Michele Bonino and Subhash Mukerjee founded MARC an architectural practice based in Italy in the year 2006. The office was subsequently invited to the Italian Pavilion in the “International Architectural Exhibition, Venice Biennale” (2010) and was the finalist at the “Gold Medal for Italian Architecture” (Triennale di Milano, 2009).
The firm has gone on to garner several important feathers in its cap. Presently, Michele Bonino teaches architectural design at the Politecnico di Torino and collaborates with Hanyang University in Seoul, Korea and with Tsinghua University in Beijing, China; Subhash Mukerjee teaches at the Politecnico di Torino and at the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC).
This is what the firm has to say about itself, “MARC’s path is alternative and individual, producing a free and personal language that cannot be attributed to codings or pre-established styles. We use a mature, autonomous language, independent from schemes and full of critical visions”. It is no coincidence that in 2008, just two years after the firm was inaugurated, Luca Molinari, one of the most popular connoisseurs of Italian contemporary architecture, selected MARC as being among the top “young architects” in Italy.
Through an exclusive interview with MARC, Home Review managed to unearth several well-hidden (or maybe even not) architectural secrets that drive this firm’s processes. Design lovers and architecture buffs alike are sure to enjoy what the team shared with us.
How would you describe your signature style?
Our style lies in our design method – we never look for a specific form or for a certain final result. Our method is an open one: all our projects deal with the architectural problem at hand. We work a lot at identifying it; solving that problem is our first design step. Other architectural steps are then consequential. The final result is partly unknown, but always interesting. Well, we think, this is our style.
The designs of public institutions are often offered to the most ‘iconic’ architects. How do you feel about this trend, and how do you work in a system like this and continue to create thoughtful, meaningful architecture?
We understand the need of public institutions to over-emphasise the look of their buildings. We don’t consider this trend to be very wise; we are more concerned with what happens with “common” buildings, the ones that are really shaping the city. If public and private investors were able to understand the importance and the value of quality architecture, our cities would be far more beautiful.
Are you concerned about environmental and social sustainability in your buildings? If so, what role does a green building play in your work?
We are concerned with the overall sustainability of our buildings, not only environmental and social, but also economical sustainability. We like to optimise on the use of resources, and we are constantly looking for ways to let as many people as possible have access to quality projects.
With this in mind and in partnership with colleagues, Matias Echanove and Rahul Srivastava, we are now commencing work on some informal settlements in Bombay, where we think that architects can play an interesting role. In the meantime we are learning a lot from local building habits and technologies. Based on these thoughts green buildings as they are commonly intended play quite a limited role in our projects.
Our priorities are the creation of creative and efficient spaces and limitation of costs; we try to look for alternative ways of planning architectural spaces.
What do you feel is the greatest challenge when it comes to designing for environmental sustainability?
It is undeniable that environmental sustainability is presently the most urgent issue, not only in architecture. But we think that the greatest challenge has little to do with just technology, even if this is what people mostly refer to when it comes to sustainability: the real challenge is the inevitable change that should happen in everybody’s lifestyles, and even more in everybody’s aspirations and values. We live most of our lives trying to pursue goals like – more wealth, more space, more comfort; this will soon prove to be outdated. The challenge is in creating architecture suited for the new lifestyles to come.
How are the buildings built by your firm different from the rest?
We use very specific strategies. Beside the use of resources as smart as allowed by our limits, our projects are always aimed at establishing strong relationships between the architectural space and the landscape. We like to relate to spaces in an articulated and informal way, without aiming at a specific form a priori. This usually generates structures that are, at least to a certain extent, unique and usually quite different from dominating languages.
How important do you think is the mainstreaming of green architecture in the Indian context?
It is very important! Not because of any trust we have in its results in the long term, but because this trend – sometimes we might even call it a fashion – helps to draw people’s attention to the issue of sustainability at large. It is a first step toward a more radical change in people’s habits.
What is your ultimate goal when it comes to your work? What do you want to be remembered for?
In our projects we try to solve relevant architectural problems, in the interest of our clients and of people relating in any way to our buildings. Being (relatively) young, we can still be arrogant enough to look for newer ways of inhabiting our cities in the future. If somebody remembers us for that we will rest in peace.
Interviewed By Mala Bajaj