‘Moscow Deserves Something Better Than Weird Arches’

PHOTO by Ramil Sitdikov / RIA Novosti
Architect Duilio Forte dreams about the swings from Triumfalnaya Square

Duilio Forte is a landscape architect and sculptor of Italian-Swedish descent. This fall, he visited Moscow for the first time to conduct a workshop at the benchmark furniture and interior design event i Saloni WorldWide Moscow. Forte spoke with Lenta.ru about his impressions of Moscow street decorations and his dream to visit the Russian North.

Lenta.ru: What are you mostly – a designer, artist or architect?

Forte: I work at the intersection of architecture, sculpture, visual arts and design. Even though it may not seem so at first, this is a fairly big niche, which offers sufficient space for exploration and discovery.

It was your first visit to Moscow. How did you like it?

I didn’t spend much time in Moscow, but I did notice those strange arches on the central streets. I couldn’t work out what they meant or what their purpose was. I think your lovely city deserves something more attractive than this, like the spectacular Red Square, which I found to be really impressive.

Being an architect and, if I may say so, a designer of public spaces, could you suggest something to make Moscow more friendly and inviting to local residents and tourists?

You have some appealing places already. For example, on one of the central squares I saw huge swings for two people, and I instantly thought that they were so cool; we should install something like this in Italy! Apart from having aesthetic value, this object is practical. It is also interactive, it's positive and it benefits people. In other words, it’s great.

You have dual citizenship, Italian and Swedish. These two countries have very distinct design styles. How do you blend these cultures in your work?

Speaking of cultures, I have Russian roots too, as my Scandinavian ancestors were Karelian Finns. There is a lot of active migration inside Scandinavia as well, so I wouldn’t even claim that I am half-Swedish. As for my Italian ancestry, I’m happy to have it as part of my colourful ethnic background. It's like mixing hot and cold water: one can obtain water of very different temperatures ranging from lukewarm to almost boiling.

I saloni russia moscow forte italy
Duilio Forte

Your works are very original; they are close to nature, with echoes of legends and fairy tales. Your clients must find it a little intimidating.

They don’t. My customers know who I am and what they will get in the end. (Laughs.) They can visualise the result before the project is completed. During the Salone del Mobile 2016, I participated in the project “ROOMS. Novel living concepts” in Triennale di Milano. My project was called Ursus, which means “bear” in Latin. It resembled a Northern log house and was inspired by the Biological Museum in Stockholm. I looked at the white bear, and the animal impressed me so much I created a house that would suit this beast if it were part-human, like a fairy-tale character.

You should see the old villages in the Russian North.

As a matter of fact, I have been planning on travelling there for quite some time. Judging by the photos, the northern Russian villages must be spectacular. I have heard that the Pomors in Russia were amazingly good at wood-carving. The architecture is nothing like the opulent palaces in St. Petersburg, of course, but still completely fabulous!

What impact has Italy had on your work?

Like most Europeans, I admire old Italian architecture, especially buildings dating from classical antiquity. To me, the ancient Roman ruins are works still in progress which have spanned many centuries, and are a source of inspiration and new ideas. Over the past few decades, Europe has transformed into a single multinational space with shifting cultural boundaries.

The 20th century saw the development of several recognisable styles in design, notably Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Constructivism, Modernism and many others. Is there a dominant style in architecture and design today?

I would refer to it as a style explosion: an amalgamation of styles which have blended together and been transformed into something new. Many individual stories can be crystallised in one interior, much like DJs mix different styles of music, from classical and folk to hard rock, heavy metal, reggae and hip-hop. If you try to define this style in one word, it would be “complexity.” There are many genres and styles, each with their unique and individual development patterns.

What is your own house like?

It is difficult to explain. It slightly resembles the Ursus installation, but my house is somewhat larger. It’s a space with exposed brick walls in a building constructed at the beginning of the 20th century on an industrial estate located on the outskirts of Milan. In contrast to loft residences, which used to be immensely popular some time ago, my home is zoned into small rooms arranged into something like a labyrinth. I feel more comfortable there than in big open spaces.

What does comfort mean for you?

I think it is a very important concept – the problem is, we often don’t know what comfort really is. For me personally, comfort means a warm house in the woods with a stove where you can sit down at the table with your friends and have a drink. A cup of tea, for example. (Laughs.) I love traditional materials like wood, which I often combine with metal; they look great together. You have to be careful with trendy new materials because fashion is fleeting – unlike design, which is about creating things that last.

Interviewed by Veronika Gudkova