Over the years, Claudio Lazzarini and Carl Pickering’s firm has worked on a wide variety of projects incorporating numerous different fields, always offering a highly sensitive interpretation of each historical period
by Claudia Giulia Ferrauto – photo by Studio LPA and Matteo Piazza
INNOVATION. OVERALL VISION. FRESHNESS. When you cross the threshold of the Lazzarini Pickering studio – in the vibrant heart of Rome’s Trastevere neighbourhood – you enter another dimension, enveloped by soft light, with unexpected double-height ceilings and spaces packed with elegance and order. Two Labradors, one yellow and one chocolate, follow us docilely as we make our way across the studio and Pickering explains that «Before we purchased these premises, great artists lived, worked and created here, from Schifano to Gino De Dominicis. This was the headquarters of the Fondazione Boetti, the home of Abel Ferrara. Much of what you see here also tell their story».
VILLA IN THE CHILTERNS
This project, set in the countryside between London and Oxford, began following the demolition and reconstruction of an early 20th-century house surrounded by greenery. It involved both architectural and landscaping work. The villa is characterized by two main stylistic features: the entrance to the home with a rotunda delimited by hedges; the home, wrapped in a mantle of grass and situated at a lower level, almost hidden within its surroundings. A concept where weightlessness reigns supreme. It is also a zero-impact house in terms of energy use thanks to the numerous green features.
Portrait of a studio
Over the years, the studio founded in 1982 by the architects Claudio Lazzarini and Carl Pickering has won several prestigious international awards, including the Compasso d’Oro, the AR + D Prize, the Gold Bundesrepublik Design Prize, the Dedalo Minosse Architectural Prize, and the Millennium Design Award. Claudio Lazzarini graduated in architecture from “La Sapienza” University in Rome, where he studied under Ludovico Quaroni. Carl Pickering was born in Sydney (Australia) but has lived in Italy since 1980, where he graduated in architecture at IUAV University in Venice, studying under Peter Eisenman, Gino Valle, and Massimo Scolari. As well as their design work, the two founders of LPA have also been involved in teaching and education, holding conferences at major institutions – including the MAXXI and la Casa dell’Architettura – as well as working as visiting professors at various international universities. They have also both taught at the “Ludovico Quaroni” Faculty of Architecture at “La Sapienza” University in Rome.
VILLA IN POSITANO
An 18th-century villa, redeveloped to create a contemporary design within the context of an old fishing village, reinterpreting the traditions of clear Arabic influence tucked away in various details. The renovation involves the restoration of the original large spaces and the round arches modulated by a landscape of geometric elements. The continuity of the rooms, linked by box-shaped iron frames, characterizes the environments, bringing the power of modernity to the heart of history.
At this point, before our interview gets properly underway, it would be a good idea to introduce the two protagonists of this portrait we’re painting. Lazzarini Pickering Architetti (LPA) was founded in Rome in 1982 by the architects Claudio Lazzarini and Carl Pickering. For almost forty years in business, it has embraced a wide variety of projects ranging from nautical design to architecture, incorporating the renovation of historical buildings and the design of hotels, SPAs, and restaurants, without forgetting industrial design, graphics, and branding.
The Sense Hotel, in Sofia, revolves around the 2013 reconstruction of a historic building in a modern key. The hotel stands on one of the city’s most prestigious roads, and it stands out for the building’s capacity to establish a respectful dialogue with the setting, despite its extremely contemporary appearance. The hotel’s new facade is made up of a glazed surface interrupted by a metal grille that sets the pattern for the bedroom windows.
During its time in business LPA has succeeded in catering to the wishes of its clients, which include many major shipyards such as Benetti, Rossinavi, and Wally, and then Valentino and even Fendi, for which it designed the international image for its eighty boutiques dotted around the world from 1997 to 2002, not to mention its projects for Montblanc and Ferrero. In short, it’s a long list and it embodies a design spirit that goes “from spoons to cities”. It should therefore come as no surprise that the firm can vaunt a prestigious collection of international awards, including the Compasso d’Oro, the AR + D Prize, the Gold Bundesrepublik Design Prize, the Dedalo Minosse Architectural Prize, and the Millennium Design Award. Versatility, which forms part of the firm’s nature, goes hand in hand with a vision that remains intact in every project, whatever it might be, as we can see when observing the sense of weightlessness apparent in every creation.
«As an architecture firm, we range from urban masterplans to new buildings, the renovation of historic buildings, hotels, and boutiques, and we even design furniture. There are no barriers or boundaries. Multidisciplinary fusionis our founding element». Carl Pickering
What spirit does the firm adopt when tackling such different challenges, always producing an identifying imprint that reveals your signature so clearly?
We stand out for the fact that we’re architects and we’re proud of it because anyone who has chosen this path of life and study operates on a different timescale from everyone else when approaching projects. The things we do are designed to be timeless and always contemporary. Many of our projects from twenty years ago look like they’ve been made today. Another of our characteristics, linked precisely to this DNA, is our multidisciplinary nature, which means we are often outsiders, with a profound vocation for inserting the research we are doing in one field into another. This enables us to take a very fresh approach to every project.
SPA IN BEIRUT
This project, located in Beirut (Lebanon), aims to develop a public SPA as an integral part of a 1960s hotel. The objective is to adopt a contemporary style in the renovation of a traditional Lebanese building near the hotel, characterized by bare stone walls and a large arched loggia. The architectural work embraces almost 1,000 m2 spread over two floors and envisages a new building linked to the existing one. The large windows are screened by Moucharabieh, reinterpreted in a modern key, creating a link between interior and exterior spaces. The result is incredibly precise, perfectly integrated with a kaleidoscope of colours and patterns.
As regards freshness, among the many iconic designs that bear their name, the ones they have produced in the yachting field have become real reference points, including the Wally Power 118 and the Wally 80, or Shaka, with which they won the Compasso d’Oro in 2008, for example.
Villa “G” is part of a 2016 project in a protected woodland area near Todi. It marks the outcome of a renovation project involving an entire hamlet dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. The total surface area of the plot is around 9 hectares. Unit “G” has a surface area of 357 m2 and was the first new piece of architecture to be completed. The result reveals an ability to establish a balanced dialogue between tradition and contemporaneity, producing an extremely elegant and modern result that pays tribute to history.
How did you enter the yachting sector and what kind of sensibility do you employ when coming up with such disruptive yet much-appreciated solutions?
Our entry into the world of yachting happened rather by chance, when working on the interiors of the Wally B in 1995, although neither of us had any background in this field. However, we have always stood out for the fact that we’re strategic designers. We approach every project with the openness typical of when one faces something for the first time. This produces unexpected results, such as the Wally designed for Ferrero, which then also asked us to relaunch Ferrero Rocher.
An unusual change of scale, going from designing a yacht to relaunching a chocolate brand. How did you react?
With amazement. Our initial response was one of perplexity. We don’t know anything about milk chocolate, perhaps we’re not the right people for this concept, we said, and instead, he replied that he liked our strategic approach and the way we think outside the box.
FARR 85 ROMA
LPA has worked on many vessels that have remained in people’s hearts, such as the Farr 85 Roma (made in the Latini Marine yard – one of the first in Europe to build carbon fiber boats) developed by Farr Yacht Design in partnership with Lazzarini Pickering Architetti.
So your secret is the fact that you’re not hyper-specialised in a single field, but instead, weigh up each project based on the context. Would you say that’s true?
Exactly, and we see this in yachting as well as in architecture and even design. Our lack of disciplinary specificness becomes extreme specificness concerning the place. This means understanding the contexts, interpreting their signs, geometries, materials, light, wind, and views. In this case of a historic building – and our firm has dealt with a number of these – it means understanding the layers of history in that place. In these cases, we could metaphorically describe ourselves as surgeons operating with a scalpel to seek to achieve the very best, making our intervention as invisible as possible.
The collaboration between Lazzarini Pickering Architetti and the Wally yard boasts some truly memorable projects, from the splendid interiors designed for the Wally to the Wally 80’, the Farr Yacht Design project, which won the Compasso d’Oro in 2008, all the way through to the iconic Wally Power 118 of which they signed the interior design and the styling in partnership with Luca Bassani and the yard.
Can you give us a few examples to provide us with a better understanding of this very interesting concept?
As regards architecture I could mention the Villa in The Chilterns, which stands in perfect harmony amidst the surrounding greenery, and also the Villa G and the SPA in Beirut, where innovation harmoniously embraces the historical context, without ever overwhelming it.
The interiors of the Flying Dagger – a completely custom-made 50-meter superyacht from Rossinavi – designed by Lazzarini Pickering Architetti in 2018, feature a minimalist layout packed with personality. The design makes great use of natural and artificial light and we find ourselves suspended in the clouds within a fluid architecture, in which functions, materials, and colours pursue, mirror, and mix with one another, producing a sensation of freedom and weightlessness.
Sustainability can also be a guideline that becomes a key feature of the design, as illustrated by the Villa in The Chilterns. There are lots of examples in the yachting sector. We look for the dominant line, character, and geometric element in every one of our projects, making everything else converge with it. This could be the correspondence of the exterior and interior floorboards, or baring the structure of the yacht, as we did recently on the Motopanfilo from Benetti, or even creating more consistency between the many ways of being on board and the configuration of the spaces. In this latter case, the idea of giving the yacht interiors the possibility of being transformed – thanks to a series of designer devices – by making the spaces multifunctional, was perhaps viewed with a certain degree of hesitancy at the beginning, before setting a real trend as soon as it took hold.
BENETTI MOTOPANFILO 37
LPA developed the interior design for the 37-meter Benetti Motopanfilo 37, working to find constructive and stylistic constants that still offered flexibility to be interpreted by the owner. It is a yacht with a very strong personality, whose spaces can be customized without overturning its unique style.
The wonderful Polytropon design, built by Swan in 2008, is a custom project that boasts original and innovative solutions, such as the deckhouse screened with an “all-white” solution to create soft and pleasant lighting on the deck, while also improving the climatic conditions. The interiors feature multifunctional spaces, as pushed for by LPA, achieved thanks to countless devices that make it possible to transform the furnishings.
Following the Salone del Mobile in 2015, the firm established a profitable partnership with MSE (Marta Sala Editions) that has led to a collection of furniture, rugs, chairs, armchairs, and sofas, as well as customized and limited-edition pieces, including the Murena chair (produced in many different versions), the Ludovico rug and the Wanda armchair. The common thread that links the project can be found in the flowing lines and minimalist style of LPA, which establishes a harmonious dialogue with materials and shapes.
The more I hear their responses, the more curiosity is aroused in my mind. The beauty of their designs and their ability to describe them have triggered even more questions, leaving everything else in suspense. And while I put my notes in order and we agree on the images, the two Labradors, who have been lying down waiting patiently, suddenly perk up and demand the attention of Claudio Lazzarini and Carl Pickering. The time has come to say goodbye.
(Lazzarini Pickering, visionari e sensibili – Barchemagazine.com – Ottobre 2021)