Interview // Michele Ormas: Architectures of the Night at Kölner Liste

Article by Alison Hugill in Berlin // Tuesday, Apr. 19, 2016

Running parallel to the 50th edition of Art Cologne, Kölner Liste hosted its third art fair, dedicated to emerging artists and positions. Italian, Berlin-based artist and set designer Michele Ormas was invited by Absolut to create one of their well-known ‘Art Bars’— collaborations with artists on immersive installations or full-service architectural projects that are curated and designed down to the smallest details, including the cocktail ingredients.

This year, Ormas presented his project ‘Architectures of the Night,’ which included a ‘Virtual Tower’ made of suspended architectural fragments, as well as an atmospheric light and sound installation, in the ‘aluhalle’ of Cologne’s Carlswerk factory complex. The piece was tied together with real and graphic sheaths of wheat, completing the mise en scène of Ormas’ simultaneously rural and urban dreamscape.


Portrait of Michele Ormas, Absolut Art Bar at Kölner Liste, 2016 // Courtesy of Absolut

Alison Hugill: Tell us about your Art Bar project ‘Architectures of the Night’ at Kölner Liste. You try to relate the cityscape to nature in the piece.

Michele Ormas: Generally I try to always mix these spheres, also in my work as a set designer. Occasionally, I’ve been lucky enough to work with architects. Since 2004, when I was a Masters student in Lighting Design in Milan, I began to search for collaborations. I was making very artisanal work, on the set of short films or advertisements. I learned how to make useful and easy designs to evoke all kinds of atmospheres or materials in architecture, with colours and simple textures.

AH: Do you always use models when you create a design?

MO: I made a model here for the Art Bar, which is more of an improvisation to include in the piece. Normally, I make scale models for architecture and design projects using wood or cardboard. It is a part of my dream projection: this kind of symbolic work brings out a particular atmosphere, where it’s possible to find all these details and a personal connection to the material. In Milan and Paris, I visited many architects who were fortunate enough to own very big studios and workshops, where I could see many different technological or natural materials at their disposal.


Michele Ormas, Installation view of Architectures of the Night at Absolut Art Bar, Kölner Liste 2016 // Courtesy of Absolut

AH: What is the ‘Architectures of the Night’ piece inspired by?

MO: The tower is made of steel. It involved research into different materials, the mixture of the delicate wheat with the heavier steel. The light is the heart of the project, together with the graphic prints. These elements give a warmth to the project. The conversation between nature and the tower is inspired by a certain cinematic imaginary: Dark City, Brasilia by Terry Gilliam. As well as films by David Lynch and Peter Greenaway, great masters: they create a complete itinerary between the city and human nature, using many iconographic layers. There are lots of surreal architectural inspirations in their works: invented places. The idea was also inspired by Italo Calvino‘s Invisible Cities.


Michele Ormas, Installation view of Architectures of the Night, Absolut Art Bar at Kölner Liste, 2016 // Photo by Julius Gnoth, courtesy of Absolut

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