Architect De Lucchi, it is a privilege to create the ‘place for the safekeeping of the identity’ of Poltrona Frau, ambassador of a century of history, from Turin (where the firm was founded in 1912 by Renzo Frau) to Tolentino, in the Marches, where it moved at the start of the 1960s.
What is the concept behind the project? “First we should say one thing: it is the museum of Poltrona Frau, so it has all the transverse identity of a place, a portion of 1400 m2, inside the production space. The most positive part of all has to do with communication: it immediately shows that the company believes in itself and its history. Then comes the commercial side, because by attracting a larger audience to the museum, the firm orients them towards its products. Finally, there is the cultural aspect: to emphasize the value, experienced from within, of the corporate culture, a priority to pass down abilities and talents over time”. President Moschini, what were the motivations of the project, the concept and, as a result, the choice of Michele De Lucchi as the ‘orchestrator’? “Creating the museum of Poltrona Frau was a desire I had been trying to fulfill for many years. It sets out to be a tribute to this territory, to the dedication and passion of all those who contribute their professionalism and skills to pass on and enhance a culture of craftsmanship. With this goal in mind, Michele De Lucchi was our first choice. Michele has an extraordinary sensibility. He has designed and worked for Poltrona Frau, and he is able to decode the signs of tradition and crafts, presenting them to the public in a very refined way, with simple forms and a warm atmosphere. The result, the Poltrona Frau Museum, is quite extraordinary”. In your view, what is the added value of a corporate museum with respect to the product it represents? “A company museum, like ours, has the capacity to immerse the visitor in the world of Poltrona Frau, to communicate historical content, the crafting of products. While the product is the extreme synthesis of our values – quality, craftsmanship, details, research – the museum, on the other hand, narrates with a universal and immediate, highly emotional language, our history, a fine Italian story that almost by magic becomes a history of the evolution of Italian lifestyle and design, and more”. The same question for you, Arch. De Lucchi … “This company demonstrates, above all, that ‘manual know-how’ is fundamental, and everything has value precisely because it is made with great care, using methods perpetuated in history, becoming almost a family tradition. The photograph at the entrance is emblematic, showing a father teaching his son the technique of leather stitching. This museum retraces the very delicate story, in Italy, of the relationship between crafts and industry, which has changed over the years, evolving for better or worse; but this is a very important topic for those who want to reflect on Italian manufacturing. It is connected to specific production niches, by territories: the working of leather and cowhide in the Marches, chairs in Friuli, marble in Carrara, glass in Murano… A typically Italian aspect, developed in our country as in no other part of the world. Whereas in France craftsmanship has become a synonym for luxury, and there is a Department of Living Cultural Assets, with the aim of conserving handicrafts and teaching them to new generations, that is not, unfortunately, the case in our country: there are many talents, but no one thinks about nurturing them. It is all left up to private initiatives. This story can be perceived in the Poltrona Frau Museum: in the way the company has presented itself over the years, conveying values that go well beyond good design, because they establish a relationship with the skills of the craftsman”. Has the cultural project of the museum included your involvement in developing the content of future activities, like exhibitions or architecture and design events? “I have intervened above all to understand and balance the relationships between the cultural and commercial aspects of the museum, between historic exhibits and the display of products that are still on the market. There had to be more than one reason to construct a place of attraction, outside and inside the company. The ulterior reason was to think about the theme of the crafts-industry relationship, to somehow use the museum as a center of expertise, a vault in which to store the treasures of Poltrona Frau, which are not the pieces, but the capacity, over time, to interpret the job of the artisan, presenting it as a company”. What are the compositional principles that have gone into the project? What materials and colors are used, how, and with what objectives? “I came to terms with a traditional work of industrial architecture: the classic shed, white on the outside, all gray concrete inside. I tried to listen to a silent place. The first large room you reach, by means of steps, is a special area: a cafe and bookshop overlooking a small courtyard with plants, a garden-terrace hidden by a wall, with respect to the plant: an unexpected zone of relaxation. In the entrance area, you can take in, with a single glance, all the great expertise of the brand in the working and selection of materials. You seen the Poltrona Frau logo and its totemic words, together with a series of films. The nine words are simply the names of the company’s tools: the curved needle, nails, horsehair, the hammer… objects that have been transformed over the years, to facilitate folding, stitching, attachment of the leather. The nine videos narrate everyday gestures: the phases of workmanship of the products”. Does the alchemy of light, transparency, fluidity of this area of attraction, communicating with the small internal cloister, all in white, return in other spaces of the museum? “The museum proper has been conceived like a theater, where the set design relies on a series of towers of different heights that use the construction system of theatrical wings: a semitransparent ecru canvas stretched on a rugged wood structure. The tallest tower is eight meters. Together, the towers become six off-scale lanterns, lit from within, simultaneously imposing and ethereal, representing the life of Poltrona Frau in twenty-year chunks. Each one contains an emblematic piece from its period, positioned on a platform made of a material typical of that era, with a vintage chandelier. Each twenty-year period is then surrounded by a constellation of other icons, gathering furnishings selected to convey the spirit of the time. These are joined by display cases with original documents”. How many products are on display? “About sixty, many of which belong to the private collection of Franco Moschini. The historical exhibition also includes two rooms, one on the major contract projects done with leading international architects (including nine Pritzker Prize winners) and one on Interiors in Motion, namely spaces for the transport sector – trains, airplanes, yachts, automobiles. First of all with the Ferrari, which everyone wants to photograph, especially the younger visitors”. How did you design the lighting, to enhance the various settings? “It became an ‘almost natural’ gesture: ‘shot’ from the top of the towers, the light becomes almost mystical, absolutely impalpable, precious, magical. You can’t tell where it’s coming from. You cannot put together, in one gaze, the light source and its effect. It becomes enjoyable for what it is. Without combining it with any rationality or attempt at cataloguing. Because, in the end, to use the idea of the Sufi poets, light is made of the same stuff as God”. President Moschini, what about the activities of the museum (openings, events, debates, encounters) and its target audience? “The museum, one of the very few created in the furnishings sector, is for a very vast audience. Architects and designers, students, lovers of design and decor, consumers, everyone capable of appreciating excellent Italian crafts. For us it is a working tool, and I am happy it is named after my mother, Stella Moschini”.