Massimiliano Fuksas: Focus on Cinematic Architecture

How do you translate the visual language of iconic films into striking architecture?

By the dynamic interplay of light and water, according to Italian architect Massimiliano Fuksas, who presented on his wide-ranging work at the Doha Architecture Forum, with an opening by Msheireb’s Architectural Language Advisor Tim Makower, at the Msheireb Enrichment Centre in mid-May.

Ferrari HQ

Fuksas’ Ferrari’s HQ in Italy, partially inspired by directors Hitchcock and Kubrick, by Maurizio Marcato via Architecture Lab.

“If a building is dancing with the light, it’s a nice building,” Fuksas continued. “If it does not have vibration or emotion, it cannot work. It’s not enough to do only function, there are a lot of buildings that do only function. They ask for us something else — passion, emotion.”

Perhaps Fuksas’ best-known work is the Ferrari Operational Headquarters and Research Centre in Maranello, Italy (2004).

“When you see water, and the ceiling, and the reflection — the ceiling becomes dynamic,” he said excitedly. “Inside, it’s inspired by Hitchcock. You see a quiet Japanese garden, you can do a theatrical promenade, you can see, watch and arrive in an area with water. [One of the meeting rooms] looks like a Kubrick movie, with a void and red glass.”

Similarly inspiring is the Nardini Grappa Distillery (2004). Confined to an area walled in by trees, Fuksas was tasked to design an auditorium and research centres.

“At lunch, I did a project on the dish,” he said. “We put two wine bubbles, and we built. This is a typical Italian magical mystery!”

Fuksas designed two UFO-like glass pods, each with 365 glass panels, for research labs, and one doubles as an exhibition space, with a below-ground auditorium. Fuksas employed local artisans to construct the whole site.

“These stairways are coming into the water and come down, and there are some bubbles that take the light during the day and light up at night,” Fuksas said. “That’s what I love — the tension.”

During the wide-ranging talk, he also touched on the serpentine glass-covered New Milan Trade Fair in Italy, the wonderfully organic flower-shaped civic buildings in Tbilisi, Georgia, and the engineering marvel honeycombed Shenzhen International Airport’s Terminal 3 in China to open in 2015.

Fuksas says Doha can test future urbansim. / Giorgio Muratore via Wikimedia Commons.

Fuksas was excited about the possibilities for a booming Doha. “Here, you’re in the beginning of an urban explosion, especially with globalisation,” he said.

Architects can test different urbanist approaches in Doha. “Test is a bad word, it has positive and negative connotations,” Fuksas said. “But we have to test how 7 billion people will be living in the future.”

One aspiring architect asked about developing an architectural canon. Fuksas disagreed.

“Take inspiration from nature, from love, from books. Go around the world, see everything. Everything can be an inspiration. Architecture is not a language — it’s many languages into one. That’s why I love architecture: one symbol for many languages.” -30-

eL Seed’s Calligraffiti Project in Doha Brings Art to Public

Tunisian-French street artist eL Seed is bringing art to the public of Doha, in his calligraffiti project on Salwa Road — one of the largest graffiti projects in the world.

eL Seed is working with a handful of community artists to decorate 52 walls on Salwa Road, totalling 730 metres of a riff on Arabic calligraphy painted in “Wild Style” graffiti — creating a unique art form called “calligraffiti”.

In April 2013, he discussed the project and public art with Rami El Samahy, architect and CMUQ professor, and architect Tim Makower, at the Doha Architecture Forum talk “Making the City Public.”

“We wanted to create a community project with the city, and bring art to people,” said eL Seed, whose Salwa Road project was commissioned by the Qatar Museums Authority and the Public Works Authority (Ashgal), which has a 5-part video series on YouTube. “Though I was commissioned, this is a community project, it’s their choice of colour and what to write.”

Some calligraphy writings are from Qatar’s national anthem, including such quotes as “Travel the high road; Travel by the guiding light of the Prophets” and “Doves they be at times of peace, Warriors they are at times of sacrifice,” according to Time Out Doha.

eL Seed has launched to international fame over the past year, as he stunningly decorated the Jara Mosque minaret in his hometown of Gabés, Tunisia, sparking conversation over the role of Arabic graffiti, public art and democracy. The project is being profiled in the upcoming film “Tacapes”.

eL Seed with sketches for his Salwa Road project in Doha, Qatar. / Courtesy eL Seed in Doha.

“At QMA, and in public art, we really try to bring the newest form, and we try to relate what we do to the Arab culture and to the company culture,” said Khalid Ali, project manager, QMA, in the first video. “So to have an artist like eL Seed to come here and do 52 panels, it’s huge.”

Despite Doha’s world-class museums, public art is mostly monuments in roundabouts — and even those are vanishing due to street straightening.

But can graffiti done on a highway underpass really be considered “public art”?

“Highway art is normal, like in Paris,” eL Seed said. “Even at 120 kph, you can see the art. For the mural, we created a ‘liquid alphabet,’ which moves with the viewer.”

Graffiti artist eL Seed says 90 percent of his work is improv freestyle while he’s painting, here at Salwa Road in Doha, Qatar. / Image courtesy eL Seed in Doha.

Addressing the tension between commissions and freestyle painting, eL Seed said: “I’m honoured to travel the world for commissions, but you lose the essence of your work if it’s only commissions. To keep subversive, I take a spray can and paint where I want to go. On Salwa Road, when I’m painting it’s like improv, 90 percent is freestyle.”

eL Seed criticised the street artists in the region who do not address the local social context, and the perceptions of audience members who asked about the link between graffiti and the underprivileged.

“A graffiti artist is does not have to be underprivileged,” eL Seed said, calling it a “Westernised mindset.” He added: “We all have the idea that graffiti is by the underprivileged, but for example in France, it’s by the well-off white people who are fighting the system. Would a legal wall (like New York’s 5 Pointz NYC) be a solution here?”

As eL Seed’s Doha project finishes up, does he have any plans to paint the town? “I’ve been spotting a lot of lost walls,” he said, “and I can’t leave with only Salwa Road.” -30-