Claudio Devoto remembers architect Paolo Portoghesi

“I owe Paolo Portoghesi a lot.

Chance would have it that my company was involved in the furnishing project of the Mosque of Rome.

It was 1993 and I was 40 years old.

That’s how I met this incredible, kind architect, who paid great attention to details and had a clear idea of the project and its poetry.

It all started there at the Mosque, with its big entrance doors but especially with the furnishing of the Islamic cultural centre and its huge library.

I remember that the Client clearly stated that they wanted to use arabic wood, or wood coming from that area. The Libyan cedar was not suitable enough, though, so architect Portoghesi came up with the idea of using palm tree wood – yes, the same tree that makes dates! – end grain boards that we combined in a precious inlay work.

From 1993 on we started working a lot with Paolo Portoghesi.

Together we worked on the refurbishing of the Teatro Argentina and the Apollo d’Oro theatre in Rome, on the Langoni Chemist’s in Battipaglia (entirely made of wood) and some private residences among which his magical house in Calcata and the beautiful garden it is surrounded with.

For his house I remember we had discussed and chosen the cedar tree wood for the outdoor furniture; I remember the temple, the obelisk, the wisdom doors (as I like to call them) and the immense harmony of the garden, well-furnished but also so wild.

I rememeber Paolo Portoghesi’s immense culture and composure, his willingness to listen and discuss with his “Artifex” (from the Latin craftsman). I remember that one day I happened to go to one of his lectures about Art Nouveau. He was brilliant, I thought it was a pity I was not one of his architecture pupils!

He knew a lot of things, everything: it’s him who introduced me to cypress wood, a kind of wood that is rarely used but has got an intense and long-lasting fragrance. Then he insisted on using Tuya root wood for a project of his. I told him I had no idea what it was like and he was shocked, so he told me that Roman people considered Tuya root wood a precious material that comes from the Atlas mountains.

I was at his funeral. Last time I met him about one year ago he gave me a copy of his book POESIA DELLA CURVA (“Poetry of the curve”) with a personal inscription.

I loved it so much that I bought more copies to give to some architects I know and think highly of.

Wherever he is, I hope he knows that I love him..”

Claudio Devoto

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