize the new part, but also explores new uses of this material. Could you explain the compositional and technological choices?

The project won a competition held by the City of Riccione, which I took part in with a group of construction companies with UNIECO as their agent. The intervention was respectful of the ruins of the ex furnace Pigna, a Milan-based company, which represented an important workplace for Riccione and marked the life of many people.

The main choice was to have the extant building, represented by exposed bricks, dialog with a new industrial brick element built by Fosdondo Furnace, used to build the new parts which had deteriorated over time, creating a contemporary look and at the same time generating a dialog between the extant and the new parts by using the same building mixture, that is clay. 

A different attitude was used for the Giuseppe Garibaldi Memorial on the island of Caprera and the restoration of the Ex Convent of San Domenico in Canicattì, carried out with Paolo Portoghesi (head of the group), Marco Casamonti, Maurizio Cucurullo and Antonio Nicosia. Stone, of different types on the two islands, emerges powerfully in both the renovation and the new volumes. Which were the design choices in these two cases? Which were the most important building details?

The project of the Giuseppe Garibaldi Memorial was made for the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy and restored a 19th century military fort, Fort Arbuticci, where reuse is dedicated to the “Hero of Two Worlds” by using the materials present, revisited with new details. I am thinking of Sardinian granite and iron left to rust, aside from the fitting-out of the exposition areas, treated in a neutral way so as to better show the objects on display and the multimedia galleries.

In front of the four exhibition areas, there is Piazza Italia, a sculptural public space where the stylized shape of Italy, built with a red stone mosaic made by Asin Pavimenti, is transformed into flooring and seating. The work was carried out in just 8 months and this was possible thanks to the mission unit of the Presidency of the Council and the building company Edilerica Appalti e Costruzioni from Rome.

As to the work in Canicattì, it lasted several years, a project which involved several professionals, a nice experience because it was carried out with people who think highly of each other and are united by friendship as well as architecture. Designers guided by a master of architecture such as Paolo Portoghesi, who with his elegance and knowledge imparted safety and beauty.

In parallel to your professional activity, you have always carried out research and teaching activities. What does “continuing professional development” for architects mean for architect Pietro Carlo Pellegrini? According to CNAPPC (National Council of Architects, Planners, Landscape Architects and Conservationists) professional updating policies and methods are necessary, what would you suggest?

Research and teaching are an integral part of being an architect and I am sure training and education must be continuous and curious in looking for new ways that, at times, can undermine everything you have said and done, because only with these actions you can grow and find new stimuli to design.

Credits today are mandatory for architects and this has meant that many conferences which in the past were only for few enthusiasts, today are crowded because of the interest for that signature which confirms attendance at the event. What I suggest is to talk more and with strength about good architecture and less about regulations, because beauty can make us feel better. The rest is only a consequence and must not be the main aspect of the project.


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