Art director

Near Milan, Cassina’s artistic director digs into the brand’s archives

Cassina has been making furniture since 1927 and maintains an archive of around 600 pieces, some of which are still in production. But, from the start, it has also been important for the company to create new things, to be open to collaboration and editing by contemporary design masters. It is this idea of ​​creating a cultural continuum that interests me and to which I am honored to contribute as artistic director of Cassina.

That’s what I was thinking when this photo was taken. I was sitting in the archives, where I was researching – reading a historical comic about Paolo Deganello’s Aeo chair and looking at drawings by Italian architects Vico Magistretti and Afra and Tobia Scarpa – and the placement of furniture around me underlined the meeting of yesterday and today. I was sitting on a Superleggera chair by Italian design icon Gio Ponti, a style produced continuously since 1957. Above me was a prototype of the LC4 lounge chair, designed by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand, whom we used as a model for the versions we made with the Le Corbusier Foundation and Perriand’s daughter, Pernette, for a 2019 exhibition of her mother’s work. Next, above the filing cabinet was a 70s Golgotha ​​chair by Italian designer Gaetano Pesce, a beautiful prescient piece that is more concerned with social commentary than furniture functionality. I consider all our archival pieces as vectors; they come from the past, but we gave them a future.

For me, every project is an empty canvas – Achille Castiglioni, the pioneer of Italian design and my mentor, would tell me never to forget it. I feel it especially strongly now. We are at the beginning of a great cultural reframing, the beginning of a new world, a fusion of online and off. I often feel caught between these two modes of being, but it helps to work in both design and architecture, to be able to go from the small details of the first to the capital “A” of the second. When I’m stuck in one, I get energy from the other. And sometimes a long walk is really all I need to get through something – that and an openness to ideas, not just great art and good talks and books, but also the wider culture, the one that reinforces how we are all connected, for better or for worse.

The goal is always to find projects that offer a sense of freedom. Sometimes you only get that in small pieces — as an architect, you can’t always negotiate the terms of a commission — but I like that in every project I do, I can look for my idea of quality or finding the context for a new definition of quality. Ultimately, the job of an artist comes down to this: finding your own idea of ​​quality, a pursuit that requires freedom, for which you must advocate. And what better time to do so wholeheartedly than now, when we live in such a changing reality as this?

This interview has been edited and condensed.