Text by: Alessandro Benetti

What does it mean to be an architect today? And what can be considered as architecture? The point here is not getting lost in some obscure ontological dissertation. Rather, it is crucial to acknowledge that nowadays architects are not merely builders, architecture critics are not just writers and architecture curators are more than exhibitions’ organisers. In this ever-changing context, as a lot of “hybrid” figures stay as flimsy as the neologisms that allegedly define their field of action, few of them are progressively fine tuning their specificities and role. From the multifaceted human and professional landscape of so-called “young” Italian architects, the experience of Parasite 2.0 deserves to be singled out as an epitome of the increasing complexity of the various professions that revolve around the blurred core of the architectural discipline.  The collective was founded in 2010 by Stefano Colombo, Eugenio Cosentino and Luca Marullo. We met them in Milano, where they currently live and work.

Who makes Parasite 2.0? Why did you chose this name? Which are the most relevant turning points and the game changing projects in your career until today?

Parasite 2.0 is formed by Stefano Colombo, Eugenio Cosentino and Luca Marullo. The three of us graduated at the Faculty of Architecture of the Politecnico, in Milan. Moreover, we were all born in 1989, which we consider as a crucial historical threshold, when a major change occurred, involving the whole planet. We are thinking about the rise of the internet and the collapse of a two-fold vision of the world, embodied by the fall of the Berlin wall. Our name is an explicit criticism to the architecture of contextualism and mimesis, a dogma that the academy presented us as the only possible option. We chose “Parasite” as a parasite is the exact opposite to that unified vision, a foreign body, clearly visible, standing out from its surroundings thanks to its distinctive, hostile aesthetics. “2.0” was meant as a tribute to the internet of those years, where the contents were freely produced by the users. We claimed a 2.0 architecture, made by its inhabitants rather than by architects themselves. We do acknowledge, though, that the 2.0 suffix has been largely abused in the last few years.

For our part, we don’t believe that a “project” exists as the production of a final, definite object. Rather, research is a continuous process, and everybody is involved within it. No tile can be removed.

In 2016, your project “Maxxi temporary school: The museum is a school. The school is a battleground” was awarded the prestigious YAP MAXXI award.

Through this project, we were trying to communicate a few complex ideas that have been crucial to our research. A mere formal interpretation of our installation can barely convey its actual conceptual focus. First, it is a transversal criticism to the field of contemporary architecture, and more specifically to the logic of architectural competitions, which is one of the main sources of the current overproduction of visual representations. To protest against this system and the reduction of architecture to “instagram architecture”, we stressed the latter’s potential to its paradox, by creating a perfect scenography for selfies, filled with attractive signs, and basically working as a green screen. At the same time, we presented our project as a school, to claim the need for an architecture able to produce a deeper cultural content. Our stage worked as an effective pedagogical tool, continuously animated by a multifaceted programme of round tables and public debates, all streamed online.

How did the public of the MAXXI relate to your stage? Which type of planned and unplanned uses of its surfaces could you witness?

The shapes and the possible uses of the green screen were meant to urge the users to meditate on the Antropocene epoch, and the blurring of the limits between natural and artificial. We are not sure that this came out so clearly, and we partially regret that we weren’t able to better communicate these contents, which we considered as the most captivating side of the whole project. As a result, also the App that we developed, which allowed the users to select their favourite background to be represented on the green screen, so as to customise their selfies, was definitely underused. Still, we were very glad to witness that our stage became a beloved and crowded playground, as we expected, and that it served as a much appropriate background for the summer activities of the MAXXI.

To describe “Cosmologie”, your installation at the Spazio Murat in Bari, you define it as a “fantaspazio”. Would you tell us something more about this project?

“Cosmologie” is strictly connected to our project for YAP MAXXI. It reproduces the same format of an installation, which serves as a stage for a dense cycle of events, also curated by us. In Bari, as we did in Rome, we carried on our research on nowadays present, which is already future, that we describe through definition of “extreme present”, borrowed from Shumon Basar, Douglas Coupland and Hans Ulrich Obrist’s “The Age of Earthquake”. At Spazio Murat, though, we had the chance to work in an interior, a condition that relieved us from the need to relate to any actual context, such as the cumbersome presence of Zaha Hadid’s building which we had to confront at the MAXXI. Therefore, we were able to define a much neater and straight-forward, though complex and articulated, spatial configuration, a “fantaspazio” removed from reality.

And what about the site-specific installation that you produced for Missoni’s Milanese showroom on the occasion of the Milano Design Week 2015?

The installation in Milano reproduced the “Web House”, which we originally built many years before on the occasion of a free workshop in the volcanic countryside surrounding the Etna. Missoni realised that it recalled quite clearly their trademark weaving, and commissioned us to reshape it inside their showroom. On a more conceptual level, this cobweb hints at the vision of a man who gets back to its animal origins and discovers a brand new way to create his own habitat, through a biological process. The “Web House” was originally conceived as accessible space, but this was not possible inside the showroom, due to safety restrictions. The whole set-up was developed together with architect Angelo Jelmini, who focused specifically on the lighting design.

Dinosaurs, palms, neon lights, fluo colours, webs… your aesthetics seems to draw quite freely from many different sources of inspiration. What are your main references?

Our main inspiration are the multiple inputs of the world of the internet, including its most random, unaware, and ultimately lame aspects. We are fine with drawing from it freely, with no restrictions whatsoever, and we are always trying to push the limits. Of course, we tend to fine-tune our aesthetics for each project. Sometimes we take it to its extremes, other times we tame it.

The Museum is a School Yap for MAXXI 2016 by Parasite 2.0