Pictured on this spread: the construction of the RUIN ACADEMY in Taipei (Taiwan, 2010) and the SANDWORM in Wenduine (Belgium, 2012)_PHOTO: NIKITA WU
It’s almost three o’clock at night. 18 years old Marco Casagrande is woken up by his father in a house at the edge of a forest in Karjaa.
- Here’s your passport. It’s time to go.
Beside high school Marco works in the local newspaper Etelä-Uusimaa. The Iron Curtain is cracking and the newspaper wants to send the young reporter to war areas. However, it’s the spring of Marco’s matric exams and his mother had hidden his passport.
Twenty-four years later Marco is barbequing corn and sausages on a terrace. His mom is watching the scene through a glass door, smiling. The son returned and started to study architecture. But the mom’s part hasn’t been the lightest. After two years studies in architecture Marco wanted to have a break. He left to Bosnia as a mercenary. About his war experiences he wrote a novel, which led into a war crime investigation. A bit after graduation, in the year 2003, Marco drove through Russia by a Land Rover and blogged about the trip:
“After stopping the car at the station we saw glass-eyed young guys in their army clothes coming out from the containers and circling our car - we had mentioned we were heading to Khabarovsk, and were afraid of an ambush - - We left the street and drove along a caterpillar track into a forest - - At night we were awakened by roaring from the woods - - It was a bear.”
The projects of the architect Marco Casagrande haven’t been what the parents expected, not even in the finest stages. In 2000 Marco steered a wrecking ship packed with human shit to Venice Biennale. There was a little forest planted on the dirt. They loved it and invited him twice that after.
As a professor of architecture in Taipei Casagrande didn’t make it easy on himself. He moved into abandoned tea factory ruins, built a piece of roof and started teaching there. At night wandering ants made their way over the professor.
KNOWING THE BACKGROUND Marco’s life seems quite serene now.
- Is it soon ready, the daughter asks.
The grill hisses.
- Let’s check the other side. Isn’t it a HK’s sausage you want, the father says.
Marco and his Taiwanese wife have moved to Finland from Taipei. They have two children and the family is building a home next to Marco’s parents. Maybe the grandma is looking forward barbecuing together, adventuring the neighbouring woods and the nearby observatory.
Is it like this Marco?
I open you the door, says Casagrande pointing to the construction site. Have a look, I’ll be there in ten minutes.
That’s enough time to have a Saturday family lunch.
He arrives in time and talks like a war was still on. In this house nobody is listening behind a corner. There’s just one big space.
- I see myself as a Trojan horse in relation to the clients who are dazzled by the title architect. Inside the architectural horse I bring in the real work.
Though with a military posture.
- The mission is always holy. If the mission is to build a sandworm of 45 meters, so be it.