Ferruccio Laviani: “Design means thinking big”

“There is no project if you do not expand your gaze on different worlds”. Words from Ferruccio Laviani, artistic director of Kartell, the most eclectic of the architects who have written (and still write) the history of Made in Italy, but also one of the most open to cross-cutting discussions about research and products. For Salone, the Lombardy designer who grew up in the school of Achille Castiglioni and Marco Zanuso, and already a partner of Michele De Lucchi in the eighties, does not, as always, save herself. And for the 2022 edition, he designs lamps, tables, sofas, rugs, wallpaper, ceramics as well as installations and stands where companies’ values ​​and stories, as in the theater, are staged: the factories “where dreams are born that can still touch”.

Kartell, Foscarini, LEA Ceramiche, Gervasoni, Very Wood, O Luce, Yo2, Frag, Londonart, Not.O, Frigerio, Doppio Firma … The catalog of Ferruccio Laviani’s news for Design Week (but not only) is very rich. Is there a favorite product?
With projects, I feel a bit like mothers who can never openly say they have a favorite child, even though they might have one. In reality, I am instinctive, and if I like an idea, I follow it and develop it. I’m not interested in staying true to a style, a theme or a common thread, and in fact my works – when viewed as a whole and over the years – are all quite different from each other. I am convinced that the ability to question oneself and learn from different interlocutors is the secret to continuing to grow and develop as a person and designer. In all ages.

How has the designer’s profession changed?
The culture of extreme specialization took hold in the nineties, and with the massive advent of the digital, it was necessary to refine a background with even more specific technical knowledge. It is no longer possible to stay out of this world, but the surplus of technological knowledge will eventually extinguish creativity. Everyone develops their skills in the sector, but then you do not have to move in watertight spaces: Ours is a job that lives off a little of everything. I’m from Cremona and I graduated from the school of violin making, where there was a section dedicated to furniture design, and where I learned the basics of a job that would be my future. Even when I was a boy, I was fascinated by magazines like Ottagono and Abitare, where I discovered wonderful things, and then there were and still are books, exhibitions, travels, explorations … For those involved in design, think big – and it is without setting ideological boundaries – allows you to change scenarios and encourage meetings that open up new perspectives, as in a sliding door game.

Is this a tip for the new generations?
Also for personal reasons I come from an education between analog and digital, I tried to study and work in both ways, and I think that being able to move on top between two realities has many advantages. When I started, the architect’s profession was a profession that was learned strictly from hand drawing, on the drawing machine and passed through feasibility studies, prototypes, knowledge of industrial processes. A certain culture of the dominant image today, especially that which is attached to the world of social media and conditioned by the obsession with likes, has instead of flat and homologated training also, moved the new generation out on intangible horizons, contexts , Where it seems that anything is possible and within reach of clicks. The risk for our profession is that the future will be colonized by designers, entrepreneurs and brands behaving with an influencer style. In the studies, we face technically flawless young people, but often unprepared to measure themselves with materials, to go to companies. It’s a paradoxical situation, a bit like a doctor had never seen an anatomy room. And not everything can be attributed to the school’s alleged shortcomings, for ours is still a work of research, practice and substance. And if someone has the impression of not having built a good foundation, with the right teachers, the tools available and above all with the passion, the background can also be built by itself.

With a vague renaissance approach, ancient and at the same time very modern and typical of creative multitasking, you have worked for many brands – not only in design – and also tell the companies through stands, exhibitions and shops. How did this parallel activity to product design start?
In the early eighties I lived in London and I found myself immersed in a dream world made of fashion, music and above all exceptional, visionary shops. I was also a frequent guest at the stands at the Milan trade fair, which was a powerful incubator of ideas, but also a foretaste of what the advent of globalization would soon look like. However, I got the definitive boost from teamwork in Michele De Lucchi’s studio, where everything was done: for example, the project for RB Rossana, which in addition to the product was an excellent fitness center, they also took care of. of catalogs, texts, photos, stands. For Kartell, I arrived at the 32nd set-up for the Salon, and then, outside the design area in the strict sense, I remember the work of the Dolce & Gabbana stores: there it was a matter of creating an atmosphere, which was then also translated into others areas – events, offices – than outlets.

In an age of virtual showcases, what are the rules for building a ‘physical’, real and efficient display?
Telling a collection means being able to leave the memory of the company’s style and the aura of its products to those who enter an exhibition space, even temporarily, or in a store. I am pleased when the visitor, even after many years, still remembers the Italian garden that was decorated to present the outdoor line of the Kartell or the mannequin waitresses at Flos. Now it seems to me that people have less courage: they sail a lot and dream a little. Facebook and Instagram have standardized the views, and that’s a huge cultural loss. Not only that: the politically correct, filtered by the web, has devastating effects because it fragments reality and creates an aesthetic of stamps that is prejudiced and kills freedom of thought. Self-irony is much better than denying its identity in order to indulge in the dominant aesthetic taste.

Ferruccio Laviani and Metaverset: yes, no, maybe?
The meta-verse exists now, and we will have to measure ourselves against that world as well, but the interference of the digital can not become more important than reality. The parallel universe is fine, but then you still need real, real products that touch each other. I believe that in this historical phase we all need a conscience study that brings us back to earth. I was 12 in the savings period, it was 1973, people did not use cars on vacations: We have adapted, and if necessary, we adapt again. We Italians are indifferent, inconsistent and have little memory, but perhaps it is also our ability to quickly forget the past and always look ahead that saves us in many situations. This is also demonstrated by the fact that in this moment of war, with a virus still circulating, with the rise in commodity prices putting everyone to the test, in companies and in studios, extraordinary energy is still circulating. This is Italy.

For Foscarini, he designed Tonda, a glass suspension halfway between the radical design of the early seventies and Good Design, and for Kartell, he has just revisited his Take, the bedside lamp’s classic icon, in recycled plastic. consisting of two flat plates, which from two-dimensional in the middle assume the shape and volume of a ‘semi-lamp’. What is the importance of sustainability in your projects?
We all agree on the sustainability of glass. As for plastic, in the early seventies Kartell circulated an advertisement whose claim was: “We have decided to make the furniture in plastic to cut down fewer trees”. I say this to emphasize that today we have the bad habit of no longer placing events and products in their historical period. The evolution of plastic is different from the evolution of consciousness and it continues to change. A quality piece of plastic furniture is not a PET container: it is a durable item, and it is thanks to its ability to defy time and easy to dispose of that it becomes sustainable. So: Do ​​not throw a plastic bottle in a ditch and you must dispose of a Kartell chair properly. The issue to be addressed is upstream and is cultural, even before organic.

Over time, however, ecoplastics and bioplastics have come …
… Which from a structural point of view can sometimes create critical issues that need to be addressed and overcome. They are avant-garde materials that companies study, test, perfect to their needs and have already implemented widely in their catalogs. Kartell has been working with recycled plastic since 1992, but it must be cleaned in the presence of other materials that can compromise its tightness, especially in furniture that is exposed to constant stress.

And then there are the natural materials …
With Not.O, which stands for Not Ordinary, a brand born from the meeting with Felice Rizzotti to reevaluate the craft made in Sicily by inserting it into an industrial product chain, we present two tables for the Salon. Working with wood and volcanic rock, I was inspired by the lines of the swimming pool at Taormina Stadium, a jewel designed by Pier Luigi Nervi in ​​the second half of the 1950s. With this operation, I deliberately tried to stay away from the baroque decoration typical of Sicilian iconography, in order to explore other contexts, which, however, belong to the island’s DNA. If you look at the world without blinders, at any age and at any latitude, the inspirations are found. For this I thank once again Achille Castiglioni, who often repeated to the students: “If you are not curious, forget it. If you are not interested in others, what they do and how they act, then being a designer is not a job for you “.

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