interview with architect cino zucchi
image © designboom




with a sensitive approach to spatial solutions and adapting to the rapid changing context of the european landscape, cino zucchi of CZA has a portfolio of projects realized in europe and mainly in his home country of italy. based in milan, the studio has accomplished projects that range from public, landscaping, commercial to residential, and has developed a distinguished identity within their schemes.


in a recent interview, designboom spoke with cino zucchi, who discussed how he came to study architecture, and expanded on his studio’s design approach, methods, his love for music and his latest projects.

galleria vedeggio cassarate, switzerland / see more of the project on designboom here
image © cino zucchi




DB: what made you want to become an architect and study architecture?



CZ: I wanted to become an architect because I didn’t know what to do in life. the faculty of architecture is a kaleidoscope especially in italy where you see design in the history, socially and politics- it has a little bit of everything. I had quite a complicated story, I was a drum player and I went to america to play drums with milano high school. this went to lead on to my undergraduate degree at MIT and I came back to milan to finish and graduate.

ravenna harbour apartment building, italy / see more of the project on designboom here
image © cino zucchi




DB: is there anyone or anything that has been a big influences on your work to date?



CZ: I had a very strange education, because I studied in america, and at MIT and there is a high attitude towards experimentation. MIT has very interesting people, thinkers and scientists, with a very nice artificial intelligence department. when I came back to italy, I wrote a very scholarly book about milanese courtyards from 1500s-1700s. so, the pendulum of my mind went one way and the other, I got the two extremes: humanistic studies and scientific studies. in this sense, my education comes from very different sources, this crossbreeding between different fields of thoughts.


many architects use other elements to justify what they do and in the end, architectural form is a very complex thing. it has to go through a lot of different conditions: economical, political, rules, time, and having to please not just the client but I feel architecture is a public statement so, a building does not just belong to the person who commissioned it but it belongs to the city. so we have a hidden client who is the city, the urban life. also many times, buildings last much longer then the program that it generated them– this is a fact in architecture. otherwise we should throw away a city every 30 years like we throw away cellphones. unlike the design of a record cover, it doesn’t have a big of an effect but when you design a bad building, you can harm many people.

national automobile museum, turin, italy / ee more of the project on designboom here
image © filippo poli




DB: is there still a place for physical model making and sketching designs by hand?



CZ: I force the people in my studio to sketch sketch sketch and we do a lot of physical models but that doesn’t mean we don’t use sophisticated techniques. I would differentiate instruments for designing and instruments for visualization. renderings have to be very good, in a way renderings are so life like, that sometimes I have the feeling they are like madame tussaud wax statues and I rather have a canova statue, marble or a real person. renderings today are getting so exceptional that you can almost not tell the difference.  I think during the design phases, sketches are much more useful because there is a moment for precision but a moment for non-defined, unmeasured quality.

ex rossi catelli area residential building, parma, italy
image © cino zucchi




DB: in your designs there is a use of panels, layering of materials on the façade. can you talk about this characterization?


CZ: in the studio, we don’t have a strong specialization, we deal with many different themes, from exhibition design to urban design. in the sense we do housing, offices, the types are very different. sometimes I think that modernism has an axiom, a continuity of interior of the building and exterior becomes by itself. I think you do need, in an urban situation, some kind of buffer, for example between public and private. in a way we use drawers, the drawers work because they hide whats inside, if everything was transparent there would be disorder and no privacy. we need a buffer between our individual space.


the façade of the building is both things: its an interface between the individual self- the inhabitant and the public realm. when we design large buildings, the skin is also a climatic buffer. exposing the frame was popular before, today the frame cannot be directly shown because of fire protection, this layer can do many things, weather proofing, insulation, but also they show how to react to the sun. the building façade is like a sundial, when the sun turns, like a painting by monet, the façade of the building can be as lively as times square without moving because the weather moves. to me thats phenomenal, I take responsibility for this quality.

christ’s resurrection church, sesto s. giovanni, milan
image © cino zucchi




DB: can you tell us what projects you are currently working on?



CZ: we won the competition for the lavazza coffee in turin, the exceptional thing is not because it is an important company but, the location-  a former industrial disused area, next to the center of turin, an old power plant. so the project consists of one entity, we reunite all the offices of lavazza and the new public garden for the public. there will be a coffee museum, restaurant, event space and also we are experimenting the new workplace, because today, there is more emphasis in the physical office space.

new lavazza headquarter, turin, italy
image © cino zucchi


DB: what is your personal motto?



I have a big interest in music, if I had a motto, architecture is like a pop song- something that is structured but has a deeper meaning. the miracle of music is its abstract and sentimental quality and to me, architecture is a pop song heard in the backdrop of our lives. somehow it can be lived in a state of distraction, architecture shouldn’t overpower life, it should stay in the back of it, it should be pleasant, of course it can be important, powerful, monumental, but not in the direct meaning, I like background music of architecture.