Dr. Carlo Ratti’s kindness and humbleness surpass his stature as one of the most creative brains in the field of innovative architecture and engineering. He is always willing to give interviews and provide information about his latest innovation or projects, in spite of his busy schedule. His professionalism and kind approach is so infectious that his CRA – Carlo Ratti Associati’s communications staff have become the ‘BEST’ in the field of architecture public relations. Truly so, their professional approach to treat the media with kindness, help and support, and utmost respect is unique in the world.
It is always a joy to interview Dr. Carlo Ratti, because he always amazes you with his creative innovations. He is highly respected all over the world by one and all in the field and general public for his innovative ways to help the mankind at large. CRA is always busy and involved in many projects around the world – from product designing to installations to architecture and urban planning.
Among the recent projects there are the master plan for MIND-Milano Innovation District; the 280-meter-tall skyscraper CapitaSpring in Singapore; the redesign of the Agnelli Foundation Headquarter in Turin. Product design projects range from experimental furniture for Cassina to light installations for Artemide to responsive seating systems for Vitra.
Dr. Carlo Ratti shares his vision with Johnny D about the CapitaSpring project in Singapore.
What really goes in your mind, when the client states the brief in the first meeting?
I always like to gently question the brief. I believe that our role as designers is not only to respond to it but to help refine it.
What was the brief of the project on the CapitaSpring, Singapore?
The brief that BIG and CRA received was about a tall building, with a lot of geometric constraints related to the site and the willingness to explore with innovation.
How would you describe the project from CRA’s perspective?
I think that the project matches two seemingly opposite concepts. That is, on the one hand, the increasing pervasiveness of digital technologies in our lives and in the physical space of our cities. On the other hand, our desires for nature and in particular the “Biophilia Hypothesis” developed by Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson, i.e. that nature heals us and makes us feel better.
The project in Singapore brings together those two dimensions, creating a building that is rich in natural spaces and at the same time technologically advanced. I strongly believe that our cities will move towards a strong reconciliation between these very elements in the future.
What are the unseen challenges and difficulties, you foresee as the head of the team, while designing such a magnificent project?
It is really about collaboration: CRA and BIG, but also RSP, Arcadis, ARUP and many more specific consultants. Today’s role of the architect is less than that of the 20th Century Prometheus and more like a conductor that needs to harmonize many voices (smiles).
What are the major ‘Sustainability’ features, BIG and CRA are incorporating in the Project? Describe the ‘Elegance of Design’ of the project.
The tower aims to make a distinctive mark on Singapore’s skyline. The building’s exterior façade consists of vertical elements that are pulled apart to allow glimpses into the green oases blooming from the base, core and rooftop. A dynamic interplay of orthogonal lines and lush greenery presents itself in the contrasting textures of steel and glass, interweaved with tropical vegetation.
At the ground floor, visitors will be met by a public rainforest plaza and park. A series of spacious activity areas allow fitness sessions, temporary art installations and other community events. Meandering garden paths and covered passages create natural entryways into the City Room, a 19m-high generous open space at the foot of the tower. The lush exterior will be matched by an array of hi-tech solutions shaping a series of fully responsive spaces for work or leisure. Sensors, IoT – Internet-of-Things and AI – Artificial Intelligence capabilities are scattered throughout the tower, which will enable the tenants to customize their experience of the building.
What is the total area and time period completion of the project?
The total area of the project is around 90,000 sq m. The groundbreaking happened in the month of February 2018. The tower should have been completed within two and a half years. However, due to the pandemic, the project got a little delayed and will now be completed by early 2022.
What are the various projects you are currently busy with, in various cities and countries?
We are currently working on many projects, so it is not easy to pick and choose. I would just name a couple: we are currently working with Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs on their site in Toronto, where we are developing a Dynamic Street prototype. The project features a reconfigurable street platform made of customizable, modular hexagonal pavers. The idea is that in a future filled with autonomous vehicles, the street can be reprogrammed to efficiently redirect traffic and pedestrian flows. Also, we are among the finalist teams in the French competition to “reinvent” the Eiffel Tower – a challenging task!
How would you describe Dr. Carlo Ratti as a professional and a person?
Perhaps a curious person! I like a dialogue in François Truffaut’s movie ‘Jules et Jim’– between Jim and his professor Albert Sorel, in which a compelling description is made of a very specific kind of professional: “Mais alors, que dois-je devenir?” — “Un Curieux.” — “Ce n’est pas un métier.” — “Ce n’est pas encore un métier. Voyagez, écrivez, traduisez…, apprenez à vivre partout. Commencez tout de suite. L’avenir est aux curieux de profession.”
Translation: (“But then, what am I to become?” — “A Curious.” — “It’s not a job.” — “It’s not a job yet. Travel, write, translate…, learn to live everywhere. Get started right away. The future is for the curious by profession.”)
Please state the recent awards won by CRA – Carlo Ratti Associati.
– Architizer A+Awards: Advocate Award (2017)
– Cambridge Award Program: Best of Cambridge Award for Educational Research (2017)
– HIVE 50 Innovator: HIVE 50 Innovator (Housing Innovation, Vision & Economics) (2017)
– PLDR: Professional Lighting Design Recognition 2017 – award (2017)
– Connected World Magazine – 2017 Pioneers Award (2017)
Image Courtesy: CRA + BIG