Firmitas, utilitas, venustas

We met Filippo Cagnotto, co-founder along with Luca Tedde of Progetto REb, a firm offering design and consultancy services featuring a blend of architecture, engineering, and design

by Carla Pagani

LESS IS MORE, SAID MIES VAN DER ROHE, FATHER OF CONTEMPORARY ARCHITECTURAL AESTHETICS. That motto, which has happily returned to the fore following the excesses of the 1980s and 1990s, both in architecture and elsewhere, is also the philosophy adopted by a new architecture firm that has already made a name for itself following its impressive regeneration of the former Federici pasta factory in Amelia, Umbria, now home to Talenti, an outdoor furniture company.

Filippo Cagnotto

«The world of design today is characterised by attention to detail. Because detail is what establishes the quality of a furnishing element».

The firm is called Progetto REb and was set up by Filippo Cagnotto and Luca Tedde, whose X factor is represented by their blend of architecture, engineering, and design. Filippo Cagnotto, born in 1988, tells us what is behind the luminous transparent tower of the new Talenti headquarters in Amelia. «That tower was once used to store wheat». Today it is a large luminous vertical installation, full of plants, which establishes a dialogue with the surrounding landscape. «It is fundamental to take the natural element into account when designing. Plants change colour and appearance according to the season and buildings change along with them. Nature has to aid architecture and can do so in terms of constantly changing and updating the space we live in, as well as creating wellbeing for those who make tangible use of that space».

Filippo Cagnotto

Cagnotto is thinking of Boeri’s famous vertical forest that has regenerated Milan’s skyline since 2014. Progress has been made since then and today it’s practically impossible to think of designing without taking the natural element into account. «The pandemic has accentuated this tendency, presenting architects and designers with the need to think up open spaces that can be enjoyed and used more than before».

Filippo Cagnotto
Progetto REb works in the field of architectural design and engineering and will soon also make its debut in the world of furnishing accessories.
Filippo Cagnotto

In the Talenti headquarters in Amelia, designed before the arrival of Covid, employees can walk in the park, spend their lunch break outdoors and use the space in a different way than they did before the pandemic became part of our lives and changed our customs and habits. Meanwhile, the design as a whole is all about minimalism and linear purity. Who can help but think of the simple architecture of Mies van der Rohe? It is no coincidence that the great master of the Bauhaus occupies a special place in the pantheon of the big names that have inspired the work of Filippo Cagnotto and Luca Tedde. «We sought to follow the credo of the great master of modernism: subtracting instead of adding. This is what we try to do in all our designs. It might seem straightforward, but that’s not the case at all».

«Teachers are important, as are studying and method, but the experience of the construction site itself is perhaps the most important teacher of all».

Filippo Cagnotto

And what remains of the teachings of the wonderful Bauhaus school, which permeate all of the contemporary design? «Stringency, method, and study, without a doubt. What remains also forms part of Italian study programs. It’s important to study what came before us, and our country has a great deal to teach in this sense», says Cagnotto. Indeed, method and stringent studies. And yet improvisation is just around the corner. «Today there is a strong tendency to design without criteria, perhaps to comply with the tastes of the moment or to follow fleeting trends».

Filippo Cagnotto
Progetto REb looked after the industrial conversion project that transformed the old Federici pasta factory in Amelia into the cutting-edge headquarters of Talenti, an outdoor furniture company.

Instead, we should always design with the great Vitruvius in mind: firmitas/solidity, utilitas/function, and venustas/beauty are three indispensable principles that every architectural design must possess. «And yet we sometimes see designs focused purely on venustas, while completely overlookingutilitas and firmitas», states Cagnotto, bringing De architectura written in 15 B.C. right up to date. And these three key principles are equally valid when it comes to designing buildings and interiors. Even more so today, given that the fusion between workspaces and private spaces is stronger than ever. And so Vitruvian principles have to go hand in hand. «Interiors have to be beautiful, solid and functional, but the balance is even more subtle today, because we demand even more functionality from our everyday objects compared to the past, given the demands imposed on them by working from home».

And as regards objects, Progetto REb is also establishing itself in furnishing accessory design. «We are currently designing and developing prototypes and this is undoubtedly a great new challenge for us. It ultimately comes down to attention to detail, which is what matters in contemporary design». And we can take a bet that the result will be achieved thanks to study, method, and stringency.

(Firmitas, utilitas, venustas – Barchemagazine.com – October 2021)