Telling Architectural Narratives Differently. Starlight Vattano

Starlight Vattano, foto: (c) archive of Starlight Vattano

Profession: architect, researcher, PhD

Organization: University of Palermo

City: Palermo

Significant projects:

  • Eileen Gray and Charlotte Perriand. Graphic Interpretations
  • L’impronta del doppio: il movimento immobile,
  • Soluntina Forma Urbis. Analisi grafiche e schemi
  • I paesaggi digitali dell’immaginazione
  • Il Movimento: lo spazio del non-luogo
  • L’empatia degli spazi. Architettura e neuroscienze di Harry Francis Mallgrave.
  • An intangible smart city inside the tangible historical city: the smart heritage as regeneration of Euro-Mediterranean realities
  • New models of urban and social sustainability: ICT in the design of smart cities
  • Smart Technology for the passive house

Bio: Architect Starlight Vattano holds a PhD in Architecture at the University of Palermo and acquired the label of “Doctor Europæus”. She is teaching assistant at University of Palermo. She undertook a period of visiting research at the Escuela de Arquitectura of Malaga and at the Faculty for the Built Environment of the University of Malta. She is interested in visual studies and relationship between graphical movements and geometric shapes addressing her research in visual aspects of Bauhaus, Suprematism and Constructivism. She regularly presents her studies on topics: representation of unbuilt architecture, works of women pioneers of the Modern movement, cultural heritage of Euro-Mediterranean basin in conferences all around Europe. She is passionate dancer since her early childhood. 

Interview by: Milota Sidorova

Graphic Interpretations. What is the project about?

I am a researcher at the University of Palermo where I study women in the Modern Movement. Our research uncovers significant, but unknown women architects like Eileen Gray, Charlotte Perriand, Margaret Schultz Lihotzky, Alison Midson, Barbara Sokolovska, Alison Smithson, Lina Bo Bardi, Lotte Cohn, Gae Aulenti, Matilde Ucelay, Aino Marsio Aalto, Hana Kucerova Zaveska or Adrienne Gorska. Important, but standing in the shadow of male figures like Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, etc. We are looking for their original drawings from which we build up their own projects and construct 3D models. Simultaneously we are building an international database of women working in this architectural period (1920-1940). Since we don't have many works by Italian women architects at that time yet, we don't have one specific geographic area. Significant Italian woman like Lina Bo Bardi who undeniably belonged among the most important architects of the 20th century became Brazilian by adoption. 

Why did you choose this topic in 21st century?

At the beginning it was the topic of my graduate thesis. After meeting more conscious women and men I began to understand I had to demonstrate our need for space in architectural world. Even if people say, we have equilibrium between men and women nowadays, I understand this is not the truth. There are differences in work environments, salaries. Girls make up majority of graduates but in work they are minority. However my biggest and the most personal reason was that I have realized I saw myself in every woman I studied. It was like I was being reflected in their destinies.

With whom do you relate yourself the most?

Eileen Gray. When I studied her, it was like finding a soulmate. She read the same books I read, she loved the same philosopher I like. Just like me, she fell in love with ballet. She saw the movement possibilities of the dancer into the scene like the occupant inside a house. She conceived the space flexible and changeable, like a dance in a theatre. I am influenced by her strong personality. She was a strange character though. She faced to a lot of fear from different situations in her life, but she turned these fears into the construction of an elusive and enigmatic figure, not belonging to the reality.

What is her influence over you?

It is the question of oneself's reflection. She doesn't take my place, but what I take from her is that I need to always express my thoughts, ideas. If I don't do it, another person, probably a man will take my place.

What do you do with models of women architects?

We are creating a platform to share our information and research with the people from abroad. We teach at university by redrawing projects of women architects. We start from few archive drawings and unbuilt projects, reconstruct 3D models, update their historiographies. Through graphic interpretations we create the whole architectural project. We add unpublished, unedited images and this way we tell stories about works of these extraordinary women. I see our students are very interested in this methodology, because I observe how they also discover their own characters through their works.

We are recreating women role models communicating Modern era. I find it especially important in our times when we stay isolated with our computers and phones. These were women who used to touch materials, people, dreams. So we communicate. Through the university, publications, platforms and events like this.


Are there more initiatives like yours in Italy or Europe?

We participated with the Polytechnic University of Turin that along with MoMoWo organized the conference in Leiden. They are organizing many conferences and workshops not only about women in architecture, but also involved in arts, and literature in other cities (Oviedo, Ljubljana, Lisbon, etc.). At the moment we are trying to get European projects, so we are looking for more partners from different disciplines like sociology, arts etc., dealing with this period of architecture related to the contribute of women with the aim to share our research and collaborate with the others.

How do you see yourself in the future?

This is a difficult question, because I am discovering myself in the books I read, projects I make, music and dance. I want to be free to express myself with my drawings, projects and to find my happiness in small things. I hope I will not have to change my free vision of life. I hope I will not be influenced by negativism spreading all around. Life is a gift and we have one chance to live it. Just like these women I see my future in free expression in architecture.


Thank you!