Interview #1: “Architects need to redesign themselves”
Gianluca Geroli from SGS Architetti Associati
SGS Architetti Associati is an Italian firm based in Milan. Its founders, Luca Alessandro Amendola and Gianluca Geroli came from two different backgrounds, industrial design and interiors for fashion the first, and urban planning, management the latter. Hereafter our conversation with Gianluca Geroli about how the role of Architect is changing.
Lucia Rampanti: How did everything started? When and how did you choose to found SGS Associati?
Gianluca Geroli: Our firm was founded almost accidentally. The founders’ skill-set, Luca Alessandro Amendola and me, are complementary, that’s why our firms is not specialized. We just don’t cover one single thing. but we were able to combine together our skills, competences and contacts from our previous careers.
Our first years were tough, we could count only on our contacts and word of mouth. We noticed that single architects do not think as a company, they tend to not manage their work, their research of new clients or their resources. In the last few years, at SGS we started to organized the entire firm in terms of workflow, Gantt diagram, quality check. Each work has to generate profit not only invoices.
This is the fundamental step that both single Architects or Associates need to face. I followed a specific master in management for Architecture firms in Bocconi in order to leverage our skills and our network. That was really helpful.
LR: How does your firm is organized? How many people are currently working for you?
GG: We have inside our structure a small group of people who takes care of competitions: the SGSlab. Our idea is to give an opportunity “all in one”. It’s addressed to new graduates and on average this experience lasts 6 months. We give a refund, in exchange our collaborators have a first professional experience. If SGS win the competition, the collaboration could be extended or anyway we can evaluate the possibility to offer a contract. For young people is definitely an open door. In total we are about ten Architects, eight fixed and two or three in the lab.
LR: Can you tell me in three words which are the values of your firms? Can you define yourselves “innovators”?
GG: Enthusiasm, research and openess. Too often these values are not real but just words. I don’t know if we are innovators but certainly we try to innovate, we do research on new technologies but also in general on Architect’s role and activities. The drawing table is for sure romantic but to the construction site there is an infinite struggle to overcome.
LR: What do you think about “Houzz.com”?
GG: In our profession the direct connection with clients is crucial. In particular the private residence commission is very deep and intimate. The house is like a shelter. This relationship cannot be reduced to an online portal. It looks like a forged window of reality to me.
LR: Which skill-set should an Architect have in order to work for your firm?
GG: I want to meet all the people who send their portfolio. Not always a portfolio is representative of the person who designed it. I want to talk with everyone and understand if a person is able to promote their skill-set right. Beside that they have to be able to work in team, and organize themselves. But above all they have to show me their passion and love for this job. A total wish to make architecture. The starting point has to be enthusiasm.
LR: How would you describe the situation of Architects in Italy?
GG: It’s in a total redesign phase. We are coming from a past where every single graduate founded a new architecture firm. We need to be good in the creation of groups of Architects, in summing up our skills, forgetting to own the authorship of an idea or a concept. SGSlab actually is like an incubator, it helps in the creation of this groups of young Architects.
LR: Do you have with international clients or partnerships? How did you find them?
GG: Yes we do. We have multiple clients that had invested abroad. For instance we work with fashion brands, such as Moreschi or Morellato that need to open a new retail store abroad. Or we are often invited to international competitions. We completely redesigned the Unicredit Building at Sofia and for this project we won also a prize from a Bulgarian design association. After that, we try always to network locally in order to find new works and obviously we interact with local architects mainly for normative reasons. An activity that I found really stimulating.
LR: One last question. As you know www.spoon.city finds the perfect match between firms and independent architects. What do you think about our business idea?
GG: I appreciate all the initiatives that come with enthusiasm and generate new job positions. It’s somehow close to what we do with SGSlab. My fear is that in Italy there is still a traditional vision of our figure. I think it could work when it will become international. You will probably have more penetration power in firms without Archistars. Just think about SMEs that sell screws and bolts but all over the world.