Alfonso Femia (Taurianova, 1966) and Gianluca Peluffo (Savona, 1966) are two of the partners of the Genovese office of 5+1 associati, which they founded in 1995 together with Paola Arbocò (Genova, 1965), Pierluigi Feltri (Savona, 1962), Maurizio Vallino (Genova, 1967) and Antonio Lagorio, who left the office in 1999.
Daria Ricchi: Let's put an end to this myth that nothing gets built in Italy… are there still so many difficulties?
Alfonso Femia: It depends on what you mean. There is a tendency to complain, to wallow in self-pity. In reality this is because we only worry about big projects, as if nothing else was important. I think, on the contrary, that we do build, and quite a lot, though this was not the case ten years ago.
Gianluca Peluffo: The problem is perhaps that governments and even some private clients tend to seek public consensus and thus focus on the stars of the architectural world. As a result little attention is paid to, let's say, construction for the masses, and this often translates into low quality. The instruments that are used to control quality are not applied to what is built across the board. I would thus interpret the complaints in these terms. It is absurd that all across Italy vast numbers of barracks, post offices and schools have been built, and all of them are equally awful. This is where attention needs to be focused. It is clear that it is difficult to win a large, international competition, but this is not the real problem in Italy.
AF: There are also other aspects in Italy that we cannot ignore. The total number of engineers and architects is somewhere around 170,000. If we include surveyors, this number jumps to 178,000. This means one for every 265 people. A monstrous ratio. That's double the number in the rest of Europe.
DR: What contribution can we provide, as Italians?
GP: Our knowledge of how to relate to context. We have sought to do this in Bossarino, where we picked up on the themes of Modernism – the strip window and the free plan – re-proposed in an almost domestic and painful manner in the grey industrial zones that surround it, which is juxtaposed by the colourful stucco. In this project the context became an instrument of perception, which changes with distance.
AF: We also wanted to move beyond this logic that the building is a self-referential object that is independent of its context. Context is like a musical staff that tells you where to place the notes. The music of the Italian landscapes is extremely heterogeneous.
GP: There are extraordinary landscapes, but also extraordinarily sad ones. The role of the architect includes stepping outside this sadness. It almost becomes an obsession. To make a site liveable and acceptable, not digestible but acceptable.