Ludovica Ferrario

Film Architecture

Ludovica Ferrario, Italian production designer and art director, has worked with directors as Wim Wenders and Abbas Kiarostami and in the last years with Paolo Sorrentino - first as art director in Oscar winning drama The Great Beauty (2013), then as production designer in Youth (2015) and lately for The Young Pope (2016), HBO´s religious drama which was premiered at the 73rd Venice Film Festival, where the first two episodes were screened out of competition. It was the first time in the history of the festival that a TV series was a part of the program.

She was born and raised in Rome, which was brought up in a bilingual cultural background and has maintained strong ties with the Anglo-American world. She studied architecture at University Degree in Architecture in Architectural Planning and Design. Start of her film career is connected with Italian director Franco Zeffirelli. She worked as an assistant to Set Dresser in his film Tea with Mussolini (1998). After that start she has worked as an art director or production designer on dozens films including Palermo Shooting (2007) directed by Wim Wenders or Certified Copy (2009) by Abbas Kiarostami. 

In 2012 Ludovica Ferrario started to work with Paolo Sorrentino. After their first film co-operation on The Great Beauty, she became one of the key members of Sorrentino team including his longtime cinematographer Luca Bigazzi and editor Cristiano Travaglioli. As Sorrentino said about their co-operation: “She is an architect, which is very useful for me. She has a sense of proportions, of geometry. There is lots of geometry in cinema, nobody ever talks about this. And architects know geometry. On top of that, to use an old fashioned term, she’s a classy lady with an innate good taste. That helps me a lot and it keeps me in check when I ‘degenerate’ – either because I’m tired or for other reasons – and try to force something that’s not right.”

Using real architecture in the service of the unreal, or surreal, comes naturally to Ferrario. The setting of Youth, a surreal hotel, was fashioned in three different locations in Italy and Switzerland. Berghotel Schatzalp in the Swiss Alps near Davos became the main location. It also had a special allure. The Art Nouveau showplace built in 1900 was originally a luxury sanatorium for tuberculosis patients, and inspired the setting for German Nobel Prize-winning author Thomas Mann’s pre-World War One classic novel, The Magic Mountain. 

Working on religious drama TV series The Young Pope brought a lot of challenges for the film crew. Ferrario and her team painstakingly built parts of the Vatican at Rome’s Cinecittà Studios. For the Sistine Chapel, they built a full-scale replica that measured 581,251 square feet and required 25 painters and 40 builders. 

Not having the participation of the Vatican turned out to be a blessing. “The prohibition stimulated creativity, as often happens, forcing us to reinvent places that are at once well-known and mysterious,” says Ferrario.

“Where it was impossible to find explicative drawings, a reconstruction based on footage and images was necessary to help us redesign and plan the environments in detail.”

 “The most conspicuous reconstruction took place in Cinecittà, where we recreated both the façade of Saint Peter’s and a portion of the Loggia dei Cavalli of St Mark’s basilica in Venice. That job that took around a month and a half. In studio, we also reconstructed the Sistine Chapel (in full scale, with a development in height up to the first order of the cornice on the long sides and up to a height of 10 meters on the short sides) including the portal to the Regal Room. Construction, implementation and painting took around two months.”