Born in Romania during the fall of Ceaușescu, he was adopted by a family from Como. The young architect aspires to making his mark, be it by developing a design project or helping secondary school kids get into the labour market.
He was born in Bucharest during the revolution and he is sure that, had he not been of African descent but just any Caucasian Romanian child, his life would have been very different: «Because I wouldn’t have had to face certain integration processes, so to speak, in my life. Yet, other ‘diversities’ would have emerged, if you can call them that». Adopted by a family from Como in 1991, Dorin D’Angelo Rossi is an architect and he still lives in Como.
You were born during a revolution.
“Yes, in March 1989. The real revolution broke out in November, Ceaușescu fled the Presidential Palace in December and was then shot. So, to all intents and purposes, I was born at a time when the country was in total disarray. My adopted mother kept an old newspaper cutting from La Repubblica‘s Venerdì about the Romanian revolution which described the conflict: there were tanks in the streets, piles of dead bodies…”
Where were you born and what do you remember about that important time?
“I was born in Bucharest’s central hospital and when I was about six months old they moved me to the orphanage in Vidra. My biological mother, at least according to the paperwork, was a white Romanian, my father instead did not recognise me at birth. Vidra is a small rural town 20km South of Bucharest. I wouldn’t remember it were it not for the merciless photos my mother took in the Winter of 1990. But it is also a rather bucolic place, at least that’s what I managed to make out using Google’s Street View.”
How old were you when you arrived in Italy?
“In 1991, my parents came to Bucharest to take me to Como, in Italy. They told me that when they were staying at a big hotel in Bucharest, one morning a waiter told them that he didn’t know what to give them as they had virtually run out of food. They must have been very close to total collapse. They both remember this tree-lined avenue leading to the Presidential palace, which is gargantuan…”
One of the largest administrative buildings in the world.
“Exactly, it’s close in size to the Pentagon. They recall this devastated avenue, the uninhabited Presidential palace: this gigantic grey mass looming over the city, also because an entire neighbourhood had been demolished to build it. I saw a very interesting documentary that explained that a local church was also due to be demolished but, in order to avoid that, it was lifted off its base and transported elsewhere. Not far, I suppose.”
Your focus on buildings is not surprising, given your profession.
“I studied architecture thanks to my art teacher at school in Como. When we studied the Parthenon and the Acropolis of Athens, we talked about the use of perspective to make the buildings as harmonious as possible to the human eye. I was fascinated by the power of architecture to influence and enter into people’s lives, without them even realising it. So I enrolled at Milan’s Polytechnic and I passed the entrance exam first time round. When I saw the rankings, initially I thought someone else had the same name as me, another Rossi.”
Although you use both surnames…
“I am in the process of formalising the use of both my mother’s and my father’s surnames. I like the idea that both my parents are represented in my name as they both played a crucial role in my upbringing. And I really appreciated the fact that they decided to keep my birth name. This was not the case for a friend of mine, who was also adopted and who today lives in Brescia.”
Do you know and do you network with other adopted youths?
I have a very dear friend, who is almost like a sister to me because we came from the same orphanage. In fact, it was her parents who told mine about the orphanage. They told me I was the only one who was allowed to watch TV as I was the nurses’ pet.
What drives and influences you today, beyond work?
“Beyond working as an architect, I have started collaborating with the Architects’ Association of Como. I am a member of both the Culture and Youth Committees. Then, I also belong to FAI’s Youth Group (an organisation for the care of Italy’s natural, historical and cultural heritage modelled on the UK’s National Trust, Ed.). I have been associated to FAI for many years and I decided that it would be interesting to lend a hand. With the Como branch of Confindustria (the confederation of Italian industry, Ed.), instead, I will shortly engage in the XStudent project, aimed at simulating job interviews for secondary school students.”
What is this about?
“We live in an increasingly fluid world. It is no longer a given that students graduating from secondary school will then go on to study at university. Vocational courses used to prepare students for the job market, and secondary school would prepare them for university. Today, everyone needs to be ready for the labour market, to be able to do a job.”
You say this, but you have a university degree.
“In a certain way, being an architect is like being an artisan: you deal with matter, you deal with three-dimensionality and space, and you deal with the force of gravity, because at the end of the day, whatever you create must stand. You are an artisan of space, if you like. But, as I said, you have the great power to change people’s lives, almost without telling them.”
Translated by @cos_detoma
Photo: Alessandro Ronchi