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Into the shadows

Jan-Carlos Kucharek

Mondadori Editorial HQ, Milan, Italy

Mondadori Editorial HQ, Milan, Italy
Mondadori Editorial HQ, Milan, Italy Credit: Karina Castro

If, as Portuguese photographer Karina Castro attests, a great building reflects the personality of its creator, then there may be a double life being lived in Segrate, outside Milan. To deal with the rapid expansion of his publishing business in the 1970s, owner Giorgio Mondadori, enamoured by the curvaceous signature modernism of Oscar ­Niemeyer’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Brasilia, the Itamaraty Palace, asked for his own iteration of the design to act as the firm’s HQ. Set astride an ornamental lake, with two low, curved forms stretching out from the main body of the building, its rhythmic arches, altered slightly by Niemeyer, still more than echo those of its Brasilian counterpart.

The photograph also taught Castro a few things about herself. The day of the shoot was overcast – usually her ideal light – but the building’s sensual flourishes and deep-set facade compelled her to return the next day, on a sunny late afternoon, to realise this ­umber-soaked shot. ’It’s a very private company – security cameras are everywhere – and access to the building was difficult,’ she recalls, ‘but the urge to shoot it with its shadows, and reflected, reminded me of the value of persistence when you have an exact image in mind.’

Quite what she has planned for the next building she really wants to meet – the Zinc Mine Museum, a cluster of structures in rural Allmannajuvet, Norway, designed by Peter Zumthor – is anyone’s guess, but she’s up for the challenge. ‘A good building, for me, is really like a human. It’s alive and resonates with you on a very personal level; my job is merely to draw out its character so it reveals itself to the viewer.’

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