Fostering dialogue
London, UK; Lugano, CH

DF_DC is an architecture and urban design practice based in London and Lugano, founded in 2016 by Dario Franchini and Diego Calderon. The practice has built a series of private houses, housing blocks and public spaces in Switzerland, the UK and Mexico, with current projects in France, Italy and Mozambique.


Different trails and trials

Our practice started a bit out of chance after meeting for a refreshment in London. We talked about how good it would be to be able to work in (and from) Lugano and London with two small teams. We had initially met in Mendrisio while studying, but DF_DC was really the product of what we did in the following seven years after graduating. During that time, we gathered very distinct experiences and skills that we then tried to combine as a single voice. The first years have been the trial of the different forms this combination can take, and we’re still doing so. 


Loosening up

It has happened on more than one occasion, while also carrying a more serious undertone of our approach, that people visiting a just-finished house of ours express their approval, but also ask when the floor and wall finishes would be installed. There is a sense of rigidity deriving perhaps from the Swiss tradition (particularly in Ticino), both in the planning of space and the idea of construction. But our time in London and current excursions to other places also teach us the benefits to loosening up and working not only “either/or”, but also “both/and”.


Developing a resilient flexibility

We operate with a one-hour time difference between our studios, and some of our projects are six hours apart. We teach one day a week and try to have a sacrosanct rest day (though not the same). We swerve between English, Italian and Spanish on the spot and it’s only after dinner when we get to talk about bids and prospects. We have developed whatsapp finger sketching skills (or at least we think to). This is a normal week for us, and the shock caused by the virus has not changed in many ways the way we had set out to work from the beginning.


Spatial influences

Our two studios are quite different physically: one is within a building made by us and planned ex-profeso, while the other one is a converted Victorian typology. This results in two ways of organising space, and thus, communication (and thus, production). But there is nothing inherently hierarchical in them. On many occasions we are just a few years older than our collaborators and our method of work does not really warrant any separation. We prefer organising activities in space, rather than people. I guess that in the end the nature of our spaces determines our work even in ways we might not be conscious of.


To reconsider or not to reconsider

The type of open or selective competitions we choose to make sort of define the direction we aim for as a practice. Regardless of success or failure, it is in these projects that we declare what we think we should be doing. Then we are confronted with the question of if we should reconsider our approach after a series of lost competitions, but almost always we end up agreeing that it is better to stick to an approach and keep trying, rather than redirect it after each blow. But we learn a lot from each experience.


Fostering dialogue between projects

We constantly aim at working at a larger scale through public competitions, but at the same time, our day to day projects—what we get to build—is the most important part of our work. Another common challenge is to manage our smaller and medium projects as an aggregate with which to gain the trust of larger clients and commissioners as a small, recent practice. There is a productive dynamic between live projects and competitions: how the work for one ends up informing the other and then back.

DF and DC diego calderon

Photography Courtesy of DF_DC

london studio 02 diego calderon

Photography Courtesy of DF_DC

london studio diego calderon

Photography Courtesy of DF_DC

lugano studio 03 simone bossi diego calderon

Photography Simone Bossi

mews house simone bossi diego calderon

Photography Simone Bossi

paradiso simone bossi diego calderon

Photography Simone Bossi

a project powered by Itinerant Office

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