Buro 24/7 Middle East Exclusive Interview: Ludovica and Roberto Palomba
Architects, husband and wife, visionairies
Ludovica and Roberto Palomba founded their Milan-based studio Palomba Serafini Associati in 1994. Over the last two decades, the partners in life and business have collaborated with some of the most prestigious brands in the world – achieving numerous accolades along the way, including the Compasso D'Oro, Red Dot Award, Design Plus Award, Product Innovation Award, German Design Award, and Elle Decoration International Design Award.
In town to conduct some top secret meetings about potential business in the region, Buro 24/7 Middle East caught up with the creative duo to find out what they think of our desert city, and what they have up their sleeve in the not-so-distant future...
How do you like Dubai?
Roberto: We have been coming to Dubai back and forth for around 10 years now, and every time we come it's different, and has changed, the only other place I've seen grow so fast is the jungle in Indonesia, as soon as they cut it down it grows back!
For us its so nice to find a place where we can express ourselves, that's why we love Dubai so much. We love this whole region, we want to work here because we like to work here which is such an important statement I think.
There is such a strange mood; the place really gives us a really strong emotional input.
When did Palomba e Serafini begin?
Roberto: Our studio was founded exactly 20 years ago and this year we had a party with 500 people to celebrate at Milan Design Week, it was crazy because it was a proper celebration, just lots of fun and dancing until 5 o'clock in the morning - how a party is supposed to be! It was the best way to celebrate 20 years work.
Tell us about your future projects. What do you have coming up?
Roberto: Basically we are both architects, but our studio was doing its best in design - furniture design, interior design, all design aspects - and only in the last few years have we been asked to do architecture again, so we are very happy about that. We have projects in Europe and have been asked to design something in this region, something in Brazil and in a few other countries also. We are very young in the architectural business.
Do you prefer architecture or design?
Roberto: My wife prefers architecture she is more interested in "the box".
Ludovica: To explain "the box", it is what holds designs, when you first walk into a town or city, what you see is those boxes, if you don't specify what the box is you can't have the concept overall or inside. Architecture is the priority, its not an empty space that needs to be filled like design, it's a necessity
Roberto: For me, I don't care. The same way I design a lamp or a sofa, I design a building, the main project we are doing now is renovating an old factory that used to produce cars and it's a huge project. We had to make sure it went well with the surrounding area, so we had to take into account the design of the streets as well so that the buildings architecture worked. So the same thing I was doing - when choosing the feet of the sofa or design of a lamp - a project is something that comes from the inside as a creativity, of course you will have technical problems, environmental problems and everything but the mood - the feeling - the soul is exactly the same, so frankly speaking I don't care! It's a town, it's a spoon - it belongs to me in the same way. It's a matter of approach.
What do you think of the Burj Khalifa?
Roberto: I think it is a great statement. The first time we arrived in Dubai the Burj Al Arab was like the symbol the flag of Dubai, then we had the financial crisis and the Burj Khalifa came in and everybody was talking about it. About its work with Armani and how it was the tallest building in the world, it was incredible, it still is incredible. I travel worldwide, we spend our time in airplanes and I've never seen anything like that.
But what was more interesting than the building, is that for sure tomorrow morning someone else can come and say "we've made a tower 10 floors higher", but when I was inside the Burj Al Arab I thought "oh my god how kitsch is this place!" There is no idea of beauty, it was just to show off wealth, it was the worst, having grown up in Europe to see this stuff it was a pain to my eyes, the building itself is not bad. However, when I entered the Burj Khalifa, from every detail, the way they connect the wall to the floor - to the design of the viewing deck, the brushed stainless steel binoculars - I was looking at every single detail and there was no detail - not a single one overlooked.
How do you feel about the new JBR Beach area?
Roberto: It's so cool, we were saying, it's completely different to the buildings around it and yet it feels quite organic. They definitely thought for so long about the way it would work in a public space. This is what we do, every time we go to a new place we out of force of habit look at everything, we walk around with our heads to the ground looking at the floorboards, to the plug sockets - everything matters. We could see that everyone was really enjoying the place, without any kind of limit, it was great to see. There was the Wi-Fi and there was no paying to get in - it was a public space it was really great.
What is your favourite building in the whole world?
Ludovica: 'The Dream' which is a one mile skyscraper that was never actually built but the project is amazing, it's a lot like the Burj Khalifa, the proportion is very similar, and also the Barcelona Pavillion. For me it's the ambiguity of the open space. It's a box but it has never ending walls, it connects with the outside. The use of the water in the space reminds you that we are made up of 70% water, from the poetical side the only organic part was the statue of a woman coming out of the water it reminds us, you can build any rational structure but you must never forget you are coming from nature.
Roberto: My personal favourite building would be Charles Eames house in Santa Monica; it was made in the 50's only using items that you can buy by via the mail - only materials that you can order by post. The greatest thing for me as an architect is not the money, its what comes from your heart and what comes from the brain.
How did you two meet?
Roberto: We met in a bar, we were 20 years old and she was dressed in a red Valentino dress, she was tanned and beautiful and for 8 months I was praying for a kiss. She saw me, and she said "never with this guy" and now we've been together 27 years!