Interviewer: Ahmed El Faky
Edited by: Yara Mohamed, Mona Timor Shehata
Published by: Amira Haytham
HR Revolution Middle East: Firstly, I would like you to describe your life in one scene.
Sandro Raffone: consider myself a privileged person because I carry out two complementary activities “to build to teach and to teach to build“, which coincide with my passions and for this, perhaps, I allow myself to affirm that I have never worked!
HR Revolution Middle East: When did you decide study architecture ?
Sandro Raffone: As a child, emulating my father, I built some houses of the Christmas nativity scene, then fortresses for toy soldiers and then model airplanes; they were games and that’s what, with awareness and responsibility, I continue to do as an architect.
HR Revolution Middle East: What is the relationship between architecture, change and the future?
Sandro Raffone: The history of Egypt, which is the oldest human civilization on the planet, shows us that in 3,000 years, there has not been substantial variations. I think changes are possible when there is technical innovation like reinforced concrete, but the technique should always be at the service of architecture and not the other way around. Hassan Fathy wrote that “a change is valid only if it is an improvement, otherwise it is a worsening”, a thought analogous to that of Adolf Loos, one of my masters of choice like Mies van der Rohe who, while he had elevated the technique to an aesthetic value, warned that “Technique promises us, at the same time, power and greatness; a dangerous promise for man, which is not made for either one or the other”.
HR Revolution Middle East: In your opinion, architecturally speaking, what is the best building in history and the best building which inspired you in recent times?
Sandro Raffone: This is difficult to answer, but I think the best architecture is the one that lasted longer, like the menhirs and dolmens that express the “grammar of the elements” that is the basis of all the compositions and constructions of the Mediterranean area, then the trilith generated the reinforced concrete frame of modernity. I try to learn and understand the architecture through all the ages, then I look for the solution to any project questioning the needs of the theme, its vocations and its resistance. It is a method that allows me to “discover” solutions that I ignored and find again the references deliberately being forgotten before tackling the topic.
HR Revolution Middle East: Tell us about your “Ibrahim Bite” project. What were the first impressions of your friends, family, students, the government and people?
Sandro Raffone: I wrote the project’s story in the booklet “The House of Abraham”. I would add that friends and students had grasped the didactic theme with great enthusiasm, which was then developed in three degree theses in Naples, Salerno and Barletta. In 2004, the mayor of Barletta became passionate and after the positive meeting with the parish priest and the imam, he entrusted us with the task of designing a cultural center in the Castle of Barletta to begin an acceptance of the two cultures before realizing the “Casa of Abraham”. The event was covered by the weekly “Il Venerdì di Repubblica”, by newspapers and magazines of architecture and through a television interview, as well as some conferences in Bari, Naples and Florence and communications in several Rotary clubs, including in Amman; but then nothing happened anymore, I think due to the bishop’s veto.
Instead the second project in the port of Naples, which I developed in my study due to the approval of the mayor, I had the approval of the representatives of the three monotheistic confessions, however the mayor himself has changed his mind without giving me a reason. Yet Naples, which has never waged wars of conquest, is the most suitable city to erect the “temple of peace”; but also the cosmopolitan Alexandria would be equally suitable!
HR Revolution Middle East: Is architecture able to solve the problems generated by religions? How does “Ibrahim Bite” solve problems the clergy, peace leaders and political leaders couldn’t solve until now?
Sandro Raffone: Much of the history of architecture is connected to religion: temples, churches and mosques erected by faith, have also had the task of promoting social cohesion: the Parthenon (which is the symbol of architecture) built by Ictino at the behest of Pericles had been erected for the goddess Athena, but in reality represented the Polis, that is the city where civitas was born, civilization, and precisely in the cities, churches and mosques have also defined the urban layouts.
For Kurt Mendelssohn, the immense work to build the pyramids was not carried out by slaves, but by the peasants who voluntarily offered their work for a religious reason, and the real purpose of building the pyramids was the construction of the Egyptian society that in fact once it was reached, they did not build pyramids anymore.
The “House of Abraham” is a project without history, but which could make history for the very strong symbolic charge of accepting the faith of the other.
HR Revolution Middle East: If you want to give me an architectural solution to the Jerusalem conflict, what would it be?
Sandro Raffone: I believe that the problem of Jerusalem is more connected to the selfishness of peoples than to faith, but if we consider it a political theme in the positive sense of the term I specified earlier; that is, the polis, perhaps the “House of Abraham” in the symbolic city of the three monotheistic faiths, could facilitate understanding and mitigate disagreements.
HR Revolution Middle East: In your opinion, is Italian architecture the best in this category? Who are its competitors?
Sandro Raffone: In art, it is not about the category but progress and similarly, I do not think that architecture can use scales of categories; to me a house of land in the region of Asir, in Saudi Arabia, communicates and excites me much more than some of the works of Archistar.
Italian architecture suffers from the same evil that afflicts globalization: the fashion that with the complicity of technology allows everyone to build any whim in any place; the short span of fashion can be good for clothes design, while architecture, which lasts longer than the generations, is always there for a long time, so it should not follow the fashions but the “rules of building”, the “constraints” and the “measures” of the places. Today in Italy, as in many countries, too many buildings support improper models, while the architect’s task should be to “serve” and not to use architecture for his own ego because what we build today will be the memory of future generations. In this sense, in my opinion, a modern, discreet and correct architecture is done by the Portuguese, especially the architects of Porto.