Interview: Mario Coppola

Students: About parametric design education: Do you think that parametric design, modeling computer programs and operation of 3D robotic machines have to be included as a discipline in the universities? As we can see, now parametric approach and natural forms in architecture is implemented by the leading architectural companies, however, there are few courses that can be studied by students in the universities.

Mario Coppola: Yes, of course. If we think of schools and courses of architecture, we have to understand that technologies developments and advances have always been part of architectural developments and transformations. Modernism, for example, took advantage from the industrial revolution, from the standardization and industrialization of building processes, and a lot of the modernist language came just from this transformation of science and technique. For the same rea- son, it is crucial nowadays to understand and to learn the basics of the new striking industrial revolution – or post-industrial revolution: many people think that via informatics and 3d printing technologies it’s the beginning of a third industrial revolution, and we can easily imagine that this will bring many, many changes and news in architecture as well as in other areas of human life.

SAbout career as an architect: As a young architect and architecture researcher, we can see that practice in Europe is not easy in recent years. What do you think is the essential mission for young architects? To get more chances of real-life project or to build his/her own system of architectural thinking? Additionally, when you become a quite experienced architect, (let’s say, 10 years later maybe), would you prefer to teach in a university or run a design company?

MCWell, this is a very complex and delicate question. To be honest I think that it is a personal one: it depends from you, from what you are expecting from your life, the way you feel more realized and comfortable with your work. I am not sure that there is a “mission” for everyone, maybe not just “one”: if you are a creative and independent person, maybe you will not be satis ed just to build another building like all the others already built, so you will just look for something else. In history, great architects were always guided by their talent, their capacity to look and criticize the world and so by their cu- riosity to do something new, something that could be able to change – maybe not the entire world but, at least, something. It can be a very naive way of thinking but, on the other hand, it can avoid a life of sterile repetition, of non-sense working. Maybe a good idea would be trying to do both, to create your own “theoretical” system and to build your own “theoretical” system and to build something in real life: the problem, of course, will be to be consistent, and I think it is hard but not impossible. Coming to me, I am actually trying to teach in a university (I am contract professor of Architectural Design in the Department of Architecture of Naples – DiARC) as well as I am trying to make my own way as an independent designer and architect (you can see my works at http://www.ecosistemastudio.com) and, so far, I am happy about my trial.

S: About link between civilization and bio-sphere: In your opinion, how do we make humans aware of the link between civilization and biosphere?

MCWell, I do not believe there is one answer to this question. It’s not mechanical, there is not one true magic formula that you can apply to ensure that humans are aware of something. Sometimes – many times – people do not want to be aware of anything and, in this case, there is simply nothing that you can do. I can probably say what I decided to do as an architect and a teacher: you know, art – and I strongly think architecture is a form of art – is free, you can do whatever you feel that is honest and possibly effective in relation to what you want to say – or to do. So maybe you should ask yourself: “what can I create in order to touch – and possibly change – the consciousness of people about the link between them and the biosphere?”. The only restrictions are your skills and your creativity, and the answers could be many: my own research tries to effectively hybridize architecture – as a historical, anthropic structure – and living structures, their real shape, their inner structure (that is both anatomy and physiology), their way to be deeply connected, differentiated, woven together. To me – but, I underline, it is a very personal position – the aim is to imagine a bio or a zootecture that is able to break down any barriers between what is usually considered to be “human” and what is considerate “natural”, i.e. able to communicate with its language, its spaces, its figures and its structures a profound connection to both human and biosphere worlds, in order to change the current relation of extraneousness/unfamiliarity/prevarication with a symbiosis. This is what in these years worldwide thinkers call nature-culture continuum.

SAbout ecosistema design: From the Golden Ratio in the classic world, searching the rules of beauty; to the anthropic and animal shapes of cities and defence system of Francesco di Giorgio in the renaissance age; going on the the studies on the iperbole of Antoni Gaudi for the structures of Sagrada Familia and its buildings, until the dynamic shapes of the postmodern contemporary style. The man has always observed the nature for defining the rules of its architecture and its artificial world. They give us rules of proportion and quality of spaces. They suggest ideal structures and functional organisation. About Your researches and studies, or simply for Your personal feeling, there is one or more field, element or rules of nature that give you more attraction, thoughts and interest?

MCTo me, the concept beside “negentropy” is very interesting and enriching: Edgar Morin – the “father” of the current complexity theory and contemporary eco-philosophies – uses it to combine order and complexity (from latin: cum-plexus, i.e. “woven together”), to say that in nature everything is connected to the rest and natural structures simply display this capacity of interconnection, interrelation and interdependence. If we want to synthesize and trivialize to the extreme, the point could be this: in nature each element is dependent from the others, each species depends from external balances, resources, other species and so on. There is never simple juxtaposition but everything is dynamically interacting with all the rest and you cannot “move” or “touch” anything without compromising the entire ecosystem: we feel this feature every time we walk through a natural landscape – a beach, a forest, a cave – and we feel its beauty as there is a deep link with our own nature, our body, our dna (it is shown that this property has the power to calm and to focus us). It’s about the topological property of living geometries where there is no strain, addition or subtraction but continuity and interdependence of all the elements, even those that are not actually living but are still influenced and shaped together via atmospheric agents (just think to the continuous differentiation of the rocks that have been eroded by the wind or the water, for example). I believe this is the heart of an eco-philosophy (where there is not a subject that can hold and dominate a “separated” object but everything is strictly close and connected) and possibly of an eco-tecture.

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