The objects that speak to us exist. They are the ones we cling onto in times of need. Understanding them is important: in the symbolic relationship we create with them, there are reasons to revolutionize material culture and invent alternative consumption and life models.

It's no fun to ask ten people – 9 designers and 1 artist – about the object closest to their heart. Because talking about love seems almost out of place, in certain circles. The least bad reaction is to be listened to with a certain degree of suspicion. But after that initial distrust, something magical happens. Radical visions emerge, obsessive yet explicable bonds. Deeper reasons for a relationship that unexpectedly governs the work, from design choices to the deep need to find individual meanings in a world crowded with not-so-convincing narratives.

To ask “What is the object closest to your heart?” opens the gates of complexity of living and designing, immersed in relationships with “things” that are increasingly engaging. It is an intimacy granted with reserve, almost a confession, while at the same time it is a chance to state what really counts in one’s work. So long live the word “heart,” which in the lines to follow offers the privilege of rethinking the relations between people and objects in a more organic and serious way. Only to discover that, in effect, the objects that really count are “hyper-things.”

The objects that really count are hyper-things"

Cord switch - Matteo Ragni

I’m fond of this little object for various reasons. First because it is memorable. Its elementary though sophisticated form makes it a true icon of our design. It has unusual sensory qualities, considered when such things were not so fashionable: it makes a sound to let you know it has been activated, the famous Castiglioni click.”   

It fascinates me to imagine how in the turmoil of 1968 such a balanced, discreet object could have been made, a true invisible revolution that found its way into the homes of all Italians. When no one knows who has created a well-designed product, but people appreciate it for its intrinsic value, the true reasoning behind design emerges. So for me this switch is a fetish, an object I like to wear, which I have even used as a key holder or a bracelet. An ornament that tells me who I am.

Glasses - Astrid Luglio

Some objects have intangible qualities.

An aura that makes them unique, and makes them glow.

During the lockdown it was very important for me to identify some such things in the home. Small things with that extra dimension.

I have broken entire services of glassware in my life, but I am lucky because I work with blown borosilicate glass. So our settee empties out and gets periodically refilled with object collected over time, and a multitude of prototypes.

Each is assigned a different function. Drinking afternoon tea from a bowl, a glass of water at lunch in a crystal cup, morning coffee in a colored flûte, a cordial in the evening in a very small striped cylinder, wine in an oversized goblet.

These objects, free of slavish roles, are forms to be reinvented that accompany my everyday gestures, making every moment of the day a little more special.

Books - Joe Velluto

There is no one object I love more than others. But I cannot be separated from my books. I have lots of them and I continue to buy them. I haven’t read them all, but owning a book is a commitment to read it, someday. I am very picky about them: I treat them with care, rarely lend them to anyone, underline words only in pencil, and I never fold page corners. The other day my daughter scribbled on the cover of a book she found in the room where I do zazen. First I saw the scribble, the I read the title: Freedom from the Known, by J. Krishnamurti. I started laughing and I thought: isn’t scribbling an expression of freedom? The scribble has become the “official” cover of that book in my library.

Candle - Sovrappensiero

We have close ties – perhaps we always have – to the candle. An object that exists from the dawn of memory, made of a material we have often used in our projects. A material that can make light, spread warmth and hope, like a prayer. We used a candle on the corners of walls in the street to make skateboard routes as kids. We use candles as light in romantic moments and we let them melt, accompanied by thoughts for people who are no longer with us. The candle, in its simplicity, is a fundamental object for us, to play, to love, to remember.

Watch - Tommaso Caldera

I have a wristwatch that was a gift from my uncle, a Longines from 1967, wound by hand. He had also received it as a gift, for his graduation in July that year, as you can see from the engraving on the case.

Technically it is a perfect object, which has no end. And in the end, the watch is one of the very few design objects I can wear in contact with my body. Its qualities remind me on a daily basis of the reasons why I do this job. There is a part of control, study and research. And it is the part I then yield, because the relationship that is created between what I design and people is totally autonomous, independent of my thoughts and reflections. It is the part of affective relation, of attribution of other meanings. Paradoxically, these are the reasons why I design objects: for that life they will have later, when they become part of a bond, or a memory.

Chair - Antonio Aricò

It was the first project I did with my grandfather, a craftsman, and the pretext to begin design research in alternative territories. And it is the object I use the most, every day.

It was one of the first projects that enabled me to make money and to live by my work. It is a heavy chair, which often receives negative comments from minimalist designers. But it is a favorite of people who appreciate material substance, weight, presence. It is not tiring.

The idea of its design came to me after I was a film by Almodovar: in one scene, an enormous chair stood behind a desk. I did some research and discovered that it was a piece of furniture typical of Spanish and Portuguese culture. I redesigned it and by mistake the prototype came out with a back that was too thick. But I didn’t fix it: the back remained as it was, with a design that calls for exaggerated use of glue. Nevertheless, it is a real, strong everyday object.

Photograph - Antonio De Marco 

I love objects only if they are a way to connect to people or memories. If they are full of meanings they have value, otherwise they can end up in the trash. If I have to decide on an object I love, I have to first say what is love: for me it is something that doesn’t stop speaking to me every time my gaze comes across it.

As a result, my object of the heart is an old photograph that shows part of my family while we were working on tobacco in Salento. It is not a simple image. I call it a hyper-photograph, an object that repeats memories of childhood for me, the time passed threading the tobacco, the form of the needle I used, the orange thread.

A precious treasure. Like an Umberto Dei bicycle no one used, so I fixed it up to go to college. I felt like a big shot when I sat on it, after getting off the train. It got stolen a few years ago and I still look for it, the way I would seek a lost love in every woman I meet.

An object I love it is something that doesn’t stop speaking to me every time my gaze comes across it"

iPhone - Pietro Corraini

I spent the lockdown far from home, in a place where there was nothing that really belonged to me. And the only connection with life, work, loved ones, became my iPhone. It happened to many people: the mobile phone as the only means of connection to the world. And it is one of the fascinating things I see in the controversy over migrants: why should we be surprised that they have cell phones? We all have them now: it is not a luxury, it is the tool we have used to nurture relationships and to feel less lonely. I understand that actually it is not the object in itself, but its function as a gateway to the world, a prosthesis for bodies that cannot meet. And I have realized that I can live without everything except my cell phone. This is the true revolution: the awareness of what we safeguard inside a technological object.

Dust - Giulia Currà

I’m a daughter of movers. My artistic practice began in the midst of boxes containing objects people were taking from one house to another. Or things they wanted to abandon, sell, forget. I wandered in the warehouse and explored things. I blew off the dust from the tops of the boxes, and a whole world opened up. This is why the object of my heart is dust. It has a symbolic value in all my work, bringing together my various identities. It is a vehicle of relations, a trail of the history of the object inside a space.

My work springs from the relationship I have with objects. And my interest in things begins with the presence of dust. The dust left by a fingerprint, or the dust I brush off an object. Dust is the first sign of attention, of care, an invitation to act. The dictionary defines it as “infinite and incoherent particulate matter.” A meaning that adapts perfectly to my way of making art, encouraging people to leave an object in the Casa Museo di Porta Cicca. It is my home and at the same time an installation that stages the relationship between intimate space and public space, between yielding to invasion and protecting yourself, in a destabilizing way.

Collected objects - Francesco Faccin

I’ve thought about it at length, but I really do not have one object I love best…

I love them all equally. I have many objects, found or gathered across a lifetime, which are very important for me, but there is no special one. I think of them as a set. I collect objects that have helped me over the years to understand what I like, and why. To understand the materials and the reasons for a form, a function of a meaning. I learn a lot from found objects, anonymous and popular things, and much more rarely from “design objects.”

Cover photo: Paola Pivi, I wish I am fish, 2009, part of ‘Viaggi da camera’ [Chamber Journeys], the online project curated by Fondazione Nicola Trussardi to bring together and distribute images, videos, and texts, chosen by artists invited to narrate their own private domestic space and imaginary journeys. Over a period of 67 days, from March 27, 2020, a new contribution has been published daily on the website and the social channels of the FoundationPhoto: Hugo Glendinning / Coprodotto da Paola Pivi, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, Auckland, The Chartwell Trust, Auckland / Courtesy Galleria Massimo De Carlo, Milano, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris-Miami.