Novedge: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. Francesco Gatti: I'm a very curious person always attracted to the unknown, being an Architect is just a way to explore as many new territories as possible.
Novedge: Your firm, 3GATTI, is based in Rome and Shanghai; are these two cities the "Yin and Yang" for Architecture?
Francesco Gatti: Yes they are: the Roman office is the male and the Shanghai office is the female (and I have to admit females are always the best ). My dream actually is to direct a digital nomadic firm without any stable office, moving around the globe yet keeping all the consultants connected to each other. Our office was one of the first companies accepting payments in bitcoins. At 3GATTI we really believe in the freedom that the digital technologies can give to us, not only in the design field but also in the economy and organization of our lives. Capitalism will probably mutate its rigid structures soon and we should not be scared but embrace the flow of new events and changes of our lives. Next year I will slowly start to experiment this change in my personal and working life, maybe just as an art performance: I will try to keep traveling around the globe decentralizing our office and trying to keep most of the work on the cloud testing the opportunities and possibilities that this life and work behavior can give.
Novedge: 3GATTI puts together a group of Architects, Designers, Artists, Builders and Thinkers who work collaboratively, operating within the fields of creativity and engineering. This is a great mix, what is the quality/qualities you look for in your partners?
Francesco Gatti: I'm always looking for people and ideas different than mine. Also in my Design is always the contrast that creates the beauty..... even if in China I actually learned the opposite.
Novedge: What is a recent project that you worked on?
Francesco Gatti: We recently designed two big parks for the Wuhan Garden Expo and worked on construction drawings for more than thirteen pavilions.
The first park consists of a sequence of "green donuts" made of earth; each donut generates an interior courtyard where is normally placed a pavilion. We tried creating architectural spaces just by modeling the ground morphology. We chose the courtyard typology because of the Chinese tradition, but also because the Wuhan surrounding is pretty ugly and we preferred to stir the visitors' focus towards smaller and prettier spaces, rather than directing the view to the grey city landscape. Each pavilion was designed using natural local materials and construction techniques, creating always contained but complex spaces relating to human dimensions.
The second park includes pavilions representing countries from the rest of the world, and will be built on top of a garbage hill. In this park I am particularly fond of the Japanese pavilion: made with metaballs shapes subtractions from a dense volume of bamboo forest. In each subtraction, an helium “cloud” balloon floats at different level heights, so that the visitor is walking through the forest and a three-dimensional aggregation of clouds.
Novedge: Your Design ranges significantly in scale, type and content, what stays at the core of your practice?
Francesco Gatti: Ultimately my heart. Everything should feel right from the get go. We accept many kind of different projects at 3 GATTI, but we also refuse many others. Often, especially in China, the vision of the client doesn't fit with mine, and after an initial period of learning and compromising I usually end up not signing the contract I am offered. I believe the best way to transform and elevate this world is not only through our design but also through our personal behavior. I admit, sometimes my heart acts a little bit like a dictator, and not just with the clients but also with my collaborators and consultants. I like to observe others ideas and solutions but at the end of the day everything should pass through my vision. I really don’t believe in democracy in a design practice. I think that's what ruins big Architecture offices and corporations; there are too many decision makers and the identity of the design is completely lost together with its soul.
Novedge: What are some of the new technologies do you embrace?
Francesco Gatti: We love to explore new technologies both in design and construction fields. One experiment we did this year was during the design of the Japanese pavilion for the Wuhan International Park. The design of the pavilion came out of a simplified EEG helmet machine on my head and a grasshopper algorithm that was dynamically forming different layers of meatballs volumes. We experimented with different sessions, putting myself in deep meditation first, and also reaching other brain waves using psychedelic drugs after. The result was a series of different spaces we later selected using our rational mind. Another ongoing experiment is in the field of genetic engineering. I started this project in 2003 and it probably will take a long time to reach any usable result. For at least twenty years I have been fascinated by the possibility of building up volumes and spaces exactly like mother nature does, using DNA to duplicate cells following a precise plan. With the help the UCLA bioengineering department in Los Angeles, we started exploring this possibility more in details researching different options to develop Design and Architecture applications in this field.
Novedge: What is your approach to sustainability?
Francesco Gatti: I never put sustainability as a starting point for my ideas, yet somehow, most of my designs happen to be sustainable. I might be subconsciously more in tune with mother nature than I think. The genetic Architecture I just mentioned might, one day, be the most incredible example of sustainability there is. The building itself will be a living creature like a tree or even an animal. Also, the two parks we designed for the Wuhan Expo are a good showcases of Sustainable Design, as each pavilion is made with natural material such as bamboo, rattan, timber, thatch and rammed earth. Even in our smaller projects, like the one for a fashion store called Alter Cube, we used bamboo derivative materials such as plybamboo, bamboo pulp and herringbone bamboo.
Novedge: Did you always wanted to become an Architect?
Francesco Gatti: Since my autistic childhood I always had this attraction for inventions, constructions, explorations and adventures. I think today I basically have the same spirit I had forty years ago, that’s why I don’t consider myself always an Architect: sometimes I'm an Artist, sometimes I'm an Engineer, sometimes a Philosopher and sometimes a Scientist. I'm lucky that I get paid at least for one of these things. Maybe, in order to be an Architect you actually have to be all of the above.
Novedge: What's your Design dream, what would you like to design and you didn't get a chance to design yet...?
Francesco Gatti: My house. I would like to live inside a greenhouse that double as a bunker with an open view to the Sicilian countryside and ocean. More than a real place, this is probably a project that belongs to another dimension, accessible only through my subconscious......