What would a building look like if George Lucas designed it? What about Freddie Mercury, Mark Rothko, or Alfred Hitchcock? These were questions that artist Federico Babina decided to answer in his ongoing series "Archi-." So far, he's illustrated buildings and architectural structures that embody famous musicians, visual artists, designers, movies and sets, and most recently, directors.
I contacted Babina to find out what inspired his creative series.
How old are you and where do you live?
I am an Italian (since 1969), an architect and graphic designer (since 1994) who lives and works in Barcelona (since 2007), but mostly I'm a curious person (since forever).
Much of your work is architecturally focused. Did you study architecture in school? What inspired the "archi-" series that you've been doing for a while now?
As an architect and graphic designer, I especially enjoy when the two disciplines meet and intersect. Any architect has to explain his projects through illustration and drawing. Design is the first way to give shape and body to a project. In this sense every architect should be a graphic designer. I was born with illustration; it's been part of my life since I was a child, starting with stories in comic books. Drawing, illustration, and architectural projects are for me one of the ways to recount my thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Every project has a story; every project is a witness of a story. I'm fascinated by the idea of being able to blend the world of architecture and illustration, to transform architecture into an illustration and illustrations into architecture.
What else inspires you besides architecture?
People, animals, nature… anything that contains “life.” Each one passes through various stages of formation and in each stage the references are changing. Many things inspire me but none most in particular. I have many lovers, but I do not want to marry anyone. I do not really believe in inspiration. The ideas are there waiting for us, the problem is that often we are not able to see them. I try to observe things from a different point of view. Looking at the world upside down can offer many creative ideas and awaken from a kind of “sleep of vision.” I find it extremely interesting to combine different fields in one image, to find a common language in different disciplines. There are endless connections and links between different art forms. My exercise is trying to discover some.
The themes and designs featured in your work swing heavily to vintage aesthetic. What do you love so much about that style? Do you think there's something missing in today's contemporary aesthetic?
I do not know if my aesthetic is vintage. I like the richness of the language and the diversity of its forms. I do not want to confine myself in a prison of a style or shape. I try to keep my expressive language as simple as I can. Simplify is the hardest thing. To simplify you have to remove things in excess, and to do so you need to know what to remove. Something that I really love in vintage graphics is the simplicity of communication, as the picture communicates with few simple signs. If my images have this capacity I consider myself vintage.
For your newest "archi" series, Archidirector, you focused on film directors. Are these your favorite directors or did you choose who you featured based on how different their styles are from each other, and therefore how different the architecture would look?
I love and have loved most of these directors, But I also like to work on things I do not´ particularly like. I like to observe and reflect about subjects who are capable to provoke in me some kind of sensation, whether positive or negative. I think that directors are like the architects of cinema. They build stories that, like buildings, envelop the viewer and carry them into a different world. Each – with their own style, language, and aesthetics – think, plan, design, and build places and stories that host us for the duration of the movie. In these 27 illustrations I wanted to try to build 27 small stories imagining and shaping in architecture the aesthetics of 27 masters of cinema. Twenty seven houses imagined and imaginary, that like film’s frames are trying to relate and photograph a fragment of the imagination of some of the great "architects" of cinema. The architecture is like a scene from a movie where the story is the life, the script is dictated by the use of the building and where the actors are the residents. A labyrinth where all - characters, director, audience are lost and found in the intensity of their emotions.
What will your next "archi" series be about?
I’m always working on multiple projects simultaneously. This allows me to have a more dynamic approach. I’m a multitasking graphic designer. I like finding the hidden architecture in parallel universes. In this sense, illustration helps me explore alternative languages. Architecture is often the protagonist. Now I’m working on composing a collection of poetic images that talk about the “house” and the spaces that compose it, a microcosm of living.
If you like what you see, you can buy all these and other works by Federico Babina on Society6.
Interview edited for clarity by Sarah Han