THINKING ARCHITECTURE WITH ENRICO SELLO
In the very heart of Udine there is a studio of an architect who is in my opinion very important for the city and its surrounding territory. His name is Enrico Sello. Enrico is a friend and great professional, and I find his work and the way he does it very interesting. I have always thought that from his words a lesson in architecture might be born and so I have decided to pose him several questions.
FS: I consider you a great architect, a maestro whom I look upon as an artisan. What I find interesting is not only your achievements, but what inspires you, what passes through your find and the reasons why you do certain things…
ES: I call myself an artisan-architect because I have always aspired to the manual nature of the artisan, an architect who is fascinated by the culture of handicraft; seeing things produced just as you imagined them, teaching the artisan another to do things with respect to what they have always learnt and done, in some way getting them to unlearn their trade and begin anew. The artisan has the limit of constant repetition of what they know how to do, and they become the performer of something that is almost a rite: I come along and make them forget this. Special things are only done with the head and heart.
FS: Is this the same approach you use in your work? Is this how your creative process is born?
ES: This is true also for me: don’t get hung up on things that you know how to do, just because you know how and repeat yourself, but try every time to adapt your thoughts to the theme, the place, its problems and limits, becoming an integral part of the place, working for it, being a humble servant of the space and its purpose.
FS: You are a cultured and sensitive architect, I know your work and I know you are interested in the materials and finishes, which you often invent and produce at the worksite. You are very attentive to the natural transformation process that materials suffer over time. Do you think of the project in its function or do you use them only as a sort of external skin, decoration or covering? And what are the materials with which you feel most comfortable?
ES: I have always been attentive to materials and especially to their transformation. Wood for example is beautiful in the saw mill, one feels the material and its scent; in the carpentry shop during the finishing process, it easily becomes uglier, a material absolutely without its own life; in the paint shop the wood often becomes something else, it is transformed and changes connotation, it loses the essence of wood and can become anything else, even plastic. Respect for the material in this sense must be total. The transformation process from material to form, preserving its intrinsic beauty, is something very difficult to achieve. We must become more abstract, adapting our thoughts to the material and not, to the contrary, adapting the material to our own miserable thoughts. This is also true for architecture, which is always a sum of thoughts, not only those that are congruous with the discipline; an architect must know how to take inspiration from technology, music, dreams, memories, painting, literature and above all, poetry, because without it there is nothing. I always sketch out everything, by hand on A3 sheets of paper with notes, markings, erasures, ticks and various reflections. Their coherence of their small gestures which aim to become a story is always given by respect for the theme that one has adopted, otherwise they would be fragments that would be transformed into figures only with great difficulty.
FS: Going into greater detail, I have seen that you also create furniture – for example you have designed chairs and reinterpreted the classic seats, perhaps only by using different colours or materials: how do you design them?
ES: With the creation of furniture the concept is the same. It is my fortune that I know almost nothing about established design concepts, neither the designers themselves nor the firms that produce furniture, and so I am free to think: I am not spoilt by know-how and I am not dependent upon it. Design always begins with an abstraction. What is a table if not a plane which by the force of gravity would remain on the ground, that I take and arrange in some way at a height that will be comfortable? Nothing else. Then, if one starts with this “abstraction”, it is possible to arrive at many places, even a table that is no longer a table, but a chair, or a chair that becomes a table; there are many roads open to us.
FS: Abstraction is interesting, but is there something that truly inspires you in concrete form, that supplies the ideas to begin with? Are there unforgettable chairs? And if yes, then which in your opinion?
ES: In making reference to the world of chairs, I can cite a few that have always struck me. The folding chair for county fairs, with the beech wood slats; you find something beautiful that costs 8 Euros. Another is the famous tripolina of anonymous design, created to be folded and transported like a shoulder bag. And let’s not forget the “Milano” chair, the “chiavarina” used by the director: a chair from Italian tradition with its insuperable form and source of inspiration for every possible chair design.
FS: Thank you Enrico.