Carola Bestetti – director of marketing and product development at Living Divani, but above all a very perceptive talent scout – had been monitoring the work of Marco Lavit for international galleries for some time, glimpsing the potential of his projects for industrial development. Born in 1986, with a degree from the École Spéciale d’Architecture of Paris and studies at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Lavit gained experience in several international studios and then opened his own practice in Paris (where he now resides). The young professional made a name for himself thanks to Rosita Missoni, who after admiring the design of the Venezia chair at the Venice Architecture Biennale curated by Rem Koolhaas in 2014, and subsequent projects for Nilufar Gallery, chose him as a protégé among the Rising Talents of the 2018 edition of Maison&Objet.
The encounter with Carola Bestetti at the Salone del Mobile in 2019 was quick, with an immediate rapport and the promise of further discussion, though without a precise brief or the indication of a product type. But before Lavit presented the concept to the company, the Lemni chair – this is the name of the new project – was already in an advanced phase of prototyping. “The prototypes I make allow me to get beyond major issues, to understand right off the bat whether an object works. I am lucky to know some highly skilled craftsmen who work in Milan and Varese, and are willing to collaborate on these challenges on a small scale,” Lavit explains. The thinking concentrated on a new approach to industrial production “in the light of a structural method of an architectural nature, in pursuit of a component that would give force to the object.”
The structure of Lemni stems from a single semi-circular tube that repeats four times, each time rotated by 90 degrees and welded at the points of contact. Made with parts that interlock and support each other, it takes on the sinuous graphic form of a lemniscate – hence the name – the algebraic curve, the figure eight, the infinity symbol. The technology is there, but it is not an aesthetic burden. As in architecture, the structure is the support, indispensable to sustain the thin band of curved leather of the seat, which is welcoming, suspended and slightly rocking. The thin material required extensive testing and expertise on the part of the company’s research division. In the look, we can see hints and materials from previous projects, such as the Venezia chair designed for Nilufar Gallery: “The dimension of the gallery is appealing, because it is free of the constraints necessarily imposed by industrial processes. It could represent a sort of transition, a moment of reflection and experimentation with limited editions, which can then be industrialized. I hope this utopia can be feasible.”
The paths of research of Marco Lavit continue to move in multiple, complementary directions, where architecture and design are the offspring of a single method, in a project on a scale of 1:1, or in an interior: “I like to work on the limited dimension of inhabited volumes, on a scale close to that of the body.” Therefore in Hut, designed for Ethimo, there are connections with the light architecture of Narcissus, the cabane on the water designed for the eco-hotel GCP near Avignon. Much more than a simple outdoor element, Hut applies craftsmanship to generate a comfortable, reassuring private shell, a sort of teepee of great impact in which long slats of Siberian larch in the structure are used to ensure privacy and to filter the view of the landscape.
At this point Lavit smiles, his voice changes with enthusiasm as he talks about a new niche on which he is working. “For some time, I had the idea of designing prefabricated houses, and for a while I was considering creating a brand for just this purpose. The opportunity came along, instead, from a client who asked me to work in Solenzara, Corsica, first on one and then on a series of cabins for hospitality. Since a construction site would have been hard to organize at the location, I designed O’Casella, a compact prefabricated module, sized for transport by truck, or even by helicopter.” Based on this, the relationship with the Corsican company Kalliste took form; the company makes the wooden structures of most of the agricultural and industrial buildings on the island, and it produced the skeleton of this first module.
O’Casella will become part of the Kalliste catalogue, in four variants, strictly made with local materials and labor: “In my projects I always try to protect the territory, focusing on local dynamics; but working with such a profoundly ‘independentist’ reality was lots of fun.” The second collection, Frame, still in progress, will also be produced by Kalliste. More than a mere cabane, it is a modular system ready for personalization, composed of wooden cubes, partially glazed and partially screened, that correspond to the internal functions, alongside the addition of an outdoor zone.
A curious and unstoppable experimenter, Lavit overlooks none of the aspects of design and architecture. Besides teaching (at the École Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris) and designing interiors (mostly in France), he is developing new lighting products (for Nilufar Gallery and a very technical French brand), as well as outdoor furnishings (for Living Divani, making their debut in the months to come). This constant interpenetration of ideas and products cannot help but extend to the field of surface design: “In the initial design phase, I always start with assembly techniques. At this point I felt the need for a shift, to change the object of the design, to come to grips with graphics and colors. I’m now completing some carpets for the suite of an eco-hotel I designed at Grazzano Badoglio, in Monferrato, due to open in the fall. For now they are one-offs, but I would like to take them to an industrial level, perhaps with some simplification. Various companies are already interested…”.
In the opening photo, essential and graphic, the structure of Lemni, produced by Living Divani, is inspired in shape by the algebraic curve of the lemniscate, the inverted eight, symbol of infinity.