Antonino Cardillo (Eryx, 1975–). Architect, writer, photographer and computer programmer, he has expanded the boundaries of the architecture of his time by integrating knowledge of cybernetics, historiography, philosophy (simulated reality) and anthropology, archeology, psychology (archetypes of the imaginary). Bringing together ancient and modern codes, his work reconciles different cultures and interrupted stories into a cohesive whole rich in meanings which interpret architecture as a way to reunite opposites. Cardillo has been called ‘one of the few architects’ nowadays by Paolo Portoghesi and ‘one of the most significant architects of our time’ by Tony Chambers. He has lectured at the Bauhaus DIA in Dessau, the Royal College of Art and the AA School in London. Published on a global scale, his works have also been exhibited in several places including Palazzo dell’Arte at the Triennale di Milano, the Deutsche Architekturmuseum in Frankfurt am Main, the Victoria & Albert Museum and Sir John Soane’s Museum in London.
The threshold of twilight
Antonino Cardillo was born on May 18th 1975 in Erice, Sicily. He studied Architecture at the Università di Palermo from 1993 until 1998, under the guidance of professor Antonietta Iolanda Lima. In the spring of 2002, he graduated with an aquarium project for Trapani Marina.
A year later, he published his website www.antoninocardillo.com. Six months later, he moved to Milan for a year of work experience. In the summer of 2004, he moved to Rome to study classical antiquities. There, he lectured at the Cesare Maria Casati course of the Valle Giulia Faculty of Architecture for three years and met Charles Searson who will henceforth take care of the English-language versions of his texts. Meanwhile, his project Dualistic Space House in Erice, commissioned by Pietro Maltese, was longlisted as ‘House of year 2006’ by World Architecture News.
After that, London-based journalist Gian Luca Amadei invited him to comment on the state of Italian contemporary architecture for Blueprint magazine:
The history of man has developed through continuous interaction between different cultures. It often happens that the dominant take possession of the submissive, managing to disguise the process by carefully rewriting history.
Between 2007 and 2011 Cardillo designed the world-renowned series of unbuilt projects afterward renamed Seven Houses for No One. Beginning in Rome with Ellipse 1501 House, Sydney-based Matt Hussey of The Cool Hunter said about it “This new house designed by Antonino Cardillo has stumped us good and proper.” Devyani Jayakar from the Indian magazine Home Review observed “The architecture appears to be the harbinger of an epochal change in Italy’s post imperial design history.”
For Cardillo, music and cinema are the arts that have the strongest influence on his homes. But also all other things that concern him at the time of the design: his travels, his relationships, his emotions. Therefore, no design could be reproduced in another place and at another time. Cardillo likes to improvise himself on the piano and synthesiser, “but I can’t replay anything”, he says. In Melbourne, he designed a house that references to John Foxx’s ambient sounds.
The also called Imagined Houses series was finished through the three variants of a project commissioned by Livio De Marchi for his plot in the Kew suburb of Melbourne: Concrete Moon House, House of Twelve, and the subsequently set in Wales Purple House. Helen Geng Haizhen from Beijing said about this:
Antonino Cardillo’s building is huge, as if it came from a distant foreign land and an ancient country. Beautiful and unruly, generous, fanatical, rhythm deep and passionate. The ever-changing light and shadow make the building show ever-changing appearance, as if it is a display of the deepest soul. Confrontation, bursting out shocking beauty, contradiction, resulting in stable harmony.
Meanwhile in London, in the summer of 2009 Cardillo was selected by Wallpaper* magazine to feature as one of the thirty finest emerging architects. A year later he created two timber frame works. His first built residential project, Nomura Koumuten house in the Japanese town of Takarazuka, was commissioned by Nomura Koumuten Corporation director Kenji Nomura; and his first built commercial project, the Sergio Rossi men’s store in the Brera district of Milan, was commissioned by Wallpaper* editor-at-large Suzanne Trocmé. Writing about this project, the editor-in-chief Tony Chambers said “Cardillo is one of the most significant architects of our time.” Massimo Locci from Rome also said:
Few young architects are able to translate the spatial articulation and the compositional richness of forms at the operational-executive level, without losing the purity of the theoretical-experimental approach. When all this is realised, it seems almost miraculous.
In the summer of 2011, Trocmé appointed Cardillo to design the Postmodern Cafe, a London Design Festival colourful dedicated entrance to the Victoria & Albert Museum exhibition Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970–90.
A year later, Susanne Beyer’s article in Der Spiegel magazine compared Cardillo to Thomas Mann’s literary character Felix Krull, saying:
The young Italian architect Antonino Cardillo took advantage of the fact that fiction and reality are hardly distinguishable. The Spiegel learned that Cardillo had sent pictures of allegedly built buildings to architectural magazines and gave the impression that the houses had actually been built.
The editorial article, referring to the computer-generated images of the Houses for No One series, prompted divisive debates amongst Italian and German scholars, professionals and journalists about contemporary representations of architecture. Stefano Mirti from Milan said:
The faculty of our being able to deceive ourselves that today’s reality be the only true one, if on one hand it sustains us, on the other it throws us into an endless void, because today’s reality is destined to reveal tomorrow’s illusion.
Meanwhile in Rome, in the autumn of 2012 Cardillo began the construction of his seminal work House of Dust for Massimiliano Beffa. In this work, he lent classical form to the space, reintroducing the themes of the Polychrome, the Grotto and the Arch to present-day architecture. Paolo Maria Noseda unveiled it in the Corriere della Sera magazine, saying: “A side entrance reveals a hall that, like a Greek mask suddenly worn by the visitor, projects and draws attention onto two tapered windows: a pair of eyes on the world.”
The work was also featured: by Amy Frearson of Dezeen; then by Francesca Gottardo in Paolo Portoghesi’s magazine Abitare la Terra: “A dimension apparently out of time” and at the XXI Triennale di Milano as one of the fifty works recounting the history of Italian interior architecture. House of Dust showcased Cardillo’s work and became his manifesto. The architect expanded on the vault-cave-grotto theme in the Financial Times magazine:
The vault is the place where the architecture ‘happens’. It possesses an archetypal and sacred value. It goes back to the primary meaning of architecture, which is the protection of the cave, but also to its spiritual meaning, because every ‘vault’ is also the transfiguration of the sky in stone.
In the autumn of 2013, Cardillo moved to London and spent a formative time with the AA School teacher Ana Araujo. She wrote “Cardillo’s architecture promotes the sensorial mobilisation envisioned by [Walter] Benjamin as a potential force for social/political transformation.” At the Architectural Association School of Architecture, he also lectured at the Takero Shimazaki course and published a text in the Jack Self folio Fulcrum:
Our present appears lost in a loop. Obsession for novelty inhibits research; severing our link with the past restrains our critical skills, reducing it to a mere supermarket of interchangeable stuff. Behind the proliferation of neo-modern icons lurks a manipulation: ideas, passions, civil wars and ideals are constantly ransacked and abused. Original meanings are altered, rewritten or erased. Thus the past becomes innocuous, an image that celebrates consumerism.
Back in Rome, in the spring of 2014 Cardillo created Crepuscular Green, a work built for the Klaus Mondrian art gallery Mondrian Suite in San Lorenzo ward. Alice Morby of Dezeen wrote the headline “Antonino Cardillo bases textured all-green gallery interior on Wagner opera.” Jeanette Kunsmann from Berlin said:
Light at the bottom, dark at the top: It is above all this reversal with which Cardillo not only creates a dramatic tension, but also a sensual, mystical atmosphere. With 40 square metres rather manageable, the architect has transformed the gallery into a sacred room — and created a courageous change from the eternal White Cube.
In October of the same year, he exhibited Min, a series of seven sculptures which relate the Arch to the Phallus, at London’s Sir John Soane’s Museum. During this time he continued to work with Suzanne Trocmé, constructing the interior of London’s Illuminum store. Anna Winston of Dezeen called it “A multi-sensory space for experiencing and buying fragrance.” Jessica Cooper from Paris said:
Somewhere on Dover Street, round the corner from high-brow Mayfair filled with the hustle and bustle of shopaholics frantically shopping in the luxe houses of Chanel, Prada and Dolce & Gabbana, there lies a fairy tale grotto filled with tranquillity and calm. Once entering this space, I feel that all time has stood still.
Then Cardillo moved back to his hometown Trapani to pursue the idea of bridging the anthropology and archeology of the island of Sicily to the architecture of the present. In the summer of 2016, he completed construction of Specus Corallii, the oratorio of Trapani Cathedral, commissioned by the chief priest Gaspare Gruppuso. Jean-Marie Martin of the magazine Casabella notices: “Antonino Cardillo, an architect who deservedly earned the attention of international critics, has created a space similar to a telescope aimed at the past of the place.”⁠ The work is the fourth in the series of Grottoes which, according to Melbourne-based writer Annie Carroll, “are some of the most influential interiors of recent times.” Mrinalini Ghadiok from New Delhi said:
Antonino Cardillo challenges the very norms of the architectural process as we have popularly come to know it. His works transcend the course to deliver moments that are sublime, experiences that are intangible, and spaces that are overwhelmingly immersive.
In the winter of 2017, Jeanette Kunsmann and Stephen Burkoff journeyed to Italy to visit Cardillo’s architectural works in Rome and Trapani, spending three days with the architect. Their investigation became the DEAR magazine cover story ‘Architecture and truth’.
Cardillo has neither a fixed office address, nor even an office in the classic sense. And he has no employees: the Sicilian designs and plans all his projects alone. […] One might, therefore, suppose that Cardillo is one of a number of minor, lesser-known architects. But that isn’t the case. Very few architects outside the three superstars of the industry (Libeskind, Hadid and Koolhaas) have attracted as much attention from the international press and trade magazines as Antonino Cardillo.
Ana Araujo from Windsor added: I think Antonino is a designer trying to work in his own terms, and refusing to comply with the way designers tend to operate today. I think he relies on an idea of what it meant to be an architect in the past to shape his professional attitude.
In the summer of 2018, Cardillo completed in Rome the construction of the nightclub Off Club commissioned by Matteo Di Persio and Francesco Curcio. Suzanne Trocmé unveiled it, saying, “A long-time Wallpaper* collaborator, Antonino Cardillo’s latest work marks a defining moment for the Sicilian architect.” Tom Wilkinson wrote in The Architectural Review magazine:
These hieratic forms create an atmosphere of slightly menacing mystery — one could expect a Mithraic rite to begin at any moment.
Sight Unseen co-founder Monica Khemsurov defined Off Club as “his latest masterpiece.” Tim Berge of DEAR Magazin added: “Cardillo manages to involve the user physically and psychologically in his world of thought like no other.” Lucia Galli of Paolo Portoghesi magazine Abitare la Terra noted: “If truth be told, his ability to turn a game of illusion into reality is one of the triggers that set Cardillo on a path to success.”
In the year 2019, he was invited to talk as part of the Inside/Out lecture series by the students of London’s Royal College of Art and the Bauhaus Campus Dessauer Gespräche by Johannes Kister. In the same year in Parma, Cardillo continued to explore the potentials of polychromy applied to architecture by constructing within Luca Cardella’s apartment the chromaticism project Memories for Cruising, which evoked the impressions of wandering in a forest and the metamorphosis of his plants. Ellie Stathaki noted on Wallpaper*:
This renovation of a 100 sq m apartment in Parma, Italy transformed what was a tired interior near the city’s station, into a modern feast of colour and light. Designed by architect Antonino Cardillo, the project had a limited budget, but what it may lack in scale, it makes up in creative ambition.
In the spring of 2021, Cardillo completed at Salina Ettore and Infersa the construction of the Mammacaura wharf bar for the ancient Phoenician island of Mothia, near the west coast of Sicily. The landscape restoration project is presented in Francesco Dal Co’s magazine Casabella, at Paolo Zermani’s Congress on the Identity of Italian Architecture, by Mario Pisani in Paolo Portoghesi’s magazine Abitare la Terra and in Cesare Maria Casati’s magazine L’Arca.
In the spring of 2023, Paolo Portoghesi welcomed Cardillo to his home in Calcata, saying: “In all these years you have remained consistent with your vision of architecture. You did not give in, and your works possess an integrity that is very rare today. This makes you one of the few architects.”
- ^ Antonino Cardillo, ‘www.antoninocardillo.com’ , web.archive.org, San Francisco, 22 Aug. 2003.
- ^ World Architecture News, ‘House of year 2006’ (pdf), worldarchitecturenews.com, London, 9 Feb. 2007.
- ^ Antonino Cardillo, ‘Comment (pdf), Blueprint, no. 256, London, July 2007, p. 58.
- ^ Matt Hussey, ‘Ellipse 1501 House’ , thecoolhunter.net, Sydney, 5 July 2007.
- ^ Devyani Jayakar, ‘Celestial vision’ (pdf), Home Review, no. 6/5, Mumbai, Sept. 2007, p. 58.
- ^ Judith Jenner, ‘Ein Haus wie ein Tanz’ (pdf), H.O.M.E., no. 2/10, Berlin, Feb. 2010, p. 130.
- ^ Helen Geng Haizhen, ‘印象派建筑师’ (pdf), Interior Architecture of China, no. 107, Beijing, Nov. 2011, pp. 30.
- ^ Jonathan Bell, Ellie Stathaki, ‘Architects directory 2009’ (pdf), Wallpaper*, no. 125, London, Aug. 2009, p. 81.
- ^ Tony Chambers, Men’s footwear world tour (pdf), Milan, March 2010, p. 1.
- ^ Massimo Locci, ‘Sperimentazioni di Antonino Cardillo’ (pdf), L’Architetto Italiano, no. 42, Rome, Apr. 2011, p. 32.
- ^ London Design Festival, ‘Postmodern Cafe’ (pdf), in The London Design Festival 2011 Guide, London, Sept. 2011, pp. 8‑9, 43, 183, 239.
- ^ Susanne Beyer, ‘Titel / Vatikanbank / Architektur’ , Der Spiegel, no. 27/12, Hamburg, 2 July 2012, pp. 3, 121‑123.
- ^ Nicola Bozzi, ‘L’uomo che amava i rendering’ , Studio, Milan, 20 July 2012.
- ^ Carl Zillich, with Fabrizio Gallanti, Lars Krückeberg, Volkwin Marg, Wolfram Putz, Peter Reischer, Andreas Ruby, Tobias Walliser, Thomas Willemeit, ‘Causa Cardillo: Geht’s noch ohne Hochstapelei?’ , bkult.de, Berlin, 10 Sept. 2012.
- ^ Stefano Mirti, Gioia Guerzoni, ‘Siamo specchi l’uno dell’altro’ (pdf), Opere, no. 32, Florence, Oct. 2012, p. 56.
- ^ Paolo Maria Noseda, ‘Una casa, una visione’ , Casamica, n. 3/13, Corriere della Sera, Milan, June 2013, p. 77.
- ^ Amy Frearson, ‘House of Dust by Antonino Cardillo’ , dezeen.com, London, 5 Aug. 2013.
- ^ Francesca Gottardo, ‘Architettura di polvere’ (pdf), Abitare la Terra, no. 37, dir. Paolo Portoghesi, Rome, Mar. 2015, p. 50.
- ^ Beppe Finessi, ‘Storie di altre stanze’ (pdf), in Stanze. Altre Filosofie dell’Abitare, exhib. cat., ed. Beppe Finessi, Marsilio, Milan, Sept. 2016, p. 283.
- ^ Jenny Dalton, ‘Decorative ceilings’ , How to Spend It, Financial Times, London, March 2014, p. 71.
- ^ Ana Araujo, ‘Feeling through sight: zooming in, zooming out’ , The Journal of Architecture, vol. 19, no. 1, RIBA, London, Jan. 2014, p. 15.
- ^ Antonino Cardillo, ‘Antonino Cardillo: House of Dust’ , paper presented to the ‘Intermediate Unit 2’, ed. Alexandra Savtchenko‑Belskaia, AA School, London, 20 Nov. 2013.
- ^ Antonino Cardillo, ‘The alternative’ , Fulcrum, tr. Charles Searson, no. 77, AA School Press, London, 18 Nov. 2013, p. 1.
- ^ Alice Morby, ‘Antonino Cardillo bases textured all-green gallery interior on Wagner opera’ , dezeen.com, London, 17 Apr. 2017.
- ^ Jeanette Kunsmann, ‘Götterdämmerung in Rom’ , designlines.de, BauNetz, Berlin, 24 Feb. 2015.
- ^ Maxwell Blowfield, Space and Light (pdf), Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, 7 Aug. 2014.
- ^ Anna Winston, ‘Antonino Cardillo combines scent and texture for Illuminum Fragrance shop interior’ , dezeen.com, London, 6 May 2015.
- ^ Jessica Cooper, ‘Illuminum: a shop with no products in sight’ (pdf), Eclectic, no. AW15, Paris, Sept. 2015, p. 160.
- ^ Jean-Marie Martin, ‘Evocazione, astrazione, illusione — Sala Laurentina, Cattedrale di Trapani, Sicilia’ , Casabella, no. 879, Milan, Nov. 2017, p. 30.
- ^ Annie Carroll, ‘Our top three favourite works by architect Antonino Cardillo’ , atelierlumira.com, Sydney, 22 Jan. 2018; anniecarrollwrites.com, Melbourne, 23 Nov. 2018.
- ^ Mrinalini Ghadiok, ‘Elemental’ (pdf), Mondo*Arc India, no. 15, New Delhi, July 2017, p. 51.
- ^ Jeanette Kunsmann, Stephan Burkoff, ‘Architektur und Wahrheit’ , DEAR Magazin, no. 1, Berlin, Apr. 2017, p. 68.
- ^ Ana Araujo, in Jeanette Kunsmann, Stephan Burkoff, ‘Architektur und Wahrheit’ , DEAR Magazin, no. 1, Berlin, Apr. 2017, p. 84.
- ^ Suzanne Trocmé, ‘Roman empire: Off Club’ , wallpaper.com, London, 17 Sept. 2018.
- ^ Tom Wilkinson, ‘Typology: Nightclub’ , The Architectural Review, no. 1470, London, Apr. 2020, p. 44.
- ^ Monica Khemsurov, ‘Saturday selects: week of September 17, 2018’ , sightunseen.com, New York, 22 Sept. 2018.
- ^ Tim Berge, ‘Die Symmetrie der Nacht: Restaurant in Rom’ , DEAR Magazin, no. 4/18, Berlin, Dec. 2018, p. 35.
- ^ Lucia Galli, ‘Off Club’ (pdf), Abitare la Terra, no. 49, Rome, June 2019, p. 38.
- ^ Antonino Cardillo, ‘Antonino Cardillo: the making of Rome’s Off Club’ , paper presented to the Inside/Out, ed. Yara Boulos and Riccardo Rizzetto, Royal College of Art, London, 22 Jan. 2019.
- ^ Johannes Kister, ‘Vortragsreihe: Dessauer Gespräche’ (pdf), in Next to Bauhaus, vol. 2, ed. Matthias Hoehne, Hochschule Anhalt, Dessau Institute of Architecture, March 2020, pp. 216‑217.
- ^ Ellie Stathaki, ‘Apartment interior design: outstanding spaces around the globe’ , wallpaper.com, London, 7 July 2021.
- ^ Antonino Cardillo, ‘Mammacaura: where you sit’ , Casabella, no. 925, dir. Francesco Dal Co, Milan, Sept. 2021, pp. 10‑17.
- ^ Antonino Cardillo, ‘Mammacaura’ (pdf), Identità dell’Architettura Italiana, vol. 19, ed. Paolo Zermani, Università degli Studi di Firenze, Diabasis, Parma, March 2022, pp. 58‑59.
- ^ Mario Pisani, ‘L’intervento nelle saline Ettore e Infersa a Mammacaura, Marsala 2021’ , Abitare la Terra, no. 60, dir. Paolo Portoghesi, Rome, lug. 2023, pp. 30‑33.
- ^ Antonino Cardillo, ‘Mammacaura, Saline Ettore e Infersa, Laguna dello Stagnone’ , L’Arca International, no. 174, dir. Cesare Maria Casati, Monaco, Sept. 2023, pp. 88‑93.
- ^ Antonino Cardillo, ‘Conversazione con Paolo Portoghesi’ (unpublished document), Calcata, 22 May 2023, p. 1.