Roberta, architect and lecturer
Originally from Civitanova Marche in Italy, Roberta Marcaccio currently leads a Design Think-Tank at the London School of Architecture and teaches History and Theory of Architecture at the Architectural Association. Alongside her teaching activities she works for the London-based studio DSDHA.
"Being in London, you get to know Europeans better”
Which were your initial reasons for moving?
I moved to London in 2008 to study at the Architecture Association, at that point I had been living in Milan for 6 years. I didn’t think I was going to stay: I didn’t want to move for good, I just wanted to do my Masters. As soon as I finished school, I was given a teaching position in Brighton. As a 25 years old you would never get that opportunity in Milan, no matter how smart you are. Together with Berlusconi’s politics, and the collapse of the banks… 2008 was a big hit for everyone, but in London you could still feel a vibrancy.
Do you remember any challenges to adapt?
Doing a Masters in Histories and Theories meant that I had to read and write and read and write and read and write in my second language. I remember going home in the first few months and just crying, literally thinking “why did I put myself into that situation that is well beyond my possibilities”. There are always things that you won’t quite get in the same way that a native speaker would. But sometimes it is a plus. You know that story? How does the fly know it’s on the white board? Just because it stepped out of the black board. It works the same, it gives you a perspective from a completely different angle that can actually be appreciated. London works that way. It is a microcosm of Europe itself. There are a lot of people who appreciate that confrontation and perspective from other countries, from other point of views. I was lucky enough to meet a lot of those people. There is no other city in Europe of which you could say ‘it’s Europe here’. That means that being in London, you get to know Europeans better, you get a span of likeminded people who don’t necessarily have the same language or the same roots.
How does the British culture inspire you or your work?
Working in academia, I was interested in learning new things, not so much about writing. To my surprise I particularly enjoyed it, because there was a way of writing in English which doesn’t exist in Italian. The way you construct an argument is very technical somehow, it is almost like a design process, because of the technique of selecting pieces and putting things together to create an effect, whereas in Italy the essay is a free form, a stream of consciousness. Learning about that process, which is very British, made writing an essential mode of thinking for me. The idea that you use writing as a way of thinking, even of challenging your own thoughts.
Which words or ideas do you associate with the word Foreigner?
Passport, crossing the border... and misunderstanding I guess! I like misunderstandings because they are creative. Part of creativity works that way: I say something, you think you have heard something, you interpret it in your own way, and then you repeat it to someone else and it is a different thing. That’s how creativity works to me, you think you understood something but actually you have changed reality and given birth to a new idea. I don’t necessarily find anything painful or negative about misunderstandings. And I really think it’s what makes London so much fun.
Where is home?
Home is London now. But not forever. Tomorrow it could be… Buenos Aires. My place is where I have a network of people and things I could do and I feel happy about. If Brexit makes it impossible and takes away that energy and excitement, then home is going to be somewhere else.