Ravasi 2, 21100 Varese, Lombardy, Italy, 2019.
Custom Kirk is a project taking place in the interiors of the abandoned church of Sant'ambrogio in Varese. The complex, erected in 1939 is made up of several buildings designed to host the Sant'Ambrogio women's college and a chapel. Soon, only one year after the construction, the place has been converted into a barrack for the Republican National Guard. After the war, the main part of the building has been dedicated to the services of Insubria University, but the desecrated church has been forgotten and left abandoned for many years. The exteriors, made of terracotta bricks are simple and austere; instead, the interiors are characterized by the extensive use of glazed ceramic, marble powder plaster and yellow marble. A deep analysis of the materials and of the state of decay has been fundamental in the definition of the project.
The concept born after the analysis, is the creation of a place where the collaboration between local craftsmen and international artists gives the user the possibility to customize objects for the most practised sports in the province of Varese. In this sense, the idea is to innovate the artisanal processes with updated techniques and to promote a closer collaboration between local artisans and an international and young public of graphical artists.
The interior has been settled in motion thanks to a multi-level reticular structure inspired by a specific metaphor “vibration”. This grid, while making substantial changes to the way space is perceived and experienced, has been thought of in order not to lean directly on the bearing walls of the historic building but as a self-standing autonomous element. This approach aims to respect the nature, the preciousness of the materials and frescoes of the place without modifying anything of the pre-existing structure, but simply adding to the building a readable layer of innovation. Only one part of the church, for its particular features, has been reinterpreted with a different approach: it is the altar which is totally covered with a white film in order to protect it but also to create a suggestive and poetic space were to expose the best products born from the cooperation.
The upper part of the church represents an elevation to a more spiritual environment where artists can find privacy and inspiration in a common “suspended living room” or inside some small capsules that have been thought also as a temporary hospitality solution for artists needing cheap accommodation while taking part in the different workshops. The empty space, in the front part of the church, with a breathtaking view of the alpine arc of Varese, has been used to create a terrace where several artistic installations highlight the landscape. In this place, a fully glazed bar is thought to be open both to the users of the project and to the workers of the adjacent university creating a point of connection between these two different realities.