Time in Yerevan: 11:07,   24 May 2024

The cultural heritage of Armenia deserves more attention: Italian architect

 The cultural heritage of Armenia deserves more attention: Italian architect

YEREVAN, JANUARY 30, ARMENPRESS. Italian architect Alberto Collet, distinguished by his extensive international expertise and a profound passion for innovative projects, has made an impact in Armenia, too. His contribution includes spearheading the "Reflection of Infinity" project in collaboration with his team during the MEDS Gyumri workshop. In an interview with "Armenpress," Collet shares insights into his journey to Armenia, the successful realization of the project, and outlines his visionary plans for the country. Coming from the Veneto region in Italy, Collet's architectural endeavors have led him to diverse European cities, with Barcelona standing as his current place of residence.

- Could you please provide some insights into your background? Specifically, where were you born, and raised, and what professional path have you pursued?

I currently live in Barcelona; Spain and I was born in the Veneto region in the northwest of Italy. I have studied at the University IUAV, Faculty of Architecture in Venice. Here I learned about Armenians and Armenian culture for the first time.

During my degree, I have had the opportunity to take different courses, workshops, and seminars that have given me the possibility of relating both to the national and international panorama. Later I got my postgraduate degree in Urban Design at ArsNova Siena and then I acquired a double Master’s degree at Domus Academy and University of Wales, in Milan.

Years later I studied at the ETSAB in Barcelona. I have also started my PhD at the FAUP in Porto, Portugal, researching the work of Álvaro Siza.

Throughout this time, I have been founding the Bauart studio and the Alternative Academic Project (AAP), a laboratory dedicated to innovative projects for public and private entities, mainly dealing with the organization of architecture workshops. I have developed an intense collaboration with different universities, including the Polytechnic University of Milan, where I currently work as a professor of architectural design.

- You mentioned that your first acquaintance with Armenia occurred in Venice. Could you please share more details about that experience?

I began to relate to Armenian culture during my university years in Venice. I started reading some books there and visited the island of Saint Lazarus. Years later I have had the possibility of meeting several members of the Armenian community of Buenos Aires in Argentina and from there discovering its history in the broadest sense, its cultural and spiritual heritage. Etchmiadzin Cathedral, built in the 4th century, is one of the oldest examples of Christian architecture.

I have always had a lot of admiration for the Armenian diaspora, which has brought Armenian culture to various parts of the world, keeping their identity. 

- In August, you were hosted and took part in the MEDS Gyumri project. Could you share some details about the process and describe the professional and emotional impact it had on you?

A few months before participating in the MEDS Gyumri project, I had prepared a very simple concept of a project for an important ephemeral architecture competition in Spain, for which I had not been selected. When I saw the announcement that they were looking for tutors for an architectural workshop in Armenia, with a project proposal, I thought that I could rethink and adapt my concept to the requirements of that workshop.

I didn't have much information about the place as initially, the area had to be outside of the city of Gyumri. So, I spent entire days studying the city from a distance, proposing options to the MEDS organization, but the proposed places were not realistic at that time.

Therefore, I had a concept of a minimal pavilion but did not know where this would be placed until I arrived in Gyumri. I remember that the first element that struck me was the stones of the buildings when I arrived in Armenia, almost like a watercolor, having different gradations of color and changing tones. After seeing that, I wanted to reinterpret those features of the black tuff by incorporating them inside the small element.

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- What motivated your decision to become involved in the MEDS project?

Surely the main reason to get involved with Meds was to participate in a project workshop that can be built. Previously I had participated in different workshops, as a collaborator, tutor, and organizer, in landscape contexts, international cooperation, land art, urban planning, and architectural projects, but none of them were focused on construction. This aspect interested me and continues to interest me a lot. On the other hand, the Armenian context from the beginning has seemed very novel, and exotic, a way of getting to know a cultural history that in my opinion deserves more attention. I needed to experiment and test some elements that I wanted to implement in the field of ephemeral architecture.

- What significant discoveries did you make during your time in Armenia? Which areas of the country did you have the opportunity to explore?

The landscape is something that always remains imprinted on me in the territories I visit. The shape of the stone, its color, and its texture fascinate me very much, as it was in Armenia.

During the construction of the pavilion, I did not have time to explore some new places. However, the sponsor of our project, PROFAL Company organized an excursion for our team. It started with Lake Sevan which surprised me with its water color, its pure and crystalline shores but also with the presence of several historical monasteries. After that, we visited the Dilijan National Park, where I was fascinated by the large oaks, oriental fagus, and hornbeams. In the last part of the excursion, I had a chance to visit Yerevan, being able to appreciate the orientation towards Mount Ararat, getting lost in its streets with its lively bars in a mixture of scales, from small to large at the same time.

My tour through the center made me breathe a constant relationship with Europe and Mediterranean culture.

- Please elaborate on your project, the Pavilion. What is the concept behind this architectural monument, and what prompted its installation in the territory of Gyumri, Mother Armenia?

Our project is called “Reflection of Infinity.” The orientation of the pavilion is towards the Black Fortress (Sev Berd), an important nineteenth-century fortress where lots of historical events took place. The Pavilion serves as an observation point covered with a mirroring element. This reflection connects the statue of Mother Armenia to another important element representing in this way the strength, resilience, and protectiveness of the Armenian people. The design incorporates reflective surfaces, and a black-painted interior to symbolize the connection with the black tuff. At the same time, the pavilion becomes a dynamic game for many children visiting this park.

“Reflection of Infinity” represents a beacon of hope and a symbol of revival. Its purpose transcends mere aesthetics. Since it was prepared by architecture and design professionals from different countries, it stands as a testimony to the power of collaboration with the promise of a brighter future for this resilient city. Representing a symbol of unity and progress, this structure is an icon that ushers in a new era for Gyumri, where past and present coexist in harmony, and the future is as bright as the reflections on its mirrored surface.

 - What is the focus of your current project, and what are your plans for Armenia?

Currently, I am keeping my main focus on domestic architecture and the evolution of architectural competitions in the European context, and in parallel, I am developing a more systematic planning of ideas for ephemeral architecture projects that could be presented in these contexts. I think that in Armenia there are many places where the idea of flexible elements that can be part of dynamic processes could be implemented.

I will also be happy to collaborate with different institutions, cultural centers, companies, etc. who see the possibility of generating synergy throughout the Armenian national context but also creating a connection in the European context.

Anna Hakobyan 


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