Sicilian-made design in Asia, How Dr.Santi Savasta made it to China
The Italian architect hails from Messina, Sicily, and tells us about his way to perceive the noble art of architecture and how to successfully apply it abroad, Southeastern China in his case.
According to Santi, the talent of the architect stands on his capacity to transmit his presence through his works and by delivering astonishment to people experiencing them.
Besides, quoting him ‘’Whether you have a good feeling or a bad feeling, you have a feeling!’- doesn’t matter what kind of emotion guides you towards this fascinating world, but you must be an extremely empathic person to be an Architect.
A PHD in the UK, the participation to the Venice Biennale with some of his projects selected and published, managing a design company owned by the Royal Family in Sharja (UAE) and the life-twisting experience in one of the furthest and extreme cultures, are the most remarkable traits of his curriculum vitae.
”I was kind of scared to look for a job in China”- the eclectic architect states. Working as a Design Director for a Government-owned company, he had the chance not just to work as an Architect but to pass his knowledge and passion onto students as well, teaching Design and Architecture at the University. He discovered a hidden love for the academy life and found inspiration from the young Chinese apprentices, feeling especially rewarded when asked to fill a recommendation letter from a bunch of his former students.
The experience in Xiamen also taught him the importance of the struggle to find a reason behind the long hours spent in the office working on a wide array of projects, stimulating indeed, but yet not important as the real values of life.
‘’China was Home to me because my family was there, otherwise it would have been just a place to sleep. You have to find the reason why you would be able to fight’’.
Santi’s advice is to understand what drives your motivation behind your ambition, made your own researches even when you are not asked to, and keep in mind you can always apply your profession skills by doing something else (teaching, for instance).
Have you found your driving motivation yet?
Who are you today?
I am Santi, an Italian Architect with a vast international experience.
I started from here, Messina, my native city where I graduated in Architecture and worked alongside with my teacher when still at the University. Then I undertook my PHD studies in the UK and my career took off.
How do you perceive Architecture?
If you happen to be in S.Peter in Rome, or at the Pantheon, when you just set a foot in it what you actually feel is the hand of the Architect, cause he was able to let you perceive the presence of God. You get overwhelmed by the light, astonished by the space and the majesty surrounding you. And he was able to transfer all these feelings to you, that’s exactly what he wanted to do. And whether you have a bad feeling or a good feeling, you have a feeling!
How did you get to China?
I was kind of scared to look for a job in China to be honest, but at the same time I knew that the only two areas to seek what I was looking for where Asia and the Middle East.
I got to China in the Southern East region, the city was Xiamen, hired by a big developing group as a Design Director. We were 1.100 only in my building, and this was just the Headquarter in my city while they had branches all over China. My choice to expatriate to such a different country was right because in 3 years I had the chance to work on 120-130 project which is something you cannot quite achieve anywhere else. Schools, universities, museums, rail stations, metro stations, airports, hospitals and any kind of public infrastructures covering all spheres of architecture.
How did you end up teaching?
While working I received a call for teaching at the University in the Architecture department and I asked myself what I wanted to do. I love teaching, the Academic life and transmitting my passion onto the future architects and designers, but at the same time I knew I had to carry on with my corporate job.
One of the biggest rewards out of this teaching experience was receiving a call from a couple of them asking for a recommendation letter to be accepted at Melbourne University, UCL– University College of London and Harvard School of Design.
One of them then reached out through Linkedin, although I didn’t recognize him at first cause I was used to call him by his English name while he had the Chinese one this time. It was highly rewarding for me to hear that we was glad he had me as a teacher, and without my help throughout his University path he wouldn’t have been able to follow his dreams.
What kind of advice would you give to ambitious Architects wanting to go international?
Everyone needs to find a mentor, and most importantly a personal reason why you would be able to fight. For me, that was my family: when I got to Xiamen the family was with me supporting my work but afterwards they had to go back to Italy for personal reasons. When I suddenly found myself alone that’s when my house become just a place to sleep, and no more ‘home’ as when my family was there.
Also, when you reach a point being 100% convinced of what to do for the rest of your life, you will want to enhance your own knowledge doing your own research even if not required, being so simple nowadays there is no kind of excuse. Finally, don’t let others tell you that you’re not good enough!
What do you think about Be influenced?
I’m telling you: in my career, I guessed since the very beginning. I wasn’t sure about what I wanted to do and how to do things. With Be influenced help now lots of young people will have the chance to watch this video and see how it went for somebody else, keeping in mind they will have to put their hard work towards the objective.
Besides, it will be useful for experienced professionals in multiple ways too.