by Maddalena Padovani
photos by Efrem Raimondi

Aksu Suardi Silvia Suardi, architect, degree from Milan Polytechnic, studies in Spain. Sezgin Aksu (Turkey), designer, studies in Germany and France. They worked for about ten years with Michele De Lucchi.Since 2001 they have their own practice. Slvia Suardi: “I’m from the old school, when designers were all architecture grads. Michele De Lucchi, the master for whom I worked for over ten years, forms the basis of my professional background. Another fundamental reference point is Ettore Sottsass, the only one capable of combining design, architecture and poetry, of moving you with the photo of a stone wall, designing the unconscious. The work with Michele was important professional experience, and a great proving ground for living. An international situation open to all cultures, with a very special mentor. I learned to take projects forward, to the end, never overlooking the details. I learned that you must not cling too much to ideas, but that it is important to always challenge them and change your mind if necessary. I learned that attention is not just for projects but also and above all for people”. Sezgin Aksu: “I was a first-year engineering student in Stuttgart when I heard Michele De Lucchi and Ettore Sottsass talk about design and Memphis at a conference. The next day I registered at the Fine Arts Academy to study industrial design. If I am a designer today it is thanks to that encounter. In the studio of De Lucchi I learned to approach different typologies and to deal with people of different languages and cultures. This year Silvia and I will present the Bosforo seating system for Poltrona Frau and the Juva divan for De Padova. Bosforo comes from the desire to make a seat that is both a shell and an upholstered piece, eliminating the concept of the structural part and the soft cushion inside. The cushion of Bosforo has two roles. The back part is rigid, made in cowhide or reinforced leather, while the comfortable inner part is made with softer leather. This functional dualism is also underscored with colors. The Juva divan comes from the idea of reducing and simplifying the product, starting with the cushion, which is anchored to the base, forming the back and armrests. The same cushion also forms the seat, simply resting on the structure”. Enrico Cesana Born in 1970, with a degree in architecture in 1997 from the Milan Polytechnic. Before starting his own design practice, now located in Lissone, he had two positive periods of work experience in the studios of Rodolfo Dordoni and Paola Navone. “I call myself a ‘designer at the service of companies’. My work involves entering directly inside companies, to analyze what they can do, their methods and processes. Then I imagine a product or a collection that can bring out their know-how. Every company has its own DNA. This is the main challenge, to decode what is unique, to develop a concept of identity that can form the basis for strategic choices regarding products, communication and the market. I have many designers of reference. Two will suffice: Achille Castiglioni and Dieter Rams. The first for his approach. He defined an industrial designer as ‘someone who works in a group to design and make real objects for real needs. His job is to create mass-produced objects for the community: it is very different from that of the artist who produces rare works for himself or an elite’. That sums it up: what lies behind a product is the work of a team, of different kinds of experience and expertise. Where Rams is concerned, I like his motto ‘less, but better’, applied to design: the essence of the industrial project. I don’t know how to list the projects and ideas from the past that are more important than others… maybe everything is important. I am a consumer of images, products, architecture, fabrics, materials, I gather, file, analyze. To know and observe the past is fundamental to construct the future. I had the good luck to work in the studios of two great contemporary masters: Rodolfo Dordoni and Paola Navone. These were positive experiences, especially on a human level. Dordoni stands out for the elegance of his sign and his sense of proportion, the great ability to narrate a project with a very detailed sketch. Paola Navone taught me many things: the force of creating enthusiasm, constant creativity and invention, the inborn ability to discover unexpected combinations… in her hands, fabrics, materials, textures and colors become explosive. As art director of Dorelan I am coordinating the new collection of textile beds. The mood is the one that has been identified with the brand for three years now: soft beds for free interpretation and use, ready to generate emotions. I am also coordinating, again as art director, the birth of a new brand that will be called MY, to produce furnishings – chairs, tables, upholstered furniture, cupboards, beds, cabinets – for all the spaces of the home. The Wired chair is the first project; it is made with tubing, and is very light, just 1 kg. I spend a lot of time on the engineering of these products, to rationalize production and have competitive prices”. Francesco Faccin In 2003, after having studied at the European Design Institute, he entered the studio of Enzo Mari. Then he decided to no longer work as a designer, but as a craftsman. For five years he worked with a luthier, while continuing to conduct research in his studio-workshop in Milan. His participation at the SaloneSatellite in 2007 brought him back to the world of design, and today he works with Michele De Lucchi, and as a freelance professional. “My work in recent years explores the borderline between crafts and industrial production. Is it possible to imagine industry that can innovate without destroying? Is it possible to imagine a new generation of cultured, proud artisans, capable of using sophisticated technologies that are now accessible, to produce objects of great quality at a cost comparable to that of industrial mass production? For me, development does not necessarily coincide with technological research. Slowness and quality are my key words. Slow Food has introduced a model of sustainable growth we can also adopt in design. The goal is to make objects in a production chain that has been completely ‘detoxed’. Every person has more or less conscious and latent tensions, and chooses his or her mentors by affinities. You don’t have to personally know your mentor, his work speaks for him and inevitably influences us. We have to use it to get new energies. A master is a master because he is capable of influencing generations of people, addressing universal and always timely issues, generating thoughts that are archetypes for other thoughts. In general, I don’t believe in schools as places of training; but I do believe in initiative, curiosity, non-linearity of a path of formation. Enzo Mari’s school is military. You learn discipline, ethics, you catch some insults. When Mari begins to design the goal is the Archetype, the perfect object for a utopian society. Working in Mari’s studio, we never talked about chairs or tables, but about allegories, utopias, art… He always told me “your reference point should be Michelangelo”. I have millions of references from the past and all possible disciplines. I began many years ago to gather and accumulate pieces of objects, fragments, bones, broken things polished by the sea, burnt by the sun. Today I design objects I hope will become increasingly beautiful with use, like those fragments. My new projects include a table and a chair. The chair is called Pelleossa because it is a bit like skin and bones. It is built with traditional techniques, without bolts or hardware, just interlocks and glue. It is entirely made with a lathe, which saves on material and reduces production costs. I really like skeletons and bones in general, because they represent the result of a natural process of subtraction… Then I did the Traverso table for Valsecchi 1918, which undoubtedly starts from the Frate table by Mari. I have tried to transform the central beam into a ‘spinal column’ (speaking of bones) of the project. Without the beam the table doesn’t exist. At the end you can clearly see the section, which is both structural and decorative. The top is divided into two halves (wood or glass) to take up very little space when the table is not assembled. This is very important to optimize storage and transport. Emmanuel Gallina French, born in 1972, after studying design at E.N.A.D. (Limoges) and I.A.V. (Orléans) he went to the Milan Polytechnic, where he met Alberto Meda and decided to stay in Italy. He worked with Antonio Citterio for seven years. Today he is a freelance designer in Milan and Paris. Globalization, the possibility of travel and intersections of disciplines multiply cultural influences, lifestyles, aesthetics… You have to be open and know how to absorb all that. But for my modus operandi there also have to be solid historical references. I have studied the works of the past at great length. In particular, I’m interested in the 1930s and 1950s. Reference points are important for structuring thought, just as drawing is fundamental to give form to ideas, as I never tire of repeating to young students who tend to forget it. My masters are Jean Prouvé, Dieter Rams, Alberto Meda, the Eameses: their work reflects a brilliant ability to combine technical constraints, pursuit of synthesis and close relations with industry, all elements found in my research as well. The craftsmen of the past, especially those who worked with wood, have always fascinated me, and are still inspiring in terms of work value and respect for materials. I am interested in the French interior architects of the turn of the last century, due to their elegant simplicity. Antonio Citterio taught me the profession of designer. He also helped me a lot on the level of approach and method, paying extreme attention to details and production processes. A complete vision of the role of the designer, as someone who develops strategies with the world of industry, who knows about the reality of markets, to construct global design projects, from the product to its communication. This company-designer relationship is the main characteristic of Italian design, and one of the reasons I wanted to come to Italy. Finally, I have gained professional experience and organizational skills, fundamental things to be able to compete with the leading figures in international design. The products I am showing this year share the use of very traditional materials like wood, cowhide, slate, marble… These noble materials, full of history, are reinterpreted in a contemporary, light way, bringing out their poetry and solidity. The Tapparella collection for Colé seeks the intimacy of the atmosphere of old rolltop desks. Its contemporary side can be seen in the light lines, combinations of soft colors, and functions that adapt to new technologies and result behaviors (portable computers, smartphones, etc.). The series for Poliform projects the user into a situation like a smoking room in the 1950s, elegant and chic. The armchair and the low tables focus on constructive details, like those of the craftsmen of the past. The Corteccia kitchen designed for Bamax has a contemporary line enhanced by engraving in the wood. The materials – oak and slate – are kept rough for a strong natural atmosphere and a sense of warmth. Finally, the carpets designed with Clara Giardina for Nodus propose contemporary forms that resemble geographical découpages. All these projects offer scenarios, stories, atmospheres that make explicit reference to the past; I reinterpret them in a contemporary way, bringing out values of authenticity and simplicity. Lorenz*Kaz Steffen Kaz and Catharina Lorenz are a couple in life and work. Steffen was born in Stuttgart, he studied industrial design in Hamburg and London, worked in New York and then Milan, in the studio of James Irvine, from 2001. Catharina was born in Munich and studied industrial design at Darmstadt; after different experiences in London and Germany, in 1995 she entered the studio Sottsass Associati. In 2001 the duo founded the studio Lorenz*Kaz in Milan. “We think of ourselves as designers of contemporary culture for everyday use. We know we are not ‘pop’: our project do not respond to the frenetic passage of fashions and trends, they have their own character and awareness, to last in time. The goal is to make objects that can be intuitively understood by anyone, but without being banal and boring. The best design is the kind that seems invisible, the object that doesn’t look designed. We spent years in the studios of Ettore Sottsass and James Irvine. It was very interesting to work with these strong personalities: they both had many clients and projects, connected in a dense international network. We worked for big and small companies alike. James is a great teacher, especially in the area of method. Ettore was fascinating, with his wisdom and experience, and his particular unwillingness to compromise. Our work takes place on multiple levels: from objects to art direction. We took part in the ‘laying of the groundwork’ of the brand Colé: it was exciting to be in on the initial process. Our approach goes together with the idea of design proposed by Matteo De Ponti: products that are ‘cultured’ but not necessarily elitist, extraneous to fashion, marked by finely crafted details and warm materials; ‘low profile’ products, but for a large audience. Our role at Rossin, a Bolzano-based firm that operates mainly in the contract sector, is different. He we work on image and overall development. The project we’ll be showing in April, a chair with a Baydur chassis, represents a big step forward for this brand that has always made wooden seating. For Zeitraum we have created a new chair with a structure in wood and cowhide, which represents the meeting place between the technological modernity of numerically controlled machines and the tradition of craftsmanship”. LucidiPevere Paolo Lucidi (1974) and Luca Pevere (1977) met at the Milan Polytechnic, where they both took degrees in Industrial Design. The first came up in the studio of Marc Sadler, the second working with Clino Trini Castelli and then Marco Ferreri. In 2006 they founded the studio LucidiPevere in Milan, and then moved it to Udine, the hometown of both. “One of the biggest challenges for us, though it might seem banal, is to make something original. This is not a matter of understatement. In our short career we have encountered different realities, met entrepreneurs and colleagues through whom we have often understood that a certain degree of typological originality, technological innovation and even risk in terms of commercial success are not always to be taken for granted, and perhaps not even desired. For us, being designers means being a bit like pioneers. We are not design theorists, we don’t look for revolutionary solutions that can make everything better as if by magic. What can we do? We can do our best. Taking the time needed to give depth, meaning and value to the objects we make… even if that means doing fewer projects. A certain design culture, spread by geographical proximity, has undoubtedly contaminated us through exhibitions, debates and schooling. We are referring, for example, to designers like Luigi Molinis, Arieto (Harry) Bertoia, Gino Valle, the Scarpas; companies like Zanussi, Brionvega, Solari, or the many districts, like that of the chair. We like to pay attention to the work of those who do this job in a quiet way but with great depth. Piergiorgio Cazzaniga, Claudio Bartoli, Kuno Prey, Giotto Stoppino, Anna Castelli Ferrieri are just a few. Along with Marc Sadler and Marco Ferreri, who trained us for many years. At the Salone del Mobile 2012 we will be showing Macramé, a collection of small glass tables designed for Fiam. The idea was to make something new in the sector of glass applied to furnishings. The Fiam trademark has always stood out in the field of curvature of plate glass. We wanted to come up with a very personal take on this material, as others have done before us: Ron Arad, Danny Lane, Cini Boeri and Vittorio Livi. Together with Daniele and Vittorio Livi and very skillful master glassmakers we have developed a technique that makes it possible to fuse glass to get a continuous incandescent thread that can be worked. The result is a collection of three monomateric tables made with a central base that – like macramé, the ancient art of knotting string – has an effect of a continuous knotted thread. Everything with a semi-crafts process: a group of artisans weave and shape the hot glass thread into a pre-set form. Almost like an ancient dance, with eight master glassmakers who quickly prepare a contemporary objects with an age-old technique. To create objects that let you see small flaws, slight variations with respect to the standard, just enough to make them unique; to bring back the human dimension, the trace of physical work in the material… this is a way, in our view, to give depth to the project and the product itself, contributing to that typically Italian economy based on work and on concrete, tangible things”. Philippe Nigro Born in 1975 in Nice, he studied applied arts in France and in 1999 entered the studio of Michele De Lucchi for an internship. He still works there today, but since 2005 he has also done his own design projects. He lives in France and Italy. “The real challenges for a designer lie in understanding the specificities and needs of companies and supplying aesthetic and functional responses, knowing how to step back: the important thing is not the style of the designer, but the essence of the company, that has to be clear, thanks to technical or formal innovation. In my work I try to follow a principle of honesty with respect to the end user of products; intellectual and functional honesty. The object should have meaning, tell a story, communicate an idea, prompt an emotion. Castiglioni, Eames, De Lucchi, Morrison, Pesce… Each in his own way (radical, functional, artistic, humble, provocative…) manages to transmit an emotion through objects, at times with a radical stance that flirts with art, at times in projects that almost vanish behind their apparent simplicity. All works that have contributed and still contribute, through their force and timeless quality, to today’s culture and that of the future. The message in my new projects is varied: some of them are the logical consequence of work on graphics or form, which began years ago, on the accumulation and overlapping of the form to create a new object, an original composition. Others pursue a certain ‘timelessness’. In the case of Nuage, the applique for Foscarini, the idea is to create an optical effect through the layering of striped modules, inclined blades like those of Venetian blinds, that do not only produce a graphic effect, but also make it possible to direct light in different ways. The product lends itself to modular composition and juxtaposing, to create luminous walls for spaces in the home or contract. With Résille, the table and chair designed for Ligne Roset, I have focused on working with stainless steel rod, bend and woven, to create seating and tables for outdoor use. The Pier sofa for De Padova, on the other hand, plays with opposition between the architectural conception of the feet, inspired by the wooden structures that support large boats out of water, and the seat with a classic image. Finally, Smusso is the office chair in curved, milled bamboo I have designed for the new brand Discipline. I liked the idea of a seat made entirely with a very strong, renewable material. The challenge was to use an alternative, warm, natural material in operative spaces (but also in the home) where plastic and metal are usually the norm. Robin Rizzini Born in Genoa in 1973. He took a degree at the Polytechnic Design School in Milan. After work experience with the studio McKimm Albemarle and Progetto CMR, he worked with Antonio Citterio from 2000 to 2005 and then opened a studio in Milan. In 2009, with Bruno Fattorini, he founded Bruno Fattorini and Partners. “My work concentrates on materials and surfaces; I try to bring innovation to a sector where new things often struggle to find acceptance. In the studio we have experimented with composite materials and coverings already widely used in the automotive sector, to create very light seating and tables that can reach unprecedented lengths. Recently, we have worked with cement applied to vertical and horizontal surfaces. Among the projects we will present this April there is a divan with an innovative electronic mechanism that makes it possible to independently regulate the seat and back to achieve maximum comfort. We have also designed a picnic table made with a special pultruded section in fibrous composite material. The 25 table designed for Desalto, a prize winner at the Cologne fair, will be shown again, complete with certain accessories that make it ideal for the office. Zanotta will re-present the Ad Hoc system, which required major investments for development of the containers in sheet metal, made with the latest generation of welding machines. Design means creating everyday objects that have a recognizable formal and aesthetic content. For me, this means subtracting everything that is superfluous, not just in terms of what you see. Even the technical details must be clean, reduced to the essential, ‘resolved’. I have many points of reference. They include Dieter Rams, Charles & Ray Eames, Kenneth Grange and Pentagram din the 1970s and 1980s, Jean Prouvé, Corradino Ascanio. I admire and envy their talent, the way they combined technical details and industrial production into a code that could be understood by all. The extraordinary work of Rams for Braun, the 606 system of De Padova, the Standard of Jean Prouvé, the Plastic Side Chair by Eames, the Toio of Achille Castiglioni, the Piaggio Vespa, the compact disc, the Macintosh 128k, the dishwasher. I could go on and on…I have had the good fortune to work with Antonio Citterio, a great designer and professional, learning the real meaning of the work of the designer, which is not just to sketch a product on a piece of paper, but to understand the path to follow for its production, paying attention to the relationships with suppliers, providing ideas of costs and prices, communications, results, profits”.