The Edge: Luca Poian, Forms and Forces of Architecture.

March 31, 2015 7 min read

Novedge: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

Luca Poian: I am an Architect, with a passion for new Technologies, creative structural Engineering and Art. LucapoianI studied Architecture at the at the Technical University in Vienna and at the Venice University of Architecture, where I graduated with Honors in 2003. Prior to starting LUCA POIAN FORMS I worked for several years at Foster and Partners in London and in 2009 I was relocated to Abu Dhabi to work as site Architect on two of the most prestigious projects in the UAE: the Zayed National Museum on Saadiyat Island and the Masdar University, the cornerstone development of the Masdar city masterplan, an Abu Dhabi Government initiative to build the most sustainable city in the world.

Following my experience in the Middle East, in June 2012 I returned to Italy to set up my own design studio, focusing on the relationship between form, materials, emotions and efficiency (intended not only as energy efficiency but rather in a broader sense), investigating new building types and more efficient design methods.

Novedge: What is a recent project that you worked on?

Luca Poian: We are currently working on a competition for the new Bauhaus Museum in Dessau, Germany, and just completing a private house that will be the first building in Italy to be clad with torched timber planks. Inspired by a 2000 years old Japanese technique known as shou-sugi-ban, which makes wood less susceptible to fire and keeps away insects and rot, while landing a beautiful and bold black wood finish look. The house is designed to be highly efficient in terms of energy savings and is set to become an address synonymous with sustainable design. Luca Poian-HOUSE-CS-CONSTRUCTION-04 Luca Poian-HOUSE-CS-CONSTRUCTION-09Recently we also submitted a scheme for the Bamiyan Cultural Centre design competition in the Bamiyan valley, Afghanistan, organized by UNESCO. The site is known for the monumental statues of the standing Buddha carved into the side of the cliff, which were dynamited and destroyed in 2001 by Taliban.The proposal, which would perch over the Bamiyan Valley and the Buddha cliff, provides a portal to the surrounding landscape, connecting the visitors to the lower valley and beyond. LUCA_POIAN_ Bamiyan Cultural Centre02The overriding concept is meant to provide a unique experience to the approaching visitor. As one arrives, the geometric folded form of the vaulted-brick roof channels you inside, gently leading into a unique transcendent environment. Light from the perforated brick walls, and a glazed façade –which makes use of the structure’s orientation– floods the interior space with diffused soft light. LUCA_POIAN_ Bamiyan Cultural CentreThe building is north-south oriented and features an external enveloping walkway, which serves as a device to focus views toward the Buddha cliff. The walkway is protected by the roof and provides a perfect platform to allow the visitor to experience the landscape, providing a physical connection to the valley below. The form defines the main entrance, which leads visitors inside via a four meter descent to a sunken patio where the entrance door is located. All circulation is organized around the central space and the two levels are linked with easily-accessible ramps. The site provides several classrooms and workshops, which are located on the upper floor. Other features including: exhibition spaces, tea house, performance hall and research center, are located on the lower floor to ensure a close relationship to the outdoor areas. LUCA_POIAN_ Bamiyan Cultural Centre04The main construction material is brick, sourced directly from the land itself. The perforated brick roof-vault is oriented towards the south, where it filters light. Because of its inherent large thermal mass, the building absorbs and stores heat energy, releasing the cool accumulated during the night in summer and vice versa in winter. External shed walls support the scenic walkway and are designed to protect the internal space from direct sunlight, whilst always allowing views to the Buddha cliff.LUCA_POIAN_v_04Other recent projects include a proposal for the new Guggenheim Museum in Helsinki. In order to celebrate Nordic ideals such as openness ad accessibility, and to emphasize the strong connection between the museum, the historic city and the harbor, the form and organization of the building are inspired by the mathematical model of the Klein Bottle, a non-orientable, single sided , boundary-free surface where the inner and outer faces are seamlessy interconnected – exterior becomes interior and vice versa. In other words, a container that can contain itself. LUCA_POIAN_FORMS-HELSINKI-01The form of the building induces a strong emotional impact on the visitors, generating a sense of deep attraction, curiosity, wonder. The distinctive imploded-like funnel shape form of the façade will draw visitors towards the building, curious to see how it continues inside. LUCA_POIAN_FORMS_HELSINKI_02
As visitors move inside, the traditional Cartesian and Euclidean space is negated by the continuity between floor, walls and ceiling -all conceived as one. The exhibition path is a loop that emphasizes the “endless” nature of the form. LUCA_POIAN_FORMS_HELSINKI-02The continuity between the outer and inner surface is particularly emphasized by the use of local timber inside and outside the building. The structure is an exposed gridshell exoskeleton formed by a double layer of curved laminated timber beams joint together by a series of ste
el cross beams. The longitudinal arrangement generates a very dynamic linear pattern that emphasizes the geometry and fluidity of the space. Furthermore, the expression of the timber beams convey a “Finnish touch” to the design, celebrating the use of this material and linking back to the work of Alvar Aalto and modern Finnish design. 
The building enclosure is set behind the external beams, adequately detached to allow drainage, while the internal cladding and flooring are set flush between the internal beam edges. Service elements are contained within the double-layer enclosure allowing maximum reach and flexibility in all direction. LUCA_POIAN_FORMS_HELSINKI__01Diffused sunlight fills the space through a series of central skylights, illuminating the assessment of exhibits below and creating a soft and light – almost cocoon-like environment.The winner will be announced in June 2015.

Novedge: What advancements in technology are you embracing in your firm?

Luca Poian: Mathematics and geometry reveal hidden pattern that help us understand the world around us. In recent years Computer Technology has given us the tools to analyze and simulate the complexity observed in nature and apply it to structural building shapes and urban organizational patterns. Parametric and Generative Design enabled Architects to Design and construct innovative buildings with more exacting qualitative and quantitative conditions. We strive to combine the advantages of a form-finding approach with a spiritual understanding of Architecture and materials which goes deeper than simply constructing buildings.

Novedge: What software do you use?

Luca Poian: We use mostly Rhino + Grasshopper during the design process and Auto CAD for the documentation. We usually outsource all the visualization.

Novedge: What can we learn from Vernacular Architecture?

Luca Poian: Vernacular Architecture is certainly one of the highest example of efficient Design, being for us a great source of inspiration. In fact it encapsulates in its very essence a great deal of spontaneity and pragmatic thinking, both values of paramount importance for any good Design. It is based on local needs as well as local materials and construction techniques, while responding to local traditions. It evolves to reflect the environmental, cultural, technological, economic and historical context in which it exist. Architecture at its very essence.

Novedge: Where do you find inspiration?

Luca Poian: Natural phenomenons, mathematical forms, the work of great structural designers such Eugène Freyssinet, Robert Maillart, Eladio Dieste, Pier Luigi Nervi, Eduardo Torroja, Felix Candela, Anton Tedesko, Heinz Isler, Frei Otto, all pioneers in experimenting the relationship between form, construction materials and forces, whose work I consider of timeless beauty. Among contemporary artists I admire Anish Kapoorwork. I am intrigued by the way he plays with form and materials to induce a strong emotional impact on viewers, generating a sense of attraction, curiosity, wonder. I believe Architecture is a lot about emotion and our primary goal is to create spaces that are not only highly functional but also spiritually uplifting. I refrain from short-lived fashions and aspire to deliver buildings that are timeless as well as environmentally conscious.

Novedge: What is the hottest place for Architecture right now?

Luca Poian: In Europe, London seems to be concentrating all the excellence in the field of Architecture and Design, with several renowned universities and cutting-edge Architectural practices. Over the last 2 years, the economy has picked up again and the city is undergoing a period of incredible growth – there is a lot going on, you can see construction sites everywhere. Somehow it feels like if you want to be cutting-edge, London is the place you have to be. I think though there is a lot of potential in poor and developing countries at the moment. In an era where sustainability is so crucial for the safeguarding of our planet, we have the opportunity to force ourselves to think and act in a sustainable way, designing infrastructure and buildings which are really conceived as from the land for the land. There is the opportunity to do something for humanity, which I believe should always be the primary goal in our field.

Novedge: You have the choice to design an Airport or a Stadium….what do you chose and why?

Luca Poian: If I was commissioned to design a Stadium I think I would probably come up with something very similar to the Colosseum or the Munich Olympic Stadium by Frei Otto & Gunther Behnisch, depending on the chosen materials and construction techniques employed (in this case brick or membrane structures). What I am trying to say is that I have the feeling that almost everything has been done on this subject and that a lot has been already achieved, so it would be probably very difficult to design something truly new and original. The Stadium -as a building archetype- has its roots in Greek architecture and although it evolved through the centuries I believe that it is less a product of our age than an Airport. I think I would go for the Airport, as I believe it would be more of a “contemporary challenge”.

Novedge: What is your Architecture mantra?

Luca Poian: Good design has to be timeless. Or at least it has to age well.


What a great mantra! Let's keep an eye on LUCA POIAN FORMS and cheer for their upcoming Architecture competitions. 

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