Text Andrea Pirruccio
Photos Simone Barberis

The American architect from Poland, one of the leading international exponents of deconstructivist architecture, designer of the roof of the courtyard of the Jüdisches Museum of Berlin, and involved (since 2004) in the redesign of Ground Zero, among other projects, Daniel Libeskind has just developed the Sharp kitchen for Varenna, made entirely in Corian.

This product has big proportions, and though it is made with a highly technological material it reveals a timeless convivial spirit, with a decisive relationship between functional areas and the dining zone: a proposal based on stylistic research that covers forms and materials, with the former reduced to their essence to bring out the specificities, especially in tactile terms, of Corian. We talked about the project with Daniel Libeskind. For Poliform Varenna, you have designed a collection that includes not only a kitchen, but also a bookcase and a wardrobe. How did this collaboration get started, and which of the three products was the first to be designed? The bookcase was the starting point, but all three elements were conceived, from the outset, as part of a single collection. I wanted to create objects that were practical but at the same time totally new and surprising. The work with the company began when my son Lev made friends with the Spinelli family: a family like mine, that works on an international level and loves to do new things. Sharp is your first kitchen: what considerations helped you to get into this project? First of all, I thought about the space occupied by the kitchen in the home, and the role it plays there. For me, the kitchen is the heart of the house: I’m not a chef, but my wife Nina is, and she cooks for me every day. Actually she was the true inspiration behind Sharp. What are the distinctive features of this project, its strong points? I wanted a model that would, obviously, be functional, but also elegant and minimal. There are surprising design details: one of them is the snack bar, which is quite theatrical and sculptural. How many phases of development did you go through to achieve the final result? Having a Milan office of my studio (with a great team of designers) allowed us to work in close contact, even in symbiosis, with the Poliform Varenna brand. We didn’t operate like an external design studio, we were constantly at the company facilities, checking prototypes, providing our input to create a kitchen that would be very beautiful and would meet with a good reception on the market. Has this kitchen been developed primarily for the contract sector? No, actually we were thinking more about a retail product. Obviously Sharp could also be an ideal solution in large-scale projects, and we have many such projects in progress around the world. How do you think your architectural language, featuring broken lines and non-orthogonal volumes, can work in a product like a kitchen? To create an object like a kitchen, which requires extreme functional quality, above all else, we have taken a very measured approach: we studied all the details, like the angles of the handles, and then we opted for a strong architectural ‘gesture’ that is the snack bar, to make Sharp different from the other kitchens in production, giving it a unique style. This year, during Eurocucina, we saw kitchens made with avant-garde materials like Fenix, obtained with the use of nanotechnologies. What convinced you to choose Corian for Sharp? The DuPont Corian that goes into Sharp is an absolutely innovative material: light, self-cleaning, very durable, ecological. Personally, I like its materic consistency: it is softer than stone and stronger than wood. Do you think the ‘kitchen as object’ is still territory for design experimentation? Is it still possible to invent something – in aesthetic terms, or regarding the choice of materials – in this field? In my view – considering the central role of cooking in today’s society and the importance of good, healthy nutrition – over the years to come there will be a lot of experimentation in this field. The recent exhibition “Where Architects Live” gave us a glimpse of the homes of some protagonists of the worldwide architecture scene. To link this to our article, it would be interesting to know what kitchen model you have in your own home. I am happy to be able to report that I will soon be installing the kitchen I have designed for Varenna in my home in New York! Finally, we were curious to know: how does your approach to design work change, from the creation of the Freedom Tower to that of a kitchen? Every project is different from the others, and brings new challenges. The scale doesn’t matter: whether it is a neighborhood or a pencil, the complexity is exactly the same.