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Courtesy of Studio GISTO

Founder of the Italian studio and workshop Studio GISTO, Alessandro Mason takes us through some of his most powerful work on demolition, reinvention and circularity. The founder tackles design with a unique perspective and sees opportunity where many see loss.

Words By Gabrielle Hollenbeck

December, 23rd 2020

Alessandro Mason started his studio about 10 years ago after finishing his Architecture studies. Instead of taking a classic approach to architecture, Alessandro knew his strengths lied in design and in having a strong practical and craftsmanship background. He was one of the few out of his fellow architecture colleagues who could actually use his hands to build something and began to find his own niche in helping to develop smaller-scale projects from an idea to reality. 

As a Professor at the University of Bolzano, his philosophy on craftsmanship and creating things with your own hands is a key aspect of what he tries to relay to his students. As a studio, Alessandro Mason and his team work frequently with architects, artists, and designers in developing concept design, set design, exhibition design, and scale models. Also, as a workshop, they are in a unique position to help throughout the entire process and can actually create physical projects.

Courtesy of Studio GISTO

“I’ll give you an example. If you live in a forest, you build your house with wood because you are surrounded by the woods. But if you live in an urban area, which is in constant transformation, why not use what is already available?”

Beyond this, Alessandro Mason has also done numerous projects that tackle issues surrounding demolition, reinvention and inherently also circularity. An example of one of these works is the byproduct of the collaboration between Studio GISTO and Fablab Cfv. The location was in an old Industrial site in Castelfranco Veneto, Italy and the challenge was to try and get the old material out of the industrial area without any need of material from outside and at zero cost. Since these old industrial buildings are subject to rapid transformation and frequent changes in purpose, function, flows and products, their architectural structure remains almost unchanged over the passage of times. There is an abundance of large and complex machines, structures and equipment leftover that is not in use but were designed to be long-lasting and high resistance and as a result remain in these buildings.

 This is where Fablab Cfv came in to work with various groups to reinvent and reimagine some of these old structures and machines. Studio GISTO was one of these groups, and they created a flyover structure as a workshop, a protection for the machine areas which also became a stair for the upper levels, following the vertical development of the space. All out of the materials that were found onsite. Alessandro went on to say, “I’ll give you an example. If you live in a forest, you build your house with wood because you are surrounded by the woods. But if you live in an urban area, which is in constant transformation, why not use what is already available?”

More recently, Studio GISTO has also worked on a project for Basis, a new social activation hub set up in Silandro, Italy. The project was at an old military base, the Druso Barracks that opened in 1937 with around 45,00 square meters of space. This space was to be rebuilt and refurbished to become the BASIS Vinschgau Venosta headquarters. Studio GISTO came up with the idea to use the materials from the barracks that were to be demolished in order to create and redesign a series of furniture for the HQ, which was to be in the last remaining barrack. They mapped out the entire space and designed a few prototypes, inspired by rationalist architecture and the idea of repetition. 

In the picture below you can see an example where Alessandro and his team created screen dividers out of ventilation grids. They also had about 400 windows, and you can see below, they created a table but also suggested the creation of a series of walls or shapes out of the windows. Essentially they created a series of prototypes and gave them manuals and instructions on how to reproduce these pieces on a larger scale. Some of these designs were also exhibited at the Oslo Architecture Triennale, specifically the screen divider.

Courtesy of Studio GISTO

Alessandro noted, “The project develops before and during the demolition phase and focuses on what many consider the end of a cycle, and then trying to find opportunities, directions or resources before everything is turned into waste matter, thus transforming the linear system into a circular one, a construction site into a gold mine

Alessandro and his team at Studio GISTO are looking at design and circularity in a profound new light and seek to study and develop ways where demolition and design can intertwine and how they can turn demolition into a creative process. Currently, demolition trash in terms of volume creates 44% of all waste in Italy, but Alessandro and Studio GISTO have turned that statistic into a new opportunity. To find more about their investigation into design and demolition, check out @_inerti_ on Instagram.