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Giò Forma: the world is our stage

By Marco Cresci
7 min read

«All the world’s a stage» is the opening line of a monologue from William Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy As You Like It, and it is also the same philosophy of life of the Milan-based studio Giò Forma

The studio was founded over 20 years ago by Cristiana Picco, from Milan, Claudio Santucci, from Tuscany, and Florian Boje, from Germany, whose motto is Everything is Stage. There couldn’t be a better slogan for a studio that works architecture that you have surely seen at least once even without knowing it, and that has carved out a place for them on the market for their unconventional innovation. For instance, the Tree of Life of EXPO 2015, the set design of X-Factor, Vasco’s stadiums – including the historical one of Modena Park – the Jova Beach, the stadium tours of Cesare Cremonini and Tiziano Ferro, and again the works of La Scala and major projects such as a theater that is a mammoth box of mirrors in the middle of the desert of Saudi Arabia. 

When you founded Giò Forma more than 20 years ago, what was your goal, what was in your idyllic future?

We are incurable enthusiasts about the future, certainly as optimistic today as we were 20 years ago. To tell the truth, the ideas were the same; in the meantime, we have refined them, we have studied and articulated our approach. For us, Everything is a stage, and it has always been so. We were born with the idea and the passion for transforming spaces into experiences regardless of size or budget. For us, a light bulb can turn into a stage as much as a project of a bridge, a fork or a tile. In our design algorithm (I would say proprietary), we carefully combine the basic ingredients, the viewer and the story.

Questa immagine ha l'attributo alt vuoto; il nome del file è CARTIER-the-legendary-thrill-2018-Milan-_-143-1024x682.jpg
Cartier Legendary – Giò Forma

You have designed many tours for Italian artists. From Vasco’s Modena Park to Jova Beach to Marco Mengoni’s latest tour, just to name a few. What is the secret to sewing the right stage for the artists, and what kind of relationship do you establish with them?

You used the right word: sew because designing a show and, therefore, a stage is exactly like sewing a dress that the artist must wear and feel inside. Just like a dress, it must represent him. Every artist has their own. You can tell him all you want that the stage and the show you designed for him is beautiful but, like a dress, when he wears it and looks in the mirror (in our case in a photo or a video), he must feel it as part of himself, representative of his image and his music.

So our task is like that of a tailor, with the difference that our materials and tools are “slightly” bigger. They are not fabrics and buttons but rather imposing transportable structures, screens, lights, lasers and various effects, so physical materials but also immaterial. The secret is to get to know the artist and interpret his music and style in an itinerant architecture, capable of transforming into more than two hours of the show.

Giò Forma
Jova Beach – Giò Forma

Many people don’t know what is behind a show or a concert. They normally think that what they see is thanks to the artist. Does it get frustrating to remain a reference point for insiders and not for the general public? 

We are not interested in being as popular” as the artists. Not many people know us, but actually, in recent years, and increasingly so, there is a great deal of public attention to the show. By now, they demand it and always expect something different and engaging. Many have also become interested in who is behind it. In fact, we have many fans of the various artists who follow us on social media. They know that at the base, there is the choice of the artist, but now they also know that behind all of it, there are consultants like us with great professionalism. By now we are very often mentioned in press kits as a real signature on a par with a designer of cars, fashion or whatever else requires a thought that has behind a style and a format like ours: Tutto é Palco.

The first time I saw the photos of the Maraya Concert Hall, Al Ula, in Saudi Arabia, I was amazed. A theater that is a huge box of mirrors in the middle of the desert and that reflects everything around it, expanding the landscape and altering the perspective. I thought: it’s like a mirage in the desert. Tell me how such a project came about? What inspired it?

Maraya, which means reflection in Arabic, was born from international competition. We had already seen Alula, an incredible place, an epic landscape and a crazy history (also of architecture) that led us to a famous sketch with a wording that should never be done in a competition of that magnitude. We had put big handwritten letters that said: You should not build anything here, but it should be only with the mirror if we really have to.

Giò Forma
Maraya – Giò Forma

Is Saudi Arabia still a place to focus on, or are there new countries that are making their mark in terms of investment and architectural expansion?

We have a long love affair with Saudi Arabia. Saudi culture is deep and heartfelt. It is a young country full of surprises but also cultured and sophisticated. Maraya is by now part of the Saudi imaginary. For us, it is always an elegant and lucky passport.

Concerts, architecture, and a lot of events and fittings for fashion, I refer to Armani, Cartier, Louis Vuitton, and Versace. How do you move from one branch to another? Do you have specialized people for each sector?

Yes and no. We don’t want to create sectors within our office, we think the liquid attitude, to quote Baumann, is a great help in dealing with the artistic complexities of the contemporary. We strive to mix and transfer values between all sectors; as I explained, the Stage is the metaphor that accompanies us, the common ground, the blank sheet of paper.

Giò Forma
Armani – Giò Forma
A digital nomad is able to work all over the world thanks to technology, working with so many clients in different parts of the world. Is a laptop enough, or is traveling indispensable?

We are Creative Nomads. Technology has certainly helped. By now, our projects are online and shared, we work in a highly advanced 3D environment at the same time, but at the end of the day, the most precious “tool” is always personal culture and the ability to read other cultures, create dialogue, space and…. stage.

Do you think that Giò Forma has a distinctive trait? Is there a sort of narration in your projects?

We always start strictly from the story. If we want to say that opera is our teacher, we translate reality into music and libretto, and dramaturgy generates spaces and design visualizes them. It goes without saying that they are metaphors.

What are the new projects you are working on?

So many wonderful projects. We worked a lot during the Lockdown doing many competitions and sowing very well; now, we have several seedlings in the nursery. As far as opera is concerned, there are projects such as the Rossini Festival this summer, Aida in Rome this fall and Florence, and Verdi’s Macbeth’s premiere at La Scala, again with director Davide Livermore.

In the musical field, we are beginning to see the light again, starting with Maneskin at Eurovision 2021 in Rotterdam. In the field of architecture, we have been awarded magnificent projects of which we can’t yet speak “loudly,” but some of them include the realization of a Theater, a Hotel, a Park and a few other goodies such as a Museum of decidedly innovative conception, a few projects, all of them Stages, of course

7 min read

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