Italian Design Day

The culmination of urbanisation and globalization processes, including that of climate and environmental changes, evolving technological development and societal growth have consequentially created a world in which the aspects of the diverse groups become interrelated. Thus, the need for preservation of cultural heritage and identity become increasingly significant, resulting in the need for the authoritarians of each built environment to react to these changes innovatively. In approaching architecture from the perspective of regeneration: design & new technologies for a sustainable future, the Italian Design Day organized by the Embassy of Italy in Sri Lanka, of which ARTRA Magazine and Daily ARTRA were proud to have been Official Art Partners, took place on the 23rd of March.

What will design be like in a dynamic and globalized world, which knows no borders and needs to regenerate to become sustainable? This is the greatest challenge of the century: the promotion of an ecological transition that is capable of combining functionality and well-being with sustainability and the reduction of environmental impact thanks to technological innovation. Designers and industries have to become the avant-garde of a conceptual and practical re-generation of objects and spaces: reusing, mending, renovating and recycling existing materials and products in parallel with the development of new ones, using sustainable processes and technologies based on the concept of the circular economy. In short, it is necessary to rethink the roots of each object, from home furnishings to home automation, mobility and communication, right up to smart cities. ‘Regeneration: Design & New Technologies for A Sustainable Future’, the Italian Design Day brought together six academia and professionals in the fields to dissect this concept and idea as they shared their experiences and shared unto the audience, a mediums, processes and concerns in addressing the regeneration of architecture.

The Italian Design Day is an annual theme-based review launched in 2017 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (the Farnesina), in collaboration and with the support of the Ministry of Culture. It consists of an extensive programme of promotional events around the world, created by the network of Embassies, Consulates, Italian Cultural Institutes and ICE Offices abroad: every year, specifically for this occasion, over one hundred testimonials become storytellers, presenting design and Italy’s outstanding creativity.

Italian Ambassador to Sri Lanka Rita Mannella began the program as she posed two questions – ‘What is design?’ and ‘What is Italian design?’  She said, "Design is art applied to our daily lives; art applied to objects that we use every day. Italian design is something so special and for several years, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs together with the Italian Ministry of Culture organized that every year, one special day will be dedicated to design. This year, the title is ‘Regeneration: Design and New Technologies for a Sustainable Future.’ However, this title was declined in Sri Lanka, so together with the team of universities that have been working on this project, namely the University of Moratuwa, The City School of Architecture and the Academy of Design’ decided to replace that main title with something a bit more specific – ‘Restoration and Conservation, sharing experiences from Italy and Sri Lanka’ because we believe that this title is a better guideline for two fields that are common to both of us - how to restore, how to conserve old buildings, old cities, and our cultural heritage in a way that we can give new life without destroying the essence of the past. There are many ways to restoration, there are many approaches to restore a building, a painting, an object.

We will focus on the choices of materials, of processes, of products, what’s more important in order to give new life to an old building and what is important to give to this building or city or village or a monastery or a castle. The possibility to be used in modern life. We started this collaboration with the three universities because I strongly believe that architecture in Sri Lanka is such a powerful element of the culture of this country. We decided to put together three architects from Italy from the University of Florence, and three architects from Sri Lanka, the University of Moratuwa, The City School of Architecture and the Academy of Design. The idea of this collaboration is so strong that I’m really pleased that we are establishing an institutional collaboration between the universities and hope to proceed in order to have regular exchanging of students and professors."

The Italian Design Day invited six speakers from both Sri Lanka and Italy to address the regeneration of architecture for a sustainable future. Among the speakers were, Professor and Architect, Laura Andreini. Laura is the co-founder of the studio Archea and is Associate Professor of Architectural and Urban Composition at the Faculty of Architecture at Florence University. Laura Andreini’s presentation focused on the Best Practice for Rehabilitation Design, deriving examples from her own work in Italy. Italian Architect and Professor Juan Camilo Olano Salinas is a specialist on sustainable design and sustainable strategies definition. Juan Camilo Olano Salinas’s presentation addressed the subject of Re-thinking and Re-using the Built Environment. The architect presented examples from ongoing projects and places such as Le Murate in Firenze, Air Terminal in Roma Ostiense and the New Sistema Ambiente Headquarter in Lucca, while proposing newer technology and procedures that tackle the concept of rethinking the built environment including bioclimatic strategies. Professor of Environmental Design at the University of Florence and University of Tirana (Albania), Antonella Trombadore PhD, MSc, works at the Department of Architecture and ABITA Interuniversity research centre in the field of Sustainable Architecture, Responsive Design, Green Architecture for Resilient Cities and Sustainable Immersive tourism. In her presentation, Antonella Trombadore’s explained the Italian Approach to Revitalize Historical Buildings and Urban Area, exploring the concept of the ‘Mediterranean Model’ and living, the regeneration of vernacular architecture and the focus of sustainable development in cities.

Among the Sri Lankan architects were Professor Samitha Manwadu from the University of Moratuwa whose discussion explored that of ‘Conservation of Historic Monuments in the World Historic Site of Galle, complying with the Venice Charter and the Washington Charter’; chartered architect and heritage conservationist Dr. Nilan Cooray from the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka whose presentation revolved around the ‘Gardens of Historic Sri Lanka and Italian Renaissance: The Similarities In Landscape Design Principles’ and Chartered Architect and Senior Lecturer at Department of Architecture at University of Moratuwa, Varuna de Silva who spoke on, ‘A New Life: Restoration, Preservation and Repurposing in World Heritage Galle Dutch Fort’, moderated by Architect Philip Weeraratne, Principal Architect of PWA Architects.

As the discussion wound down that evening, the floor opened to the audience of architects, enthusiasts and students as they questioned each of the presenters with stimulating thoughts, making for an enlightening conclusion. The conversation of regeneration, preservation and conservation of architecture and cultural heritage is an ongoing effort to create for a better system that urges the architects and creative to bring forth suggestions for sustainable approaches and responsible reactions. The Italian Design Day has established itself as an effective tool in supporting the promotion of design and the internationalization of a strategic industrial sector for Italian exports and thus, through Wednesday’s discussion of ‘Regeneration: Design & New Technologies for A Sustainable Future’, that brought together erudite individuals, make an improved effort to look forward to the future with better suited answers and reactions.  

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28th March, 2022 Applied Art | Sustainable Design