ARCHITECTURE IS NOT AN ART FORM
Prada Fashion Show
Agostino Osio © OMA
Ippolito P. Laparelli is an architect that joined Rotterdam's prestigious OMA in 2007, rapidly ascending the ranks to become partner at the firm in 2014. His output has been outstanding, brilliant, even. Now a household name on the contemporary architecture scene, just some of his recent projects include the renovation of Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe) in Berlin, transformation design of the 16th century Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice, the Repossi's flagship store on Place Vendôme in Paris and his ongoing collaboration with Prada.
That said, I must admit I know too little about architecture to be all smart, confident and factual in this intro. I write what I see, and from where I stand I see Ippolito’s work the same way Harald Szeemann saw Twombly’s, as „one that knows no fear of tradition because it is absorbed and transmuted, by its own presence in the here-and-now, into a new tradition which becomes a new present.” But it is not just that. For me what Harald Szeemann said, did and represented in art is what Ippolito represents in architecture. Ippolito is bringing new tendencies to architecture the same way Harald did to art. I sense Szeemann’s „when attitudes become form” in Ippolito’s body of work, and lastly, I feel that Ippolito’s work follows certain structures of what good design should look like, or as Dieter Rams said in his „principles”, „good design makes product understandable. It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it's self-explanatory.”
Let’s begin with the beginning. Could you tell me more about how it all started? Why architecture and how did you end up at OMA so early in your career?
I come from a family with deep interests in visual arts. My sister ended up an architect. Before her there were many relatives, tracing back several generations, who were also part of the profession. Initially after school I wanted to enroll in environmental sciences or cinema. Finally, after a coast to coast trip in the United States with my father, I decided to study architecture; although I don't consider myself strictly an architect. I applied to OMA through a former professor of mine at the Polytechnic University of Milan, who worked at OMA in the 90's and introduced me to the work of OMA and the writings of Rem Koolhaas. I felt it was a place with enough transversal obsessions to fit my interest.
You were very young when you started working at OMA. Soon after joining you became a partner, leading huge projects. How has that been for your ego? Becoming successful so soon and in a such grand manner can be hard to take in, even overwhelming.
I became a partner after seven years in the office. I entered OMA as an intern and crossed the entire anatomy of the practice before becoming a partner. It's a unique experience to be exposed to all the levels of a company like OMA. It's a complex and rich ecosystem. The partnership did bring much more exposure on a personal level but also more responsibilities and frequent reality checks.
Il Fondaco dei Tedeschi
Delfino Sisto Legnani & Marco Cappalletti © OMA
Where does the process begin for you?
With the first findings about a subject or a place: it could be a movie, a book or pure data. The start is a journalistic phase, collecting of many things.
How long does it usually take to fully develop an idea?
Impossible to say. Sometimes years, sometimes a few weeks, sometimes a day or even less. It depends on the project, its scale and complexity.
Alfred Hitchcock once stated that execution of an idea is boring, saying the only real exciting part is the idea. Would you agree?
There are very exciting aspects in both phases. I normally tend to prefer the idea. I probably agree with Hitchcock, but the realization of an idea in a building, or a book, or an installation can also be a very exciting moment.
Do you think the connection between shapes and forms brings us closer to finding balance?
I don’t know the answer to this question.
Place Vendome, Paris
Delfino Sisto Legnani & Marco Cappalletti © OMA
I once read a very interesting article by Nicholas Korody for architect on „object sexuality, or: the humans who fall in love with buildings”. Are you familiar with that term and what is your take on that, to be in love with buildings?
I am familiar with the terms but I’ve never fallen in love with a building.
Can you tell what beauty is? And what is that one thing that makes something beautiful ?
I don’t know the answer to this question either. The „ugly” can be beautiful as well sometimes because it sparks a specific energy. It is not a question of beautiful or ugly, but whether something can generate energy or interest. It is an any case a subjective matter.
Architecture is an art form. Do you think that is one discipline in art that is the closest to finding perfection, just because it follows some rules that are considered as perfect?
Architecture is not an art form. It sits at the crossing points of many disciplines (sciences, anthropology, sociology, engineering, visual arts, philosophy, technology), but it is not an art form. I’m not sure what you mean by looking for perfection. Perfection is also a subjective parameter for our discipline and many others. I think architecture looks for a balance between performance and aesthetic values, where the latter are actually the outcome of the first.
You have been working with Miuccia Prada for years now. How did the „collaboration” (if I can even call it that way) between the two of you start? How did you meet?
Miuccia met Rem 15 years ago and that’s how the collaboration between Prada and OMA started. I was introduced to her as the designer for the fashion show stage sets in 2007 and I carried on developing those projects among others for Prada since then. I think it’s correct to talk about a real collaboration: every project is developed through an intense creative dialogue with Miuccia personally and her creative team. We don’t work for Prada. We work with Prada.
Are you interested in fashion?
Yes, but in terms of process. I’m not interested in the final outcome of fashion, but rather in the disciplined and creative nature of the industry, the military efficiency of the production, the agile creativity, the intelligent communication.
Words & Interview Katja Horvat