Gianni Cagnazzo is an Architect. But that’s not enough to fully catch his polyhedric and enthusiastic attitude towards his job and his passions. Gianni Cagnazzo is president of IEM (Indoor Environment Management) and ANAB (National Association of Bio-ecological Architecture), member of the International Academy of Colour, he is professor in bio-ecological architecture, colour design and humanisation of the built space, he gives lectures at various institutes, including ANAB IBN (Institut fur Baubiologie und Oekologie – Neuberern), UNITRE, University of Turin… Colour is his passion, therefore the question was certainly due: What is colour?
He knows how my kind of interviews work and he starts building. When he is done, he explains me his model.
‘The world is all grey’ – he says by showing me the grey base of his model – ‘it’s build on the dark base and everything is dark… but on the top of this dark basement, there’s colour which takes priority on everything… The green represents Nature’ – he tells while showing the green layer – ‘And on the top of it, there’s an explosion of colours made by both Nature’s and human activities… ’. He stills adds bricks: he has left out all the grey bricks. And he also left out the minifig. Therefore, I ask about the human beings: where are they?
‘The human being is there… The human element is ideally there… The human being lives in the middle of all these colourful things’ and by saying so he puts the human figure in the model and then, on the top of the minifig’s head, he places a black propeller: ‘I see this piece,[the propeller] perfect as a hat, it’s something that moves, that spins and generates ideas…’ The propeller though does not fit perfectly on the head of the minifig ‘… well, after all ideas are not fixed, they fly away…’.
I look at all those colouful basements, the yellow, the orange bases… ‘What are these then?’ I ask Mr Cagnazzo.
‘These?… These are all material incosistencies of the form… it’s a deconstruction, because everything that is an idea, everything that is coloured, it flies and goes away, it’s not static, it’s not motionless… Colour is thought, colour is feeling, colour is imagination…’
‘…And colour is on the top of Nature…’ I point him out showing him how the colours are on the top of the green bricks.
‘Colour is within Nature. Nature is colour… Ideally, only if we get closer to Nature we can bring colour back to the world and take away all the grey and all that concrete and leaden elements that are concealing everything we are today…’
‘So how does this work?… How can we conceal this grey?’
‘With colour, with Nature, with thoughts, with ideas, with energy…’
‘So, colour is thought?’
‘Colour is also thought. Colour is thought and thought is colour. We think in colours, we do not think in black and white.’
I notice the green flag. What is that?
‘Nature wins’ he firmly says ‘ Nature always wins. Regardless how much human beings try, they won’t ever be able to get rid of their being part of the environment and part of nature itself. Human beings are natural beings.’.
I change topic and go back to the grey parts of his model ‘…Yet these grey bricks have holes… It’s not a solid and filled structure’ I notice while looking at the lower part of the model.
‘The grey world is not solid… and if we take away the basement’ – and by saying so Mr Cagnazzo picks up the model and takes away the grey arches ‘…Now the structure is solid. The grey it’s ephemeral… because everything material, leaden, all the negative thoughts in everything that is surrounding us, it’s totally ephemeral… Reality is different…’
‘And what about this brick with that symbol on it?’
He stares at the bricks, noticing only at this point the symbol on the yellow brick
‘Let me see… it’s an eye! Fantastic! Then, let’s put an eye that observes the world’ – he says while placing the brick in the model. ‘We always have an eye that looks at the external world, though sometimes we focus on things that explode within ourselves and we are unable to see beyond that… But if we looked carefully, there is always something after, something beyond…’
‘What is that human figure doing?’ I ask him.
‘The man is thinking and when he has the right idea… when the ideas spin…’ he says while playing with the propeller ‘…thoughts just flies away’… and in that moment the propeller just falls off the head.
‘But the human being is blocked by this brick…’ I comment. ‘It’s not blocked… you don’t escape on that direction… you can escape only upwards… He and his head can go away’.
‘And what is he standing on?’
‘On a flower meadow…’
‘But… every time I ask what is colour, you say it’s an idea. However, every time I ask what are these colours, you mention and refer to material objects…’
‘The materialisation and representation of an idea is always made of something material. Colour is an electromagnetic wave… Colour is light. Colour exists. It exists… These are all objects that when are hit by the light take the shape of colours…’ And by looking at the bricks, he spots another eye-shaped little yellow brick and adds it to the model, so that the two eye-shaped bricks look in different and complementary directions. ‘There’s always another dimension that we can look at… we are born not to be still, we are born to go ahead…’
I turn back to the grey basement.
‘The basement is grey because the world currently is living in a situation where sometimes, especially because of the systems that we have been imposed…It’s like our life is getting greyish’
‘Yet grey is not a colour.’
‘Grey is achromatic. Like black….’
‘However, you say that the current world is dark, is grey… this implies a negative perception of these colours… this also emerges in your model: all colours are evident, yet grey is not there… ’
‘When someone is sad, how do you define him? When the day is gloomy, you call it grey… it’s a convention, and grey by convention is associated to those situations which are chromatically less stimulating, because it’s an achromatic situation. Colour is excitement, grey instead focus on something inner… like the grey matter, we are more odd-brained, less impulsive, less expressive, less coloured…’
I take out of the model the human figure. ‘And now?’ I ask him.
‘So, colour does not need human beings to exist?’
‘Colour is colour, it exists by itself. It’s the human being who needs colour. Colour is light…’
‘And what if colour is not perceived?’
‘It is there anyway. If tomorrow all humankind disappeared, light would still be there. We are filters of everything… We are filters, we are goals… And Nature always wins, and we are part of Nature, we can not put ourselves on the top of Nature, we are just a part of it…’.
I then focus on the black platform which represent the basement of Gianni Cagnazzo’s model.
‘Man has always tried to absorb and hide Nature under an achromatic platform, but nevertheless, Nature still grows back on that platform…’
Then I point him out the transparent red brick next to the human figure.
‘That’s the heart, the intellect… given the current times, perhaps we should consider relying much more on our heart and passion rather than on our brain alone…’
‘Therefore your model is an ideal model, the idea of what you would like to have… how can we get there?’
‘Everyone plays a role. On my side, I do my part: I teach, I give talks, I educate, I colour, I ethically live according to what I think…’
And he goes on: ‘The role of the human being is that of doing, thinking, and acting according to their thoughts… The world changes for two reasons: because of Nature – randomly, by chance – or because of natural events. However, the human being is the only acting subject that changes and can change things: it’s the man who modifies, renews, changes, builds and makes sense… Therefore, man is architect of his destiny and he is the architect of the changes… and he is architect of the worlds’ colourful or grey destiny. Depending on his activities and how he performs his actions, he can colour or make the world grey…’
‘If I could make the human figure of this model move, I’d make him jumping and spinning around among the colours to colour everything with ideas, with thoughts and with everything he does…’
‘So, colour equals to action?’
‘Colour is action and reaction. It is an electromagnetic reaction and an action for human beings… Life can’t be black and white, or grey… life is colourful. We all are colourful beings…’
‘Is society becoming more colourful?’
‘Yes it is! And I strongly believe in the wrongly interpreted Maya prophecy of the end of the world… they did not think of a material and physical end, they referred to a new millennium that would change the essence of things, that would bring a deep transformation… And this transformation is already happening, because something already happened in the Church, and the same should happen in politics, society and culture… After all, all Avantgarde movements began at the beginning of a century… and we are at the beginning of a new millennium and a new century. Therefore, I am extremely confident and consider this an incredible moment to reset the systems and the so called certainties.’
This LegoInterview was recorded during Restauro 2013. Colours as hope, action and thoughts. Yet linked to Nature. Gianni Cagnazzo focusing on Nature is fascinating, and it wonderfully related to Ciro Pirondi’s interview, where he connected Nature to Heritage. And there’s an emerging link between colours, Nature and Heritage…