The last conference of our cycle in 2018 had as protagonist Carmelo Zappulla, PhD Architect, faculty member at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia and director of our Official Master's Degree in Experiential Interior Design. The session focused on the work of External Reference Architects, the studio he co-founded in a clear commitment to design and research in the fields of sensorial spaces, interior design, architecture, and landscape bio-design. "When we launched the firm, we didn't set a specific direction, so we were able to devote ourselves to developing various types of projects, collaborating with different companies and participating in international contests", explained Carmelo. Among their award-winning works are the Spanish Pavilion at 2012 Expo Yeosu in South Korea, the ONU-Art Consensus exhibition, Le corti di Buenos Aires in Milan and the Toulouse Aerospace Campus (this last in collaboration with Foreign Office Architects).
The speaker highlighted the good record of External Reference Architects: "We have been internationalizing the company for some years, and we already have clients in Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Russia, among other countries". In the city of Barcelona, their projects for Moritz, 24 Kilates and, above all, the Michelin-starred restaurant Alkimia stand out. Carmelo and his team, together with artistic director Chu Uroz (a regular contributor to the studio), reinterpreted the main floor of a modernist building in the Catalan capital and transformed it into a gastronomic space inspired by the creative mind of an alchemist and the morphology of the fish. Alkimia won the Award for Best Restaurant Design at the SBID International Design Excellence Awards and the IN/ARCH Award for Best Author Restaurant, both in 2017.
During the conference, attendees were able to see how the work of External Reference Architects has evolved, currently covering different areas of interior design (events, hospitality, residential spaces, shops, etc.). The firm takes into account current trends, among which the Experiential Interior Design (EID) stands out. According to Carmelo, the aim of this practice is "to develop a story that generates emotions and turns the user into the protagonist of a show with the support of other elements such as music or lighting".
On the use of technology and its coexistence with craftsmanship, our guest was clear: "In the creative process, technology has great relevance. I like the interrelationship of digital manufacturing with the warmth of craftsmanship. Designers can achieve pre-modernist complexity thanks to technological advances". However, no work achieves its purpose if it does not reach the public: "Over the years, in External Reference Architects we have noted that communication is an essential aspect: you have to spread what you do so that people know you and can enjoy your work".
As usual, the new DI55ECCIONS session ended with all the attendees sharing impressions and having a drink in the Ágora. Thank you for your lecture, Carmelo!