Donatella Fioretti

1962

Architect and professor, Ticino and Dusseldorf

"I like that my work is very diverse ; I have to deal with very different kinds of people, from museum directors to civil engineers and craftspeople."

My career path

I have been a full professor at the Kunstakademie in Dusseldorf since 2017. Before that, I spent six years as a full professor of design and construction at the Berlin Institute of Technology. In 1995, Piero Bruno, José Gutierrez Marquez and I founded our own practice in Berlin, Bruno Fioretti Marquez Architekten. We opened a second branch office in Lugano in 2009 and are active internationally. We produce a wide range of buildings, from cultural and educational constructions to administrative and housing projects. Transforming existing buildings, some of which are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, has become one of the focuses of our work.

My passion. The relationship between design, teaching and research has been the focus of my academic and professional career. I like that my work is very diverse ; I have to deal with very different kinds of people, from museum directors to civil engineers and craftspeople.

Architects constantly have to overcome economic, social, project-related, energy and construction constraints, whilst at the same time dealing with creative and conceptual issues. Architecture involves applying scientific methods, technological advances and arts-based strategies – all at the same time.

For me, teaching is a complex exchange between teachers and students.

When I see a location or a project through the eyes of my students from different cultural backgrounds, it always makes me fundamentally challenge my own design methodology. And finding ways to explain certain basic architectural concepts requires me to constantly redefine my own insights.

My career path. After graduating from the Instituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia (IUAV), I was lucky enough to work with Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. Then between 1992 and 1995, I went on to work as a junior project manager in a number of architectural offices in Berlin.

Since 1996, I have developed my teaching alongside my work as an architect. I started off by giving lectures, workshops and summer academies at various universities in Europe and America, and then became a research assistant and visiting professor at the Berlin Institute of Technology. Throughout my life, I’ve met exceptional teachers, and inspirational clients, colleagues and other partners, but the key figures are without a doubt my partners and friends Piero Bruno and José Marquez.

A downside or obstacle ? Sometimes I am too much of a perfectionist.

There didn’t used to be many women in architecture. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but when I look at my female students, I feel very optimistic. In our studio, we have a number of women in leading positions. If they have small children, they work 80% or less. In our experience, they are extremely efficient. Construction sites are traditionally male domains, like universities. But as I said before, things are definitely changing now.

I’m proud of some of our buildings, and of my relationship with my students. In her book To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf wrote of a painting : “Beautiful and bright it should be on the surface, feathery and evanescent, one colour melting into another like the colours on a butterfly’s wing, but beneath the fabric must be clamped together with bolts of iron. It was to be a thing you could ruffle with your breath ; and a thing you could not dislodge with a team of horses.” I think this quote beautifully sums up what I’m trying to do with our work.

The Proust Questionnaire

This section is available only in the original language
Other interests beyond work

I am a very passionate reader, and I like art, cinema, and theatre. And of course as an Italian, I like to cook ; but unfortunately, I’m not very good at it.

People who inspire you

The architect Lina Bo Bardi and my grandfather.

A book & a film

Symposium (Plato) and Otto e mezzo (Federico Fellini).

One or more role models

Flora Ruchat Roncati, an innovative architect and great teacher at ETH Zurich.

An object that represents you

A beautiful pair of shoes

A colour

Green

A dream

To build something in my home country, Italy.