THE ARCHITECT WHO DUMPED ZAHA

VOL.2.5

Lorenzo Grifantini on putting the Italian touch on London houses

 

How does it feel to leave Zaha Hadid and Norman Foster? If you are a young architect with ambitions it must feel like jumping over a cliff into the darkness, but Lorenzo Grifantini, one half of the duo called Dos Architects (dos meaning two in Spanish) was confident when he opened his own practice with Tavis Wright, a British raised in Spain, who previously worked with Ron Arad. And they were right. Just a few years later, they won the Renzo Piano Foundation Prize, work started to pick up, and from two they are now twelve. They have been working in London since 2004 and among their projects there are several residential houses and a stunning Olympic-sized swimming pool in Erbil, Kurdistan, which gained public attention.

 

What are the main differences between an English house and an Italian house? “The English house is more tri-dimensional than the Italian one. It has two or more floors and a vertical dimension that is lacking in the typical Italian flats of Milan or Rome”.

 

 Which part of the house do people care most about? “The kitchen has always been the focal point of the house in Italy but it has started to become more and more important in Britain too. It’s where they spend most of their time and where they put most of their money”.

England has become a country of food lovers like Italy then? “Apparently so. But to be honest I happened to visit the same kitchens after two or three years and I found them nearly untouched. I’m not sure how much they actually use them…”

 When an Italian shows someone around the house they do not omit any part of it, bedrooms or bathrooms included, while Britons tend to consider some part of the house very private, don’t you think? “As an architect I’m allowed to see everything, of course. But maybe you are right. This reflects their character. English homeowners are much more reserved than we are. We like to show off a little bit, after all”.

Once we build our house, though, we tend to live there for many years, while Britons change them quite frequently. Why do you think is that? “I think this has to do with the strength of the housing market in London, where this happens more often. The house is perceived as an investment more than a place to live. If the value increases it’s better to sell it and change to a bigger, better house”.

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