You once said that, when working with entrepreneurs, 99 percent of them are about the money, but there’s still one percent of poetry in them. And your job is to bring out that one percent…
Yes, but now even finding that one percent is a struggle. I think there were bigger dreams before. You could say, “How about that one percent?” And now – well, forget about it. The internet gives us the impression that we’re all artists. Some of the time we even think we’re doctors, too, because of what we read on the internet. It gives this illusion of a little bit of knowledge, but also a little bit of power – so we tend to listen less to [experts] than we did 20 years ago. I used to show a maquette of a design and people would ask a thousand questions – they’d want to know why one material instead of another, and so on. Now these kinds of meetings are over in three seconds. There’s no interest in understanding why certain choices have been made – that’s a big change, culturally. Still, we can’t be nostalgic.
It’s interesting how rare it is to see traditional thinking challenged. You more or less invented the idea of the infinity pool, and yet your notions of how it should be positioned have not been so welcomed, have they?
It’s interesting, because the swimming pool, this stretched narrow pool to the horizon, has been copied a thousand times now. But the convention of keeping the building and the pool separate – the house there, the pool over there – is still typically maintained. It’s easier to move a mountain than to break that convention and, as I’ve done, put a pool going into the house, or at least touching it in some poetic gesture. I was working on a villa in Tuscany recently and was told it’s not practical, that nobody does it. And that was that. People see what they see and it becomes a dogma.
You’ve designed resorts, homes, shops, hotels, museums, galleries, even airports. What would you like to design?
A cathedral, because theoretically in a cathedral there’s no reason to compromise. There’s no commercial necessity to make money and there’s no need to deal with practical questions like, “Where do I put my socks and underpants?” When you do a house, you have those kinds of things to think about, and when you do a boutique you have to think about how it’s going to be used to sell shoes or whatever. With a cathedral, there’s nothing mundane. It’s pure light and space. And no shaving cream. But it’s also because peacefulness, is absolutely an important characteristic of my designs. That for me is what gives meaning to the building. I do attract people who feel the same, but there aren’t that many because the majority of people prefer noise. You know, when they see the Ferrari what they want is the “Vroom! Vroom!”. I prefer the silence, so you can think. You’d like to think that with the pace of life now we’d like more stillness, but I think we’re going towards more and more machine-oriented, more mechanical, more noise. Again I think the pandemic has made us forget how to do stillness. Rather it’s meant that we need noise all the time.