The Town Ambassador prize has been awarded to architect Luca Calselli, promoter of areas and places and winner of two competitions of Città della Cultura del Lazio in 2018 and 2019. Two competitions won despite every prediction: in 2018 with the project Colleferro and the twentieth century, and in 2019 with San Felice Circeo and the Circe Sea.
At this point we can call him ‘the architect of culture’, but first we must investigate the meaning of culture linked to the areas and their growth. In fact, if we meant culture as something static, we will enter the field of archeology while the spirit of an architect is always that of innovating.
It is an innovation that today passes through the search for an identity and a system of existing vital forces through the design and creation of events.
‘The past are the roots, but an architect plans the future. The role of design and of communicating identity is also fundamental in the promotion of territories because we must communicate to ourselves and to others the essence of what we are.’
Luca in fact defines himself as a designer of the area, of the territory and of the events and gives a great significance to the role that design has had in the history of Italian architecture and in the success of Made in Italy.
For this reason he has been involved in the ADD – Association of the Design District of Sora for years and in 2012 he contributed to writing the ‘Italian Design Manifesto’. This manifesto traces the innovative power of Italian Design in the twentieth century that has been able to give an aesthetic sense to the function. The Manifesto seeks for architects to regain this power by applying it to other sectors as well.
Before then design was above all the search for an extreme functionality of a product in a minimalist spirit, but in the ’70s, Italians such as Ettore Sotsass introduced something innovative – a recognizable elegance that gives style to functions and makes objects of mass production something unique. An oxymoron between mass production and identity that becomes the characteristic of Made in Italy.
Today this spirit is still present but Italians are no longer the only ones to design. In a sense, Apple’s success has been to apply these concepts to information technology. And it is no coincidence that Steve Jobs said he had taken inspiration during a calligraphy class.
‘Culture is what has allowed Italians to always innovate. We were innovators in the Renaissance, in the Baroque, in Futurism and in Design, but then we forgot ourselves in modernity. If we could only have roots in the past but look towards the future we will have defeated the decline and started a regeneration.’
This brings us to Luca Calselli who has made classical culture and innovation the key to his success as a designer who is regenerating territories. His projects are a synthesis of these concepts.
But the real strength is the evocative capacity of design applied to the places too and the ability to rediscover the identity of a territory while at the same time pushing for the combination of the operators in the field and extending the gaze towards the future.
City of Culture 2019: San Felice Circeo and the Circe Sea
Let’s take the case of San Felice Circeo, City of Culture of Lazio 2019 and let’s go in search of this spirit. The problem of San Felice was that of a splendid village inside the Circeo National Park, which had become famous with the second homes of splendid villas and which later extended the model of the second homes to improbable constructions that had led to an inevitable decline.
The economy was based on a tourist season that shrank more and more to the month of August and a tourism model that needed to be reinvented.
When Luca Calselli became involved, the situation was exactly this, a territory that no longer knew who it is and what it could offer to a tourist who in the meantime is increasingly looking for excitement and experiences.
Luca started from the past and from its modern evocation and called the project ‘the Sea of Circe’. How are links with the past strengthened? The answer seemed as simple as the egg of Columbus and perhaps for this no one had pursued it.
The story of the sorceress Circe brings us back to Ulysses and of his return trip to Ithaca and also here is a twinning with the Greek island. But there is also a rediscovery of the Greek language and its offshoot to this day. Here is the past and present.
There are three ‘islands’ (considering that San Felice Circeo appears as an island to those who look at itfrom afar) that offer very different experiences to tourists but that today do not interact with each other. They are not connected by sea and this has also made them the different to an archipelago experience.
The project then began with a marine connection and the search for an identity sign that unites them in the eyes of residents and tourists. And if in Circeo they remember the sorceress, in Ventotene the sirens of Ulysses were found with their song, and Ponza was on the Odyssey route.
And the future?
The future is built together with some wise direction. In the project Luca Calselli has put online all the different realities that until now have worked in a chaotic way as in the presence of Brownian motion.
The secret of the success of this architect of culture is precisely in his great job of creating links between entities and people who have social, economic and cultural interest in a portion of the territory. The success is precisely that of having given style and identity to these links with a meticulous work on relationships and thanks to a design that has brought out the soul of the places.
For this reason we think that the Town Ambassador award to Luca Calselli is a recognition of a unique ability to have been able to interpret the role of the designer in urban regeneration and the designer in creating a ‘dynamic identity’ that is projected towards the future.
Soon we will relate in detail the events and experiences of the transformation to help others to follow the example of a successful case and to learn from the best.