We do everything with SketchUp and Layout. Why create complex cost plans in Excel if you can export cost estimate tables from SketchUp? Why post-producing plans and elevations in illustrator when Layout can generate perfectly clean and crisp architectural drawings?
Marcel Mauer Studio was founded by Antonio Pisanò and Lorenzo Baldini in London, UK, 2011. The team grew in 2012 by creating another office in Reggio Emilia - near Milan - and another studio was opened in Paris in 2014. We spoke with Director, Antonio Pisanò about the company's background, projects and their drive to find solutions and efficiencies in achieving high quality standards and production workflows makes for time well spent.
There is no Planet B
"A bit like Patagonia, we are in business to save our home planet Earth, this has become more and more our core mission" says Antonio Pisanò. "To Design is to consciously take part in evolution, ideas are like organisms and design iterations are micro cycles of parent-child genetic mutations. Through Design we can fast track evolution and re-align human culture with Nature's balance"
After a post pandemic re-shuffling of pipeline and staff, Marcel Mauer focuses on commercial fit-out, primarily fashion retail and food, and urban regeneration specifically on mixed used sustainable conversion of existing buildings in urban and rural areas alike.
Marcel Mauer Studio was named after a quasi-fictional character created by the two directors and inspired by an actual encounter. Halfway between a philosophical guru figure and a co-design tool, "Marcel" allows for a non subjective, higher consciousness perspective to push the design process forward. "How would Marcel design this?" Is the ritual question often asked during design reviews from master planning to furniture design.
Despite the multiple locations and international work, the team never grew beyond 10 - 15 people and much work has been done since 2011 on high speed trains while crossing Europe from London to Paris, Paris to Milan, Milan to Zurich etc.
Vetto Social Club, Zero emissioni Co-working and music venue on the Italian mountains, Vetto, Reggio Emilia, Italy.
Nuovo Delfino, Mixed Use Urban Regen of urban factory with music school, startup incubator and cultural venue in Rio Saliceto, Reggio Emilia
Marcel Mauer has always been from its starting point a cloud based and paper-less native studio. All we need is a smartphone hotspot, a powerful MacBook Pro, our Dropbox archive and an iPad (and Apple Pencil) . This light-footed approach to production tools has allowed over the years to prioritise strategic partnerships instead of staff growth, which in return has reduced the costs and teething problems of new staff while keeping the level of design high and allowing the workflow to constantly improve through the feedback from partners.
La Polveriera, Mixed Use Urban Regen of WWII Military Area with NGOs, co-working, restaurant, music venue, disable people care home and public space, Reggio Emilia, Italy.
La Polveriera, interiors of the care home
"We are almost entirely remote working nowadays" says Lorenzo Baldini "I just spent a month working from Paris, my business partner works in a remote mountain village, our collaborators mostly operate from home and our business partners are scattered all over Europe. Client interface, when possible, should always be in person as much as it is important for the team to meet in the studio, from time to time, but production of information can take place anywhere, if one has the right tools and the right workflow."
Costa San Giorgio, First Place at the International Urban Design Competition for the re-design of the Costa San Giorgio World Heritage Site in Florence with 5*+ hotel, art galleries, shops and sculpture garden.
"Our working tools are our most important design because they affect everything else, perhaps our best design ever is our archiving and naming standard" Continues half-jokingly Antonio "Before setting up Marcel Mauer we used to work with large commercial practices and we have been able to appreciate the importance of quality standards and production workflows. What large practices lack is sometimes the flexibility to change their workflows and standards quickly enough. Because certifications are intricate and working with external consultants is not always smooth.
Le Benedettine, Urban Regeneration Masterplan in Piacenza, Italy. Mixed Use with residential, workspace, public space and startup incubator.
Sant'Agostino, Urban Regeneration and Heritage Conservation Masterplan in Piacenza, Italy.
Le Benedettine, Manifesto
At the beginning of 2000s we tested all major BIM platforms as well as parametric design software. BIM software seemed brilliantly fast but too rigid and stifled by proprietary development whilst parametric design software seemed unnecessarily complicated yet beautifully flexible. We started tinkering with nested SketchUp Dynamic Components with DC functions and Sketchup Reports and we felt that a better world was possible.
Ten years later, our workflows feature integrated architectural, MEP and structural models with real time cost information which are back to back with local official price lists and IFC4 BIM classifications. Not just that, our models are mapped with custom site photogrammetry using a methodology often used for heritage architecture and sometimes used in gaming. This allows us to create pretty convincing models even before we export to Twinmotion.
Winehouse Masera, zero carbon wine tasting venue and boutique hotel in the Italian Alps.
"We won't hide the fact that it takes time and a great deal of accuracy to create this level of integrated modelling. We spend significant resources in loading data onto the Dynamic Components parameters. Yet, after a few years improving our workflow, we know for certain that the extra time and care will pay itself many times back. Having too many software packages to choose from can be confusing and can lead to under-utilised tools, bottlenecks and interoperability issues."
"We do everything with SketchUp and Layout. Why create complex cost plans in Excel if you can export cost estimate tables from SketchUp? Why post-producing plans and elevations in illustrator when Layout can generate perfectly clean and crisps architectural drawings? 5 years ago our Sketchup Template document was a massive library of construction packages, furniture and materials. Today our Template is a simple dynamic components box-like volume loaded with a decent number of IFC4 BIM parameters. We never believed in "drag and drop" BIM components from vendors' websites. It's lazy and it tends to clutter the model with heterogeneous geometries coming from different modelling styles and ridiculously large files.
Retail Concept and Roll Out for Ethical Fashion Brand Save the Duck with shops in Hong Kong, NYC, Paris, Milan, Venice, Barcelona, Wien and more (Picture shot in Hong Kong)
Modelling and choosing data parameters is a form of art. It's about identifying the least number of features for the artwork to create a sense of reality - and robust contract information. We prefer to go heavy on the BIM parameters and go light on the polygons. For this reason, we love the open-source feel of SketchUp and the low-poly clarity of custom made Dynamic Components.
Our Projects nowadays comprise the overall model file and a long list of simple one-components model files. Modelling each component separately speeds up modelling and Layout editing time whilst ensuring quick component-swapping functionality."
And on their SketchUp Reseller.......
"Cadsoft Solutions Limited have been a trustworthy and knowledgeable partner since our startup days for software procurement. Not only are they light-speed fast for customer assistance but they're also genuinely passionate about intelligent tools and software innovation. 10 out of 10."
We'd like to thank Antonio for taking the time out of a busy period to speak with us and share his thoughts and invaluable insights into how SketchUp provides the company with all it needs to innovate its work in creating human-centred architecture, spaces and places.
MARCEL MAUER contacts and information on projects, philosophy and partners: www.marcelmauer.eu