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ADS9: My Garden’s Boundaries are the Horizon

Francesca Savanco

During her BSc studies at the University of Bath and MA at the RCA, Francesca has been largely intrigued by the modalities of interaction between people and their social and contextual circumstances.

This interest was born in her placement experience at hcl architects, where she explored questions of alternative, compressed “micro-home” living. Fascinated by this topic, which she then kept researching throughout her MA years, it informed her project for ADS1 which was nominated for the RIBA West Awards and achieved a Technical Studies prize. Alongside her thesis researching modularity and adaptability, it allowed other architectural topics to emerge and she became engaged with questions of solitude, interaction and collaborative decision making.

Enhanced by the paradigm shift brought by digital media and virtual presence, especially come the effect of 2020 on our contemporary societies, this interest has spiraled into her final thesis question. Francesca is fascinated by today's nomadic state, produced by the opportunity to be non-physically present in multiple settings; by the way one can subvert un-belonging and solitude through a pseudo, non-physical connection.

This is a matter which she looks to keep researching in her future career; as a catalyst for solving other crucial questions such as the one of sustainability and adaptability, interests which made Francesca achieve the “passivhaus consultant and designer” title in 2019.

The project is reactive of today’s inevitable shift towards a digitised, lonely, remote interaction. The subjectivity of the transnational Filipino migrant domestic worker is one of the many examples of this type of relationship. The far-away mother tries to maintain care ties with her loved ones which she has left at home. She looks to replace her actual presence with a constant screen presence, becoming a perpetual image on the far-family’s screen. She exists and works in Milan but virtually lives in Manila, as a cluster of pixels and an ever-watching, nurturing identity.

The migrant mother: the “Bagong Bayani” discards the value of the “present time”; deciding instead to reminisce over the past and work for her future; for the future hope of going back home, having provided a good life for her family. This makes her live in a suspended time, the “transitory present”. Deciding not to fully integrate on the new time-zone, she lives in this condition where her daily rhythms match the rhythms of her family, 7 hours “ahead” in the day cycle. She is therefore not only not fully present in Manila, but also not fully present in Milan.

The “basilica-home” is a building for collective dwelling, gathering, and feasting. Its purpose is to provide a new typology of civic (and dwelling) space, which sees the need of the transnational migrant mother to be in two places, two time zones at once.

 It creates a sense of dislocation, offers a chance of a journey. It allows the Bagong Bayani to travel back home, live in the time zone that she wants to construct for herself, not being bound to the daily rhythms of the Milanese context.  The building provides a condition of “suspension” of time: it does not prescribe sleep or wake, red or blue; presence or absence.

Reflective of the church as the “first safety net” upon arrival in Italy, the building spatial organisation is a re-interpretation of the Roman Basilica, a building for congregation and people’s encounter. The spatial organisation is a consequence of two grids morphing with each other. The first grid is the contextual grid Via Padova, the other one is oriented to face the Philippines.

Progression through the spaces, culminating in the central feasting nave, is informed by a canopy of floating roof translucent concrete petals, increasingly light-filtering, directing the flow of activities from dark-and private to luminous and collective, from contextual to dislocated, from Milan to Manila.

With this purple light, a physiological reaction is constructed; by working on the chronobiological effect of red and blue light in regulating melatonin and cortisol release in our bodies and therefore circadian cycles. Purple is the consequence of mixing the blue qualities of the morning light and the red qualities of the night, evening light. With this in-between colour- a condition of physiological limbo is induced, the body does not receive impulse to release either cortisol or melatonin, which are instead controlled through daily rituals of meal-making, feasting, working or skyping back home.

The sunrise in Milan becomes the moment of feasting, it functions on the Manila time zone, where by now it has become lunch- boodle fighting, feasting time. It allows the migrant mother to orchestrate her daily tasks in Milan with a choice of which of the two rhythms she wants to live on, without it being contextually imposed on her. The basilica home becomes an always awake space for mutual companionship; offering a perpetual reminder of all those people who live in the city but at heart are somewhere else. Somewhere in another time-zone or in some virtual space which they consider “home”.

Roof axonometric and plan projection
Grid orientation and plan — A contextual Milanese grid morphs into the symbolic Philippines-facing grid.
Detail fragment, a journey through domestic functions
Detail fragment roof panel orientation
Detail Fragment Section and technical roof plan.
Detail Fragment Section
From Manila to Milano.
Via Padova.
Formal thresholds, Loggia.
Service Areas, collective lavatoio.
Resting areas, collective bedroom spaces.
Cooking areas, collective Lapa kitchen.
Overall technical qualities.
Central nave panels' qualities.
Isometric composition, gradual phenomena change.
Central nave panel fragmentation.
Plaster and thread, lightness exploration.
Plaster and Thread, lightness exploration.
Central Feasting, Boodle fighting nave.
A perpetual presence in Milan.