Paolo Di Gennaro defines himself as a designer oriented to the search for spatial narratives, who exploits multi-disciplinarity and contaminations from the Art world. Born in 1994, he attended Interior Design at NABA, Milan, then a short course in Interior Styling and a Master in Narrative Environments at Central Saint Martins in London.
His 2017 bachelor thesis project is Onori di Sala, a research on the theme of hospitality based on the dynamics introduced by Airbnb in the domestic environment. Paolo proposes as a result the reconfiguration of one specific space, the living room. The decision to use this area is simple: it represents the welcome space, the symbol of hospitality. It’s the free zone between public and private rooms.
The project is inspired by the studies completed by Ugo La Pietra in the 1980s with Cronografie (1980) and La Casa Telematica (1982). In his research he found that the bourgeois living room was now “a space that remains there as it was and as it’s always been, a place that has not been lived in, but which we like to have as a reminder of a lost home ritual”. Onori di Sala theorizes the ‘death’ of this space and then creates a drama in three acts to be staged precisely for / thanks to the arrival of the new Airbnb guest.
The intervention goes to redesign the layout of this “reception room” trying to re-establish the reciprocal story of oneself, both of the host and the guest. Both thus become actors and spectators of the new model of living, here entitled by Paolo “living by hosting”.
With a language inspired by theatrical architecture, in an ironic and sometimes blatantly forced way, the project transforms the living room into a stage. This is not separate from the remaining rooms of the house, but rather is shaped precisely by the use made of these during an Airbnb stay: the entrance is elected as a foyer and the host temporary room is transformed into backstage. Referring to the tracing of the entire house to a theatrical machine – which Maurizio Vitta describes in Dell’abitare (Einaudi, Turin, 2008) – Onori di Sala elects the living room as a “stage in the theater of the private world” because it respects all its conditions. In fact, if it is true that there is theater only where “the scenic representation occurs in front of an audience” (M. Bontempelli, Convegno Volta, Rome, 1934), in the same way, the living room is the domestic environment that takes on meaning only in mediation of the other’s gaze.
In concrete terms, the project redesigns the living room by recreating a scenography in four sliding modules whose elements are activated individually or together, in line with the phases of the “living by hosting” theory. The elements are a support surface and a couple of seats, an exhibitor and an ‘addresser’: a perspective frame used to focus on the narrative interruptions. Those – the glimpse of the entrance, the one of the host’s temporary room, the television and the window – are inserted inside equipped panels, on which to display objects characterizing the reception phases. The frames are inserted in a texture that recalls the external facades of the buildings, as if to denounce the contrast and continuity between inside and outside, personal story and experience of the urban, staging and everyday life.
Onori di Sala was developed starting from the study of three reference models cataloged as: activation, contrast and extraction, identified in the respective case studies – Holiday home, E. Terragni, Samedan 2005; Crate House, A. Wexler, Hagen 1990; The absence of the presence, M. Laudani, M. Romanelli, Milan 2016. These models are created from three different configurations of the furniture and are real performances in which the host and the guest are the protagonists, together with the changing scenography. Activation highlights the functional loss suffered by the dining table which is reduced to fragmented shelves. The Contrast guides the guest to contemplate the story exposed, while the Extraction reconstructs around the dining table the dialectical confrontation consumed by the diners while sharing the meal. This is the crucial moment of the performance which is followed by the demolition of the fourth wall, as the same guest becomes part of the scene. These configurations punctuate the drama in the three acts during which the funeral of the domestic theater is staged.
Onori di sala is a bold thesis project, halfway between interior architecture and contemporary performance, rich in references and meanings, in which the domestic space is experienced as a real theater. Perhaps, in order to be truly accessible and able to convey the message, the only thing that this project is missing is one, simplicity.
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