Atelierzero: interior design as landscape

Winning a public competition brought together three architects, friends and classmates who met at the Politecnico: Piermattia Cribiori, Stefano Grigoletto and Alessandro Triulzi (which now also includes Andrea Giovanni Rossi and Matilde Valagussa). The construction of the Civic Gallery in Trento, a new exhibition space for the MART museum, led them to create their studio, Atelierzero, in 2013. They chose to live in Milan, leading to their passion for the house as as a total project, from the renovation of historic buildings to interior design, and from the shape of objects to their technical aspects. Five professionals who work together as equals, around a large “round table” in which they each participate in their own way.

Following the forced closure due to the pandemic, Milan’s Teatro degli Arcimboldi asked a number of young Italian architecture studios to redesign the artists’ dressing rooms for their reopening, working on spaces that normally do not receive much of attention when designing the layout of A theatre. You were one of those studios.
The first time we went behind the scenes at the Arcimboldi, we were struck by the disconnect between the potential of the place and its actual, aseptic and poorly maintained state. And so we sought to dig in and reveal all that potential beauty that we had seen. We have worked on key elements of well-being, such as concentration for example. During the development of the project, we managed to give it a certain esoteric inspiration, imagining the dressing room as a place for preparing the magic that makes a show so special. We used color to bring life to the space, which was ideal for overdoing it, since the artist doesn’t spend a lot of time there. We made reference to the world of theater with elements such as the carpet and the curtain separating the spaces. The skylight was by no means used to its best; we did it hotter by painting the walls yellow, improving the quality of the light that comes from above.

In your homes, I seem to see an effort to view size limitations as mere boundaries within which to bring out beauty. What are the stages of your design process? After having listened to the customer, “we listen” to the house too, looking around us and trying to identify all the details that make it special: decorated walls or floors, historical elements that absolutely must be preserved and that often give the key to interpreting our work. We treat interiors like landscapes, adding elements evoking the urban scale, columns, arches, symbolic “places” into spaces, as if an entire city could be concealed within an interior. Finally, the color helps us to make the dimensions of the space be perceived differently, multiplying the spaces that compose it: it is as if we were declaring that the house does not stop at such a point, but that a new scenario opens up just beyond.

I think I see a certain love of curved lines, used to give a touch of nobility to interiors. Is it the influence of the Milanese landscape of the early 20th century, or are there other reasons for this? It’s hard to live and work in Milan without being influenced by the idiom of the great masters that we constantly see expressed on the walls of downtown buildings. But this is not our only source of inspiration. We have recently taken a particular interest in 80s aesthetic. But for us these are only sources of inspiration, never styling.

But where does your interest in furniture design begin? It seems to emerge from the architecture of spaces, like a detail of the totalizing projects that we sometimes have the opportunity to implement. We really love designing custom furniture. That doesn’t mean we don’t consider mass-produced furniture; we certainly do, but the object does not always correspond entirely to what we have in mind. And so we have to rethink it. Moreover, over the years we realized that all the study work for the furniture, including the technical aspects, such as in the custom-designed lamps, was finished when the unique project was completed, whereas in in reality it could also have been suitable for other interiors. And so we started keeping a file of those designs for furniture, kitchens, and bathroom components, like a kind of abacus. Not long ago we found From Reruma spin-off of our studio that we are launching as a brand for the production of small-scale furniture in collaboration with artisans from Lombardy and Veneto, based on our designs.

What do you think would be the most important encounters or milestones in your brief history so far? In the Civic Gallery project in Trento, we had the chance to work for a very knowledgeable client who gave us a lot of freedom. This ideal project gave us the energy to start working towards what we wanted to become as a studio. Since then, we have had several projects in which we have been able to experiment with group work: three at first, and now five. As we realized that we were interested in the course of the workshop, the interior renovation sector was growing in Italy, and we developed in this direction. Our new offices, which will soon be opened in the Città Studi area, consist of a single open space in which we will all work together, with other specific spaces, an archive of materials, which we consider very important, and a workshop for models and technical experimentation with lamps. We don’t have a pyramid structure, but we consider everyone equal. There is a permanent reciprocal exchange, and each of us is aware of and concerned by all the projects in progress, contributing our skills.

Mara Corradi

Images courtesy of Atelierzero

(01.04) Atelierzero CDS Ph Sara Magni
(02) Atelierzero Civica Galleria Trento Ph Fernando Guerra
(03) Atelierzero Ph Simone Furiosi
(05 – 09) Atelierzero L4 Ph Sara Magni
(10 – 13) Atelierzero L4
(14 – 16) Atelierzero Decameron Ph Simone Furiosi
(17–18) Atelierzero Decamerone
(19) Atelierzero Lost
(20-21) 20 Atelierzero+Tommaso Giunchi Fitted Lines Ph Simone Furiosi
(22) Workshopzero Bow
(23) Atelierzero Classic
(24) CSTB zero workshop
(25) Atelierzero All’arco
(26 – 28) Atelierzero Shades Of Ph Roberta Gianfrancesco
(29) Atelierzero+Tommaso Giunchi SNVT Ph Simone Furiosi

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