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Architecture and communication: the storytelling of outdoor projects - Interview with Giorgio Tartaro

Architecture and communication: the storytelling of outdoor projects - Interview with Giorgio Tartaro

With the arrival of 2020 the second decade of the 2000s has come to an end, and now we look to the future with many questions, even some about our outdoor spaces. In fact, one has to wonder: how much have these outdoor spaces changed in the last ten years and how will they change in the future? And how can we recount our living spaces in a world that is constantly changing, even using increasingly fluid, shared and innovative means of communication? 

To answer some of these questions we interviewed Giorgio Tartaro – journalist, author and TV presenter – who has been working on architectural and communication projects for some time. Starting from the concept of storytelling and finishing with the notion of a "library of the contemporary", this is what he revealed to us.

Architecture and communication: the importance of storytelling

The art of storytelling is something that has accompanied humanity since ancient times, but never before has the importance of telling stories that are both effective and original to engage and excite one's target audience been emphasised like in recent years. This trend has affected every area, including the design of living spaces, both indoors and out. However, architecture and communication – and therefore stories – can seem like two distant universes. So is it true? 

"I've been working in the world of architecture and design for many years and I realise that every time a project is recounted, it's possible to appreciate and understand it better", begins Giorgio Tartaro on the importance of design presentation, an aspect that is particularly close to his heart. In fact, referring to architecture, he explains that "until you hear it presented by the architect, you don't fully appreciate the aesthetic aspect of the project. The more they tell you about it, the more you notice it".  

According to Tartaro, the reasons can be found in the fact that communication is part of the design, indeed it's a project all of its own. "When the architect creates a new work, he or she also imagines how to put it into words: storytelling becomes an integral part of the design. This means that some architectural solutions – both interior and exterior – arise almost spontaneously or concurrently with the project's story".

The new frontiers of the outdoors

As we noted, the arrival of 2020 coincided not just with the end of another year, but of a whole decade. For Tartaro this is a historic moment, especially when you think of all that was to be achieved by the Kyoto Treaty, "goals that were not achieved given what is happening in politics and with the climate", he explains. And yet, he continues, "from a design point of view, there is a new outdoor culture: we truly have a green field, a prairie to work with. Designers who once simply furnished outdoor spaces now build and imagine new lightweight architecture designed to reclaim outdoor spaces". This is particularly true for countries in northern Europe, as confirmed by Tartaro: "It seems absurd, but there's more of an outdoor culture there than in Italy, where in theory we have ample opportunities to live in the open air". 

But you have to be positive, because this means that there's lots of room for growth. "Corradi, for example, is working on these issues, not just home terraces and therefore private spaces for personal use, but broader and more complex matters. We're talking about public spaces in the city and how the design of these spaces – meshing with infrastructure and therefore also public transport and roads – somehow contributes to shaping and spreading a new culture of the outdoor world". Consequently, thinking in these terms the outdoors can – and should – be a shared space while reflecting the urban setting.

2010 v. 2020: what has changed?

"It's the end of an era", explains Tartaro. "2010 came at a time of crisis, but it was also a time for starting again. Today, in 2020, we're all more aware, especially as regards the fact that the outdoors is a real source of energy and life". In fact, for some years now we have been witnessing a green revolution, which thanks to technology and innovation is aimed at the creation of urban oases. Companies should therefore invest more and more in inclusion between indoor and outdoor. In fact Corradi's solutions seek to reconquer spaces, making them more modular and flexible", continues the interviewee.

The living spaces of our future stories

If eco-sustainability was already one of the crucial aspects of contemporary living trends in 2019, what can we expect from 2020? For Tartaro, there's a keyword for change and it is: mobility. "I live in Milan, I get around on my bike and I see more and more electric motorcycles and cars, with everything that comes with them, i.e. columns for recharging or using car sharing. This would seem to have nothing to do with the outdoors and instead will completely change the appearance of the urban context". The reason? These inputs will lead to the formation of a new idea of outdoor space, which will change according to what happens in everyday life, and therefore in the city. "While in the past an outdoor space was simply a rectangle with sofas and a coffee table, today it can be so much more: it can be a place to do other activities, like cooking or working out. We're redefining the outdoors". For Tartaro things are already changing: "the city is already – or finally, one might say – evolving. Therefore the culture of the outdoors, along with everything it entails, will also undergo changes. Mobility is a fundamental part of our daily lives, because it leads to living, eating, studying, moving around spaces".

How to recount outdoor spaces? The library of the contemporary

The reality that we find ourselves in at the beginning of this decade is decidedly complex and layered, moving fast and fluidly on an array of media channels. Communication is everywhere and it's not only mediating our relationship with reality, but it's literally shaping it (as in the case of the "Instagram-style" staging of some venues). So, whoever wants to get involved in the world of architecture and the design of these new environments can't ignore this, but how do you create a link between architecture and communication? 

As a professor, Tartaro advises young designers entering the working world to focus on image. "Of course substance is important, but today we have some incredible tools, more specifically social media, among other things. So, if I had to tell a young person what to do if he or she wants to design, I would say: well, take what you think are the 30 most influential Instagram profiles, like Matteo Thun's or Cino Zucchi's, look at what they do and what they post. That's not just an editorial project, but also a declaration of intent. It's a job that others do for us and it's there, free for the taking. It just takes a little effort to figure out what you're looking for. In the past all the information was only available in books, but now it's all there, at your fingertips", and for Tartaro this is the library of the contemporary

But what can we do with this potentially infinite amount of content that is always available? And more specifically, how should social media be used to convey architecture and design? Tartaro has some strong ideas on the matter: "by tagging: you have to tag, to disturb others who are on social media and take their content" to involve them in a constant dialogue.

Human value as a reference for the future

So let's get back to the starting point: architecture and communication. As we've seen, the speed and ease of use of social networks allow for greater dissemination of and accessibility to valuable content and the creation of new, original stories. However, one wonders: if everyone can post everything, how much does this "story" get diminished? In reality, explains Tartaro, the risk is always there, it's true, but in the end it's the same thing that has already happened with television, which offered precisely an expanded catalogue of content. 

"One must always have a capacity for criticism and use. You can't just let yourself be used by social media, you have to use them yourself. You have to remember some people identified as references, seek them out and see what they're doing right now on social networks. We need to return to a new way of getting to know each other on the web". In fact, in just a few years we have moved from analogue to digital, but we have not received any instructions on how to approach this new way of communicating and this has often led to quite a few problems. For Tartaro, in the near future we'll have to try to establish a balance between these two worlds that seem to be opposed: communication and people. "Now – we lucky ones, because we represent the transitional generation – we must use the strategies of human relations and transfer them to social networks, which is ethereal and alphanumeric", he concludes. 

This 2020 will therefore be full of new possibilities to experience the home and outdoors and to redesign the urban context of the future. Communicating architecture is part of this process of innovation: being able to do it in an inclusive and "human" way is the challenge of the present.

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