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Illuminated landscapes of the soul

Founded in 2004 by Ma Yansong, MAD Architects has grown exponentially in just a few years. The success story started with the Absolute Towers in Toronto, and then swiftly followed around the world. We talked to Andrea d’Antrassi, a young Italian architect, now an Associate Partner at MAD Architects responsible for the Chinese firm’s European projects, about the firm’s project on Via Boncompagni in Rome.

Bologna - Andrea d'Antrassi is responsible at MAD Architects for the European projects of the architecture studio. Learn more in the current GG Magazine.

The project on Via Boncompagni is MAD’s first project in Europe. What it is about? 

The work in Rome is unique, because it is in the historical centre, in a dense neighbourhood, where we find a building from the 70s, previously an office block, which is going to be converted into a residential building. The idea is to remove the façade, have an open design, and build housing that blends in with green spaces. In a typical 1900s urban landscape, full of solid façades, the missing element is vegetation.

When describing the project, are we talking about, among other things, an urban village? 

The urban village was the initial concept for the project. We wanted to build apartments in a condominium, but without compromising on privacy. Each home should have its own green space in the courtyard. Each apartment should be unique, like in a village, not simply repeating the same design over and over.

How would you define MAD’s style? 

Its key feature is that it changes with each new project. Over the years, Ma Yansong has developed a sort of architectural poetry that he calls Shan Shui. Translated literally, it means ‘Mountain-Water’, and it is the name of a series of Chinese paintings, which are very crepuscular, like portraits of the soul. MAD tries to bring elements of nature into architecture, and this is also true in Via Boncompagni: creating garden spaces, greenhouses, indoor court spaces, and so on. These architectural solutions can help to save energy, improve natural lighting, cooling, ventilation; all of which can help answer some of today’s environmental problems.

Read the full interview in the latest issue of the GG Magazine.

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