Ettore Sottsass and Martino Gamper are the protagonists of the exhibition Re-Connection produced by Alpi inside the showroom at Via Solferino 7, Milan.

Re-Connection creates a relationship between the different approaches of the two designers to the Alpi material, with an original wood pattern made by Ettore Sottsass for the company at the start of the 1980s and its interpretation on the part of Martino Gamper.

Two stylistic visions meet in this material, narrating a path of material and creative re-connections: on the one hand, the reissue of the Alpi Sottsass collection that reprises the design created by the architect, in the original colors; on the other, the evolution of this wood surface in several furnishing elements made as an exclusive by Martino Gamper.

A story that underscores the collaboration between Ettore Sottsass and Alpi, based on a shared passion for aesthetic freedom and research, and the new encounter with the unique contemporary language of Martino Gamper.

We met with Gamper on the day of the opening, and asked him to tell us about this new adventure.

Where did the idea of Re-Connection come from?
I was asked by Vittorio Alpi to reinterpret the woods Sottsass designed in the 1980s. At the company, they showed me a block of his material. It was red. “We want you to do something!” they said.

What was your approach to this material?
I didn’t want to just use the material, so I reworked it. If you vary the angle the grain varies, just 5 or 6 degrees will suffice: the idea was to add another dimension, bringing out different grains, and designing a more three-dimensional structure. So I cut, turned and glued the original material, and with the results I made three furnishing one-offs.

What is the outcome?
They are pieces that ideally form a minimum room: a bookcase, a small cabinet and a sort of divider screen. I tried to see Sottsass from a new angle, to literally incline what he did. When I saw his veneer for the first time I was very young and naive, just 16 years old. I thought there was really a tree with that grain… a Memphis tree!

How was it working with the Alpi material?
It is fascinating to use the Alpi veneers: you don’t start with a tree, but with a sheet of 1 or 2 mm. It is a surface, not the material itself, so it offers many more design possibilities.

What is the big lesson left to us by Sottsass?
The duty to feel free. When a person is creative, he doesn’t have to let himself be limited by what is around him (industry, materials, etc). The project is a voyage to free yourself from everything and to find only new ideas. I have something in common with Sottsass: we both were born to mothers from the Tyrol! Furthermore, his father designed the city hall of Merano, where I was born, and every time I go by there I can’t help thinking about him.

(Katrin Cosseta)