PROFESSOR CARLO RATTI | THE FUTURE BELONGS TO THE CURIOUS
It feels so good when we are imbued with passion, curiosity, and zest for life. When our professional path is aligned with our creative expression, we feel fulfilled, striving to expand and eager to discover more. In that state, we show up every day feeling that we are creating a wonderful life for ourselves and contributing to the world in a meaningful and positive way.
In Francois Truffaut’s words, “un curieux de profession” is a man for whom a curiosity is a profession. This phrase perfectly describes Professor Carlo Ratti, an architect, engineer, inventor, educator, and activist whose curiosity and passion infuse everything he does. Ratti comes from a family of architects and engineers and developed an affinity for the fields as a child. In his prolific career, he has made architecture his own and created impressive projects that have earned him global renown while feeding and satisfying his curiosity.
“As Italian architect Carlo Mollino reportedly said, you have to be authentically local in order to be authentically global,” Ratti says as he discusses his connection to his home country, Italy, while he travels the world for his career. Although Ratti is known internationally for his contributions to the field of architecture, he maintains his connection to where he began.
Just as Ratti’s work combines local and global influences, it also combines individual and collective efforts. Carlo explains, “Being an architect today is a collaborative effort; it’s about orchestrating different voices and interests.” In fact, he adds, “The particular aggregation of people’s input on a specific project and in a specific place will inform and mold the design process, creating a unique outcome that is able to reflect both the global zeitgeist and the genius loci—the spirit of the place.” Thus, the architecture reflects the hearts and minds of all those who contribute to the design process.
Buildings evolve, becoming part of the lives of those who inhabit them. Ratti notes, “Architecture is a living thing. Our mindset frames design as evolutionary, allowing the built environment to truly come to life and adapt its function to people’s evolving needs.” Architecture also evolves as cities and cultures change: “The traditional and the contemporary meet in ever-evolving ways,” says the professor.
The most prominent way in which contemporary society is changing architecture is through the advent and evolution of technology. Ratti explains that with the Internet of Things, or the network of internet-capable devices that communicate with each other, “The built environment is transforming into a living, responsive space that is capable of adapting to people’s bodies and needs.”
When you look upon one of Ratti’s magnificent creations, you are awestruck. His projects, such as UFO in Torino, Italy, a crowdsourced graffiti wall painted by drones; the Circular Garden in Milan, a series of arches made from mushrooms; and the Living Nature installation in Milan, a garden inside which all four seasons coexist, are truly incredible. He also demonstrates how architecture can be used to do good and create a better world with projects such as the New Deal in Paris, which imagines the future of highways in an era where we must consider the future of the planet, and Livingboard, which, in collaboration with WeRise, provides necessities such as electricity, water treatment, and a foundation for homes in rural India. His designs exist at the confluence of art, nature, and technology; his attention to form, detail, and concept are unparalleled. With his creations, he imagines the future of architecture and enters the conversation on the social and environmental concerns of our contemporary society.
Ratti says, “You can give back anything you want.” He was given an innate curiosity and desire to explore, which can be seen in every project he takes on. When you look upon one of his architectural marvels or read one of the hundreds of his publications, you can feel his desire to discover and innovate—and be inspired to do the same. Ratti echoes the advice given in the Truffaut film Jules et Jim— “Travel, write, translate…learn to live everywhere. Begin at once. The future belongs to the curious.”