Just behind Cordusio, between Piazza Scala and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, where a series of small streets cross each other, forming a pathway to discover the most beautiful buildings in Milan, stands Palazzo Cusi: a building from the early 1900s constructed by the same family that contributed to spread the excellence of Italian jewelry all over the world. The palazzo is at the intersection of two streets, and precisely here, at Via Clerici 1, we find the new Sawaya & Moroni showroom, which extends from one side, with five windows, to the other, with four. The entrance is right at the rounded corner of the building: an invitation to enter and to discover the collections of this brand, which since its founding has played a pioneering role, introducing Italian and foreign architects and designers (leaders in various areas of research and experimentation). Today the company moves forward with its evolution, producing furniture and objects with a strong, precise identity.
“Before us, this was the home of the historic Bar Victoria,” says William Sawaya. “Inside, the space was devised to create lots of corners, spaces and situations to encourage people to have a drink in a very nocturnal environment; so for us a total revolution was needed. Nevertheless, considering the volume of the perimeter with its many windows, we immediately understood that the space was very promising. I fell in love with it right away: sometimes that happens, when a place somehow speaks to you. We had seen lots of spaces, but the good vibes from this one convinced me that it was the place for us,” Sawaya continues. “I was more perplexed, but in the end I’m happy with the choice. This place gives me new energy,” adds Paolo Moroni.
“First of all, we demolished, stripping things down, removing anything that could be removed, returning to the original volume,” says the architect William Sawaya, who with Sawaya & Moroni Architects has carried out the refurbishing. The level with the most problems was the lower one: the staircase leading to the lower floor was a service flight, tiny, narrow, which took you to the kitchen and a series of services for the staff. “When we went down there, the situation seemed grim: first of all, we decided to emphasize the passage between the two levels, making an almost monumental staircase in an intense color, enhanced by two chandeliers of great impact: the Vortexx lamps by the unforgettable Zaha Hadid. By removing all the little rooms, the kitchen and tons of rubble from what had been done in the bar, we could see the original Palladiana marble that had been covered with a 30-centimeter layer of concrete, installed to create a platform for the kitchen. Finally, the two armored doors of the vault of a former bank were freed up and restored; they had been made by the historic craftsman of safes in Milan, Enrico Fumeo, in 1921,” William Sawaya says.
After the entrance, one is greeted by a display of iconic furnishings, retracing the history of the brand: white platforms present the most important pieces from each decade, from 1984 to the present. “This is not just an exhibit; it is a story told through concepts and experimentation, of everything we have done over the years with architects and designers, including Michael Graves, Charles Jencks, Oswald Mathias Ungers, Kazuo Shinohara, Adolfo Natalini, Toni Cordero, Luigi Serafini, Ron Arad, Borek Sipek, Platt + Young, Toshiyuki Kita, Matt Sindall, Setsu +Shinobu Ito , Jean Nouvel, Michael Young, Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, Jakob+MacFarlane, Dominique Perrault, David Adjaye, Ma Yansong of Mad Architects , Snøhetta and many others,” Paolo Moroni explains.
Sawaya & Moroni were among the first to call themselves “design editors,” and they have never become a design industry, because they want to freely interpret the multiple concepts brought in by talents from different backgrounds, without worrying about what is industrial and what is crafted. A free way of producing things, away from any labels. Certain products can be made partially or entirely by hand, becoming part in the latter case of the Limited Edition collections. These exclusive collections illustrate the virtuoso abilities of exceptional craftsmen, combined with sophisticated materials, as in the Z-Chair (by Zaha Hadid), the 4 Olga (William Sawaya) or the Chromosome (Platt + Young). There are also the sculptural objects of the “Handmade Sterling Silver Collection,” well protected in the vault behind the two armored doors on the lower level, alongside pieces for the collections created for production by Sawaya & Moroni. Items to try out, to touch or simply to admire: like the protagonists of the first window displays, made in acrylic and designed by Ingrid Gossner, which reflect a rainbow of colors, combined with the iconic Acrylic Bowls created by Zaha Hadid in intense hues, or the champagne buckets by Jean Nouvel.
“The idea of this space grew inside me as I was working on it, watching it take form. Of course there was a reason for this move: our showroom, since the 1980s, was on Via Manzoni, but situations always evolve, and Via Manzoni is changing rapidly, perhaps not for the better; many stores have moved elsewhere, and there are more and more bars or quick food outlets, taking the place of the more or less famous brands. We also have an ongoing desire for change. But this will not be just an image space, a formal setting: we will be staging various stories here, in different periods of time. This new energy I’m feeling, transmitted by the place, will prompt us to do new things in the future, in a situation of renewal,” Paolo Moroni emphasizes.
A dynamic space, in constant evolution, which for the FuoriSalone in September has been transformed with a parade of very new pieces from the latest collection, combined with historic creations of the firm. From the GU table by Ma Yansong to the Super Canteen chair by Michael Young and the Diapason collection of seating designed by William Sawaya. Collections that represent a consolidation of the philosophy of Sawaya & Moroni, as Paolo Moroni explains: “This period of lockdown has confirmed that the most rigorous choices always bring values in their wake, while at the same time offering the next generation a chance to dream.”
Interior design Sawaya & Moroni Architects Milano - Lighting Design Herbert Resch for Zumtobel - Photos Santi Caleca