• Hospitality
  • LEED
  • Masterplan
  • Public Space
  • Regeneration
  • Renovation
  • Student Housing
  • Sustainability

Open Project: in between craftsmanship architecture and high-end innovation

Back to all news
Design Courier Logo

Open Project is a design factory where the well-being of places and men is brought to the center. In fact, through its projects, the Open Project team draws lines of connection between environments and human beings. Thus conceived, the spaces become places of exchange, experience and knowledge. If, on the one hand, the creative network of the studio looks towards the future, on the other, the regeneration of what already exists is an equally important theme. If these two premises may seem contradictory, they are actually the two sides of a coin, that of an innovation that does not forget its heritage. We talked about it with Maurizio Piolanti and Francesco Conserva, respectively President and Vice-president at Open Project. 

What is the story of Open Project? What are the keywords that define it? 

Open Project is an architecture and engineering company founded in the eighties of the last century that, since then, has never stopped evolving. As it stands today, the studio condenses its approach in the payoff: “we imagine, we design, we create”. This brief phrase represents and summarizes our work. In fact, the starting point of our projects is the concept – “we imagine” – followed by the  development and design part – “we design ­– and complemented by the construction phase until the accomplishment of the work – “we create”. 

This approach represents us in terms of method. Indeed, as a studio, we are organized on these three macro sectors: an architecture segment that develops the concepts and the feasibility of the projects, a technical development segment, and an executive sector that deals with the direction of the works on the construction site.

What narration do your projects represent? 

Our way of doing architecture reflects a choral vision. In fact, Open Project is not an authorial studio characterized by a single specific imprint. Over the years we have structured a work method that allows everyone to express their creativity. Our values are interrelated to current issues, about which we have been forerunners in many aspects. In fact, we were among the first to apply BIM technology in architecture and to certify in terms of sustainability chief projects such as the one of the Unipol tower in Bologna. This latter in particular has been LEED certified for ten years now. 

Our focus on sustainability issues is part of a holistic and comprehensive approach. We aim to create projects in which the functional and budgetary aspects are integrated with the themes of sustainability and high technology. In this we can define ourselves as craftsmen. The dimension of our studio – about fifty people – allows us to maintain an overall supervision from the beginning to the end of the projects, to give answers in a short time and to have a truly customized result.

What aspects should be preserved with regard to the issue of urban areas' regeneration? 

On the subject of urban regeneration, I would like to cite as an example two urban spaces we have recently worked on. For the municipality of Modena we designed a public park in a suburban area of the city that needed a novel identity. We worked together with an agronomist expert and with a landscape architect so that the park could cover different functions starting from a multi-generational reception. Furthermore, we wanted it to be a valuable and functional space throughout all the months of the year. 

Dissimilarly, for the municipality of San Lazzaro we designed the main square, which has been completely revised by us on the basis of a concept of openness. We wanted the square “to breathe”. In fact, the project is called Respiro – “Breath”– and its objective was to eliminate those anthropomorphic elements that had sealed the square over time. We have thus given the place a new urban aspect through the use of materials that allow water to penetrate inside the soil. Creating spaces that are adapted to climate change and focused on people’s livability is, in the final analysis, one of our primary purposes. The product of our work is never an end in itself, but rather a place where people can live according to their specific needs.

At the moment we are taking care of a number of regenerations of no longer used areas where, when possible, we try to enhance the existing heritage. Sustainability issues inevitably lead us to research and reuse of built areas. The research that we are carrying out in this field has shown us how important the carbon footprint of buildings is and how much savings and benefits the salvage of buildings bring in this regard.

Who are the masters you look at the most? 

The inspiration mainly comes from a Bologna-based school that has always had particular attention to the issues of regeneration. I am speaking of the experiences that have been conducted in Bologna since the seventies of the last century by the urban planner Pier Luigi Cervellati and some of his colleagues, which saw in the regeneration a possibility of conservation and enhancement of the historic center of the city. These studies today must be interpreted according to more contemporary approaches that favor the transdisciplinary collaboration between different playmakers. 

When projecting a regeneration work, this extends from the building itself to the energy and seismic components, up to the territories. A place is concretely regenerated only if it is able to interpret and make concrete the present needs and, possibly, the future ones. In fact, in our work we try to communicate to our clients necessities that at the current state may not be manifest to them, but that could be in the near future. This also involves proposing projects that are at the forefront of present-day issues so that they will be contemporary at the time of the completion.

Today, the share of technology and innovation proceeds at such a fast pace that there is no time to realize a project that is already substantially obsolete. We therefore try to go against this obsolescence, focusing not so much on technology but on ideas. In this path we are collaborating with artists so as to have an increasingly complete picture of the needs and the different contributions that everyone can bring in the world of design.

What characteristics should the architecture of the future have to be truly sustainable? 

Today talking about LEED or BREEAM certifications in the real estate community is the standard. What is still to be done is to include and deepen the issues of CO2 emissions during the construction and operation of buildings and how much they weigh on the environment. It is thus necessary to make a further step by going to assess the effects in a wider way. Above all, we need to find mitigations and compensations that try to make the impact of the real estate industry as neutral as possible. This is not yet the case and much work will have to be done in the coming years.

What is your point of view on the latest developments in the hotel industry, increasingly marked by the offer of a "hybrid" experience?

The themes related to the hybridization of space and the conception of hotels not as places of passage but as places where to live for a certain period are the basis of some of our latest projects. Among these, The Student Hotel allowed us to access a certain degree of experience and to reflect on the new boundaries between student housing and hotel space. In fact, there is no longer a clear classification of vision between the two. Compared to traditional houses, hallways are conceived to give the space certain characteristics of fluidity and dynamism. The Student Hotel in Bologna has been open for four years now, giving us the confirmation that this concept works. The ground floor of the building has become an interesting crossroads where not only different generations meet and mix, but also different types of people. These meetings can also raise new creative ideas.

Original article