IT’S KIND OF A CIRCULAR STORY
18TH INTERNATIONAL ARCHITECTURE EXHIBITION OF LA BIENNALE DI VENEZIA
Architects Alessandra Rampazzo and Marcello Galiotto, founding partners of AMAA Collaborative Architecture Office For Research And Development www.amaa. studio, are part of the 18th International Architecture Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia, curated by Lesley Lokko and titled “The Laboratory of the Future” (20 May to 26 November 2023).
At the Corderie of the Arsenale in Venice, a new work by AMAA, titled “It’s Kind of a Circular Story,” is on display in the “Dangerous Liaisons” section of the main exhibition where Lesley Lokko invited practitioners from around the world who work across disciplinary boundaries, geographies, and new forms of partnership and collaboration.
“ON TOPOGRAPHY”, the project for the former NATO base
Here, after encountering a piece of a reinforced concrete defense structure, visitors are faced with a massive architectural model, also in concrete. A cross-section of a mountain is introduced, revealing the presence of a majestic volcanic complex, formed during the Cenozoic era due to geologic transformations and subsequently modified by meteoric erosion and human intervention. This model showcases the radical tectonics of Monte Calvarina, located
in the Municipality of Roncà, overlooking the valleys of Vicenza/Verona in Northern
Italy. On its top and within it a NATO base was installed in 1959, consisting of four functional structures for the use of the Nike surface-to-air missile system, armed with Hercules missiles with both conventional and nuclear warheads.
Decades after its abandonment in 1995, the Calvarina military base finds today new social and operational life. In the architecture project conceived by AMAA, titled “ON TOPOGRAPHY”, the years of decay are substituted by a lively and disruptive facility, set-up by Fondazione SAFE as a hub to organize trainings
and simulations for emergency response and testing of new technologies. A virtuous example that re-invents a former carbon intensive military facility as a new zero-emission hub for innovation.
The effective and innovative transformation aligns to the EU “Climate Change and Defence Roadmap,” particularly its operational and capability development dimensions, and the EU Green Deal and the joint EU- African Union Green transition strategy, providing a virtuous example of re-inventing former carbon intensive military facilities as new zero-emission hubs for innovation.
The suspended fragment.
The reinforced concrete element the visitor encounters in the installation is a suspended fragment of one of the structural elements of the abandoned military base. It is also positioned above the table, but it does not exert any physical weight on its surface. The iron staircase, also part of the military structure,
is situated in front of the concrete element, suggesting the possibility of approach and interaction. There is a hole in the concrete, and through it one can see a film that depicts the journey of the fragment from the NATO base to Venice.
A weighty model of the Monte Calvarina project rests on a delicate, wide table crafted from salvaged brass scraps. The table, conceived by AMAA, was made using repurposed brass sheets that were previously considered as waste materials from De Castelli’s production process. AMAA gave a new purpose to the discarded sheets, demonstrating the aesthetic and functional possibilities of sustainable design. Some details of the table’s design process were the result of dialogue and collaboration with Arcangelo Sassolino, an artist and friend of the studio. Specifically, this involved the decision to achieve the table’s autonomy using only perforated plates without adding any additional support layers. This was possible through the materials themselves and the multiple relationships between surface and depth.
To provide support for the weight of the model, the brass sheets rest on a sturdy mesh of metallic sawhorses, providing a modern take on the traditional blacksmith’s sawhorses.
The lamp by Harry Thaler
A brass tubular element on the table catches the eye as it ascends and then gracefully curves downwards. This is the lamp that Harry Thaler specifically designed as his personal contribution to the installation.
An additional work of art in the space is a book, which can be read while sitting on a Jean Prouvé Standard chair from the Modernab Gallery collection and illuminated by the lamp. It collects reflections on the project and documents the dialogues the architects had with Massimo Carmassi, Ernesta Caviola, Nero/ Alessandro Neretti, and Alberto Mario Carnevale (thanks to the collaboration of Giulia Citro and Maria Elena Ciucci). From this work originates a book, published by Libria and edited by Alessandra Rampazzo and Marcello Galiotto, titled “ON TIME, MEMORY, METHODS AND CRAFT.”
Ernesta Caviola’s photos
The table on which the large sectioned model of Monte Calvarina rests has an irregular shape that adapts to the space of the Corderie and seems to
be able to extend beyond the defined perimeter. Beside the model is the original photographic work by Ernesta Caviola, which depicts her personal experience and interpretation of the site. In her artwork, titled “Primi giorni dell’anno - Monte Calvarina e dintorni” (First days of the year - Monte Calvarina and its surroundings), she captures the initial signs of a growing comprehension of the environment where the remains of the military base are located. All photos are analog, 4x5-inch, wonderfully printed by Arrigo Ghi with a sublime matte finish.
Nero’s installation sculpture
Moreover, a sculpture installation titled “capriccio from ruins (that time the hills dropped into the lagoon)”, crafted by Nero/ Alessandro Neretti sits atop
the table. The piece features an architectural element obtained from the AMAA recovery project that has been destabilized, allowing for unforeseen insights and hypotheses.
The exhibition “It’s Kind of a Circular Story” is a collaborative effort between AMAA and several artists, each contributing to expand the exploration of
the site and the possibilities of the project. The idea of using architecture as a laboratory for the future is explored through a design approach that seeks to tap into the potential of existing structures. By reexamining and expanding upon them, new creative energies and possibilities are unlocked for their reuse. With a particular focus on decarbonization, one of the key themes of this year Architecture Biennale, AMAA’s installation promotes the concept of re-use as the most effective approach towards achieving zero-waste and non-impacting interventions for the planet.
The re-use of what has been already built is entrenched in the virtuous circle of “returning land to nature and citizens, avoiding land, buildings and memory waste.” In line with the vision of the Biennale Architettura 2023, the Calvarina is conceived as an open workshop where innovation and natural preservation coexist — a laboratory of the future, in the present.
Architects: AMAA Collaborative Architecture Office
For Research And Development - Marcello Galiotto, Alessandra Rampazzo
Authorial collaborators: Nero/Alessandro Neretti, Ernesta Caviola, Davide Faedo, Eros Rossetto (blaaUniverse Studio), Lorenzo Mason Studio, Harry Thaler
Technical collaborators: De Castelli, Faces Engineering