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Talks and lectures

RIBA+VitrA: Rethink Sustainability with Mario Cucinella

Join us for the next 2024 RIBA+VitrA talk with Mario Cucinella of Mario Cucinella Architects as he discusses Creative Empathy - An Exploration of Environmental Design.

The 2024 RIBA+VitrA ‘Challenge: Rethink’ talks series brings together practitioners who are leading the way in challenging expectations and rethinking conventional approaches, using architecture as a catalyst for positive urban and social change.

Creative Empathy - An Exploration of Environmental Design

Our Challenge: Rethink Sustainability talk looks at the work of MCA (Mario Cucinella Architects) and its dynamic approaches to sustainability. These are witnessed in recent projects ranging from the Arpae Environmental Agency in Ferrara to a mixed-use community building in a Tuscan hill town, and a new Calabrian church set beside a mountainous national park to two new buildings in Milan - a hospital with Italy’s largest emergency room and an Etruscan archaeology museum.

The talk will explore the different contexts of building and regeneration in Italy, from rural revival to the transformation of cities. The connection between the past and present is a strong theme in this discourse, discussed through a lens of environmental design as explored in Mario Cucinella’s recent book, The Future is a Journey to The Past: Ten Stories About Architecture.

The talk will relate current projects to the themes featured in Cucinella’s book and emphasise the cultural and ethical thinking within sustainability, exploring ideas beyond pure technicality and regulations.

Our overarching theme will be the reconnection of the relationship between humans and the planet through a deep understanding of local climates. This is something Mario Cucinella Architects refers to as Creative Empathy. “The best architecture springs from a connection with all that a location has been and could be. We search for the soul of a site.” - Mario Cucinella Architects

After the keynote, Mario will be joined in conversation by Samta Nadeem, Curatorial Director at STIR World, to explore themes such as regeneration, from rural revival to the transformation of cities and sustainability, exploring the differing contexts in Italy.


Mario Cucinella 

Mario Cucinella is the founder and creative director of MCA - Mario Cucinella Architects, an international design firm based in Bologna and Milan, specialising in research based architectural design with a focus on sustainability. In 2015 he founded SOS - School of Sustainability, a post-graduate training centre dedicated to educating professionals in the field of sustainability.

In 2018 Cucinella was curator of the Italian Pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale. The following year, he set up the MCA Design department that has recycling and the circular economy as the starting point of its collaborations with leading ‘Made in Italy’ brands. 

The impact and importance of Cucinella’s work as an architect and educator has been recognised with the International Fellowship of the Royal Institute of British Architects (2016) and the Honorary Fellowship of the American Institute of Architects (2017). In 2021 Cucinella and MCA participated in COP26 in Glasgow with the TECLA - Technology and Clay dwelling prototype displayed in the Build Better Now exhibition. Mario Cucinella is the author of highly regarded books such as Building Green Futures (2020, published by Forma) and The Future is a Journey to The Past: Ten Stories About Architecture (2022, published by Quodlibet). 

MCA has carried out projects in Italy and internationally. These include the ARPAE headquarters for the regional agency for prevention, environment and energy in Ferrara; the 'La Balena' nursery school in Emilia-Romagna; One Airport Square in Accra (Ghana); the Sino-Italian Ecological and Energy Efficient Building in Beijing; Santa Maria Goretti Church in Calabria; the Fondazione Luigi Rovati Art Museum and Etruscan Galleries in Milan. This year’s completions include the new Unipol Tower in Milan, and recently the practice was appointed to design a major project, the New Hospital of Cremona in the Lombardy Region. The studio has also been selected to design the Italian Pavilion for Expo 25 in Osaka. 


Samta Nadeem, Curatorial Director, STIR 

Samta Nadeem is a design curator and journalist based in London. With a keen perspective on creative cultures and their contemporary complexities, Samta is passionate about engaging with issues of social and environmental justice through design and discourse. She leads curatorial programming and content curation at STIR – a global media house and curatorial agency, and occasionally freelances with other cultural institutions. 

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