We’d like to take the opportunity to introduce you to one of our Honorable mention winners for our "Milan Affordable Housing Challenge" competition – Maria Giada Di Baldassarre and Elisa Di Emidio from Italy!

Honorable mention winners from Italy

ETHEREA is an ephemeral design and research studio founded by Maria Giada Di Baldassarre and Elisa Di Emidio in 2020. The collective’s name expresses the concept of a network of people, competencies, and perspectives around architecture, urban design and engineering.

Maria Giada Di Baldassarre is an Architect, Engineer and PhD in Architectural and Urban Design. Graduated summa cum laude in Building Engineering and Architecture (2018) from Marche Polytechnic University and master’s degree in Place for Worship Design at La Sapienza in Rome, she received a special mention in the European Prize for Sacred Architecture (2021). Teaching assistant and architectural researcher between 2018-21, she also collaborated with different architectural studios focusing on the regeneration of built heritage from territorial to architectural scale.

Elisa Di Emidio is a Building Engineer and Architect, graduated in Building Engineering and Architecture (2018) at Marche Polytechnic University, Ancona. Freelance engineer from 2020 focusing on post-earthquake reconstruction activity in the regions of Marche and Abruzzo.

Brief information about the projects that you/your company have been involved with. For instance, what scale have you focused on/preferred, any significant projects where the company/ individuals have been involved?

Born as a resilient response to the pandemic crisis, ETHEREA has developed over the years as a space for meeting, sharing, engaging, and discussing the issues of sustainable and circular development, regeneration of the existing built heritage, equality, and social innovation. Individually in our commissions we focus on architectural scale, but together we set no limits to the complexity and scale to address. In fact, every competition project is an opportunity to design moving through and integrating the different scales, from the territorial to architectural one. We combine theoretical research and design practice with a multidisciplinary and trans-scalar approach. We got a special mention in the European Prize for Sacred Architecture 2021 and an honourable mention in the Low-cost House Design Competition 2021 respectively with the projects ‘Post-earthquake community’ and ‘eCO’.

What does architecture mean to you and what is the role of an architect in your society?

Architecture is the most evident trace of man on earth and it plays a decisive role in designing quality, beautiful and healthy spaces, which have a positive impact on development dynamics and people’s lives. Even the slogan ‘beautiful, sustainable, together’ of the New European Bauhaus supports the aesthetic, ecological and social value of design, especially when it is related to the existing. Our vision aims at creative, inclusive, inspiring and respectful design proposals.

Why do you participate in architecture competitions?

We have developed a strong foundation in teamwork and self-challenge since our university days, as we believe in learning from others. Engaging in architecture competitions, even with ongoing commissions, allows us to expand our knowledge, explore new territories, test and exchange ideas, and tackle design issues that may not arise in our everyday work. It is a professional growth opportunity that helps us shape our vision and stay creatively engaged with the contemporary architectural discipline.

What advice would you give to individuals who struggle to decide whether it would be beneficial for them to participate in architecture competitions?

Due to the wide variety of different topics, scales and contexts, architecture competitions represent an opportunity for growth both during and after studies. Comparing with students or professionals from all over the world allows one to measure own skills and knowledge, but above all to understand different perspectives through others’ projects. The simplest, but also most important advice, is to give yourself a chance, choosing the topic most interesting for you and following your own aptitudes.

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