29 July 2019
With an Italian father and Swedish mother, trained architect Duilio Forte seems to walk the tightrope between two different realms: architecture and art, present and past, reality and mythology. His work ranges from land art to architecture and sculpture to design, but he also practices drawing, painting, photography and video. His projects – in which he explores the natural and anthropic space, but especially the poetic space, channelling the power and exemplary nature of myths back into the contemporary world – aim to be real scenographies of everyday life, the epic universe around which human beings move. Practical skills and the traditional Swedish respect for nature meld with the huge breadth and complexity of Italian history and culture. Since childhood, the artist has used the contrast between the two cultures as a spur for finding a creative synthesis, a spatial and temporal dimension in which both worlds can coexist while still remaining “magical” to some extent. Thus, in most of Forte’s projects, the influence of Nordic mythology and other ancient stories is immediately apparent. His quest for the infinite identities of Sleipnir, Odin’s peerless eight-legged horse in Norse mythology, which began in 2008, is an opportunity to rethink the relationship between man and nature, building sacred spaces in which a more authentic experience of time can be had. This has fuelled the temporary and permanent installations inspired by Sleipnir in cities and rural areas, in forests and along rivers, which have won over the Venice Lagoon, the Triennale di Milano, Palazzo Carignano in Turin and the Vittoriale on Lake Garda. The activities of atelierFORTE, the studio he set up in 1998, and the summer school in Sweden, where architecture becomes an artisan practice once more, made up of skills and silences, wood and metal, are expressions of the Rule laid down in Forte’s ArkiZoic manifesto, seven principles that govern artistic practice to everyday ethics, reaffirming the subversive value of resourcefulness, of that unique craftsmanship that is the antidote to banality and is the potential keystone, harnessing experimentation and the unexpected, for a new evolution.
Architect, artist, modern (possibly) and fascinating (definitely) storyteller and design poet, who is Duilio Forte?
I’m an explorer who ventures into the territories that lie between architecture and art. Which sometimes emerge in film, in painting and in sculpture. They are border areas and as such contain a wealth of differences and stimuli.
AtelierFORTE, your studio/home is actually a magical otherworldly space, a forge of Tolkienesque fascination: how did this space come about and who frequents it?
It’s a space born of the need for a great laboratory in which time and space are interposed and mixed together. The past and the future, Italy and Sweden, wood and iron, painting and sculpture, photography and video. Researching is a way of trying to give life to a different world. AtelierFORTE’s motto is Verum in Somnis, the reality of dreams.
Your Rule is laid down in the ArkiZoic manifesto: how easy is it, in today’s world, to abide by it as an architect? How has your relationship with the practice changed over the years?
The Rule is an expression of my modus operandi, I tried to synthesis the distinctive elements of my work, the things I believe are important for evolving and improving. I think a principle is important both as the marking of a path and as a barrier to be broken down.
Who are your masters and your “travelling companions”, the artists you feel closest to right now?
My masters are everywhere, I try to learn from everything and everyone, I am extremely curious and I’m interested in any and every field. As soon as I embark on a subject I discover the huge wealth of human knowledge and I try to understand, to immerse myself in the discovery. I’m hugely interested in the processes, how things work on both a technical and an expressive level. I really enjoy transposing processes, techniques and forms of expression from differing contexts.
Sleipnir is a figure from Scandinavian mythology, an incredibly fast eight-legged horse. The horse has always been the animal linked to exploring the world and consequently to learning about it. It’s a series of 49 monumental wooden sculptures that represent a way of exploring the territory. The blend of natural material and engineering technique creates a natural presence in the city and an anthropic intervention in the countryside, and always generates a positive contrast that valorises the context.
StugaProject 2019 takes place over seven days, at Grythyttan in Sweden, surrounded by great lakes and immense forests. Can you tell us a bit about this workshop, which is an incredible experience and is now in its XVI edition?
When I built my first sauna in a week, in the middle of the forest, I realised immediately just how extraordinary it was to be able to make something directly without the intermediation of technical design. It came to me quite naturally that an experience like this could interest lots of young people. You start from a sort of zero degrees. There’s no electricity, phones don’t work, there are none of the amenities we’re used to in the city. You realise immediately just how capable people are of adapting to nature and how beautiful things can be created with just a few simple tools. The timber we use is the same as the wood growing around us, there’s a powerful bond between man and nature.
What’s your greatest challenge as an architect today?
The challenge is to bring the poetry of space into the heart of architecture.