“Be creative, patient, open-minded and humble:” this is what it takes to be a Concept Designer

With over a decade of façade consulting experience under his belt, Tommaso Martimucci, Concept Designer at Staticus, says that the thrill of securing projects and the opportunities to employ creativity are among the most enjoyable aspects of his job.

To learn more about how Concept Design works at Staticus, how his training and experience in architecture help him, and what it takes to be a successful Concept Designer we sat down with Tommaso and discussed Staticus’ future.

Tomasso believes that Staticus is well positioned not only to win tenders across Europe but also to embrace the sustainable revolution of the façade industry.

You joined Staticus four years ago. Please tell us about your journey with the company so far.

My start at Staticus coincided with the start of the pandemic – a very complicated time worldwide, but especially in Italy.

Despite pandemic-related disruptions, the onboarding went quite smoothly, and I began working remotely on some concept projects. I soon had a chance to participate in a tender for a big project in Denmark. After we won this tender, I moved from Concept Design to working on the project’s realisation. I spent over two years on it, and it was a very good experience, if a little challenging – we had to produce many types of façade units with very particular characteristics.

After we completed the project, Aulikki Sonntag, our Chief Business Development Officer, asked me if I was interested in coming back to Concept Design. I said yes. I like the energy that comes with winning the company a project, as well as looking at the bigger picture. After all, in Concept Design you get to choose the systems and the materials for the project and to transform architectural ideas into engineering details. There is a lot of space for discovery there.

What role does Concept Design play in Staticus’ value chain?

If a project is a ship, then Concept Design is the first port where it docks at Staticus. Working in this department, first, we must understand the performance required, the intention of the architect and the needs of the general contractor. In addition to the artistic vision of the building’s architecture, we also need to take into account the evolution of the city where the project is taking place. Then we can give the project the design concept, the budget estimate, and the method statement for the installation of the façade units.

In a way, our work is similar to that of a tailor. We align our façade systems (or commercial ones) with the project’s specifics to ‘dress’ the building. To do that, we sometimes need to search for new materials and solutions. So while we have a typology of projects that we select for our tenders, every project still brings new challenges, which is a nice aspect of the job. In general, it’s a department where you can introduce more creativity and encounter many innovations.

How does your background as an architect help you in your role?

Having studied architecture, I can understand the architects’ requests better, which makes communication easier.

But my previous professional experience also helps me in my job. I got into the façade field because I was interested in the relationship between the shape and the structure in architecture. This subject was the focus of my Master’s studies in Milan, after which I went to work on the building site of Renzo Piano’s Vulcano Buono, a multifunctional building near Naples. My job there was to check if the architectural details were suitably executed on the ground. From then on, I worked in several positions where I had to assist architects, so I know how to work to transform their rendering into specific facade details which can go on to the tender stage and eventually be built.

But I also like the realisation stage. I like to be able to touch what was once a drawing that you agreed on with the architect and the contractor. So all in all, I feel that the Concept Design department is the right place for me.

What is the most important thing when translating an architectural vision into a workable façade concept?

First of all, you need to align the architect’s vision to feasibility in terms of budget and performance requirements. When the general contractor is evaluating your proposal during a tender, you need to have a good façade solution at the right price. This poses a challenge. But even when you present a façade that performs well, has a suitable cost, and matches the architect’s vision, you still need to be a solid company to successfully compete in the façade market. Staticus is exactly this kind of company.

What qualities are required to be able to work in Concept Design?

Besides hard skills and experience, you need to be patient. Sometimes you lose projects, but you need to forget such losses, learn lessons from them, and move on. I also believe that you need to have an open mind to embrace everything new projects throw at you and be humble. The people you encounter on the client’s side know their projects well, so you need to listen to them and learn before proposing something yourself.

How is Concept Design different from other engineering positions?

The difference between working in Concept Design and working on realisation isn’t huge – you still need to have engineering knowledge to work in Concept. But I’d say that we focus on the bigger picture, while realisation is more concentrated on deeper details.

What is the Staticus project you’re most proud of? Why?

For me, it is the North Zealand Hospital in Denmark. Not only because I was involved in it for over two years, but also because of its characteristics. Before this project, I had never seen façade units so big. Also, there were very specific performance requirements in acoustics and fire resistance. That, together with other constantly changing details and the flowing shape of the hospital building, made for a complex project.

Are there any trends in façades that you are actively promoting or encouraging through your work at Staticus? 

Along with thermal reports, carbon footprint calculations are becoming the first thing that our potential clients ask us to submit. They want to know how much CO2 our façade units produce. We seek to reduce our footprint as much as possible, and we have emission limits we must stick to in each project.

These are concrete steps towards sustainability. Three or four years ago the environmental impact of façade production wasn’t being translated into real numbers, at least in my experience. Now, there is a clear demand from the market for a focus on sustainability, and we are delivering on this – not only by providing footprint calculations but also by developing a new hybrid façade system made with timber. At Staticus, our whole value chain is changing with sustainability in mind.

Tell us a bit about your life outside of work.

I’ve just completed my course in Italy on Geopolitics at the Limes School on how the world is changing, and how the vision of a people impacts the actions of states and vice versa.

For my profession, it was a useful course to understand international dynamics and power relations between states that often result in the construction of new infrastructures to improve people’s quality of life or that generate new industrial and urban agglomerations.

For my personal interest, Geopolitics is a useful source for interpreting world events and then directing public and private decision-makers in periods of hope, peace and economic relationships.