06 August 2020
While nothing can erase the memories of where we have been, the imagination never simply dwells on the places we’ve visited but takes us forward, to new destinations and new projects. Let’s continue our ideal journey around the world in 80 design pieces, to broaden our horizons and enrich our spaces with meaning.
We’ve now made our way to the New World, second to none when it comes to breath-taking places and iconic cities. When we talk about America, New York is the city that dominates the collective imagination, providing inspiration for countless designers, architects and creatives – Gaetano Pesce, first and foremost, who has lived, worked and loved there. His Tramonto a New York [Sunset in New York] sofa is a Cassina icon. A souvenir of the city, the subject of a postcard, with its centred, unconventional shape and height, in which each seat rises like a throne. It is in fact a three-seater sofa made up of seven parallelepiped upholstered pieces and a large bright red central cushion that represents the setting sun behind the city’s skyscrapers. Pesce himself revealed the finale of this story: “The production of Tramonto was suspended in 1998 and now (2014, Ed.), we are resuming it with a version (Notturno a New York [Nocturne in New York], Ed.) that represents a fragment of the place where I live, at a somewhat later hour, at night, one of those serene nights when the sky is immense and the moon shines on the buildings in the city, that has not gone to sleep yet. What a magnificent night, perhaps a hot and calm summer night…”
Peter Jamieson, on the other hand, draws on the New York sidewalks, the queues for snacks on street corners, and, especially, the hot dog stands, for his New York pendant light for Kundalini, inspired by the many carts found all over the city, symbolic of take-aways. Long Island is equally famous, and has always been a place of relaxation for the upper echelons of the city’s industrialists, artists and poets, including Walt Whitman and Jackson Pollock, whose residences are now open to the public. Christophe Pillet’s Long Island sideboard for Lema is a wooden container with a marble top, in which the alternation between the natural and the artificial is the essence of the design.
Another tourist location much sought-after by VIPs and Hollywood stars is Aspen, in Colorado. Even now, despite being a luxury tourist destination, the landscape is as stunning as ever, not least the majestic Rocky Mountains. Jean-Marie Massaud has named his simple, elegant sofa for Cassina after them, the line of its backrest tapering to create a horizontal suspension effect, reminiscent of the gentle curve of a ski slope.
Every American State has its own appeal and its own personality, but that of Florida, the so-called “Sunshine State,” is truly unique. The image most people have is of an area dominated by white beaches fringed with palm trees, a crystalline sea, lively nightlife and incredible amusement parks. But there’s much more. Far from the tourist hotspots, there are immense tropical forests, mysterious marshes, limpid natural rivers and springs, untouched beaches where nature still conserves its wild, primordial fascination, islands that give the impression of being on the edge of the world and areas that are call the typical farmlands of the Deep South to mind. This region was the inspiration for Rodolfo Dordoni’s Florida outdoor seating system for Minotti, a rigorous aggregation of gentle, geometric volumes outlined in outdoor-friendly eco-leather piping in shades inspired by the colours of nature. Paola Navone has dedicated a glam Seventies-style sofa to Miami – the state capital - for Baxter, with its simple, square shapes, wide armrests and a low, inviting seat. Another dream destination has to be Barbados. Nicknamed “Little England” thanks to its colonial influence, it keeps up various British traditions, such as driving on the left, tea at five o’clock is a ritual set in stone, and the most popular sport is cricket. Portraits of Queen Elizabeth II are hung at every turn. The land of sugarcane and rum, it exerts a wild fascination with its rugged cliffs and moorlands reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands. Angelo Mangiarotti had Barbados in mind when he designed his iconic ashtray for Danese: its simplicity, purity and geometry bestow a particular aura and contemplative dimension on the object. Werner Aisslinger, on the other hand, plumped for Bikini Island for his project for Moroso: a child of its time, its compositional flexibility making mix and match the new order of the day. Stools, tables, coat racks, containers, shelves, screens, work surfaces and seats allow for an unusually crosscutting variety of uses.
Our journey now takes us to South America, and to Cuba, at its heart. Once the dream of revolutionaries the world over, intrigued by the exploits of Che Guevara, it has become a mass tourism destination for those fascinated by a period which seems to have become crystallised during the colonial period: coloured houses, Fifties American automobiles and traces of its many different dominations. Jozeph Forakis has dedicated his Havana floor lamp to its capital, an outdoor version of one of Foscarini’s best-sellers, distinguished by its simple and natural lines and warm, suffused luminosity. The state of Panama (its name in Amerindian means “abundance”), lies right on the edge of Central America, famous for the isthmus of the same name which is the point at which the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans come together. The garden chair designed by Ludovica+Roberto Palomba for Talenti, clearly inspired by natural, organic shapes, has been named after it. The seat is made is made of rope woven onto the aluminium frame which, with its elongated, curved outline, evokes stones washed smooth by the movement of the water.
From the latest trends in Beijing to the records in Shanghai, from the thousand-year-old history of Xian to the still virgin nature of Guilin: a journey to the East takes in a balance of past and present with a long eye to the future. Shanghai, the city of the future, stokes the creativity of many designers. Patricia Urquiola has dedicated her Shanghai Tip collection for Moroso to the city. The sofa is refined and reassuring - understated luxury with a vaguely oriental feel. Shanghai by Davide Groppi, on the other hand, is a minimalist and slender suspension lamp, which looks like a stick suspended in mid-air. The pendant light by Studio Lucchi & Biserni and Angelo Micheli for Martinelli Luce bears the same name and is derived from a desire to play with light within the space: its intertwining light rods and infinite compositional possibilities ensure that it is bang on target.
Moving on towards India, Jaipur, the “Pink City,” is one of the most famous destinations within the entire northern region. Frenetic and lively, it hosts some of the country’s most extraordinary architecture. The undisputed symbol of the city is the Hawa Mahal with its strange beehive shape. It is the residence of the Maharajah’s wives and is distinguished by a façade pierced by a large number of windows positioned so as to channel fresh air into all the different spaces – which is why it’s also known as the Palace of Winds. Carlo Colombo’s Jaipur double bed for Flou is the upshot of deep stylistic reflection, interpreting the brand’s great sartorial tradition with different materials and solutions and ensuring that the headboard becomes the centrepiece of the bedroom. Jannelli&Volpi’s Kerala collection, on the other hand, transports us to the lush southern state, between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats, a tiny paradise, with its postcard scenery made up of beaches, waterfalls, rice paddies and green hills. The wallpaper series includes Geometrico Calcutta, Goa, Mumbai and Bangalore which, with their pale flowers and brightly coloured textile weaves embellished with damasks and patchwork, lead us through “the land of coconuts” where the palm trees cast their shade over almost the entire state and the tropical landscape is crisscrossed by dozens of rivers and watercourses.
There’s a particular state of mind common to people who’ve been to Africa, a “syndrome” that doesn’t apply to anywhere else in the world. It’s a longing for Africa, or to paraphrase, a profound sense of belonging and going back to one’s roots - this land exerts a marked attraction, as do its people, its colours and the feeling it generates of being at peace with oneself. This may well have been the case for Antonio Marras and his wallpaper design My Africa for Wall&Deco, inspired by the wilderness, the colours and the fauna of the African savannah. The same emotion comes through with the Malawi sideboard and Gibuti cabinet from Citco Privé: the former depicts a hypnotic, mesmerising fluid dazzle of zebras in black and white; the latter portrays the jungle at night with a bas-relief of leopards in a variety of coloured marbles. Lithos Design looks to the Mother Continent with Sahara, a marble wall covering that evokes the shapes of the rocks sculpted and fashioned by the warm desert wind and Giza, three-dimensional stone modules characterised by a series of small three-dimensional shells suggestive of the typical shape of the Pyramids.
Let us end our journey in Oceania, the “newest” continent in the antipodes of Europe, with scenery ranging from white sandy beaches to rainforests and the desert, and home to kangaroos, koalas, emus, cassowaries, over 800 species of bird, 260 species of mammal, 750 species of reptiles and spectacular marine environments. Cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth are as incredible as the Polynesian, Melanesian and Micronesian archipelagos. Paradise lost, as so many have termed it. These sorts of lands make their mark very easily, as Jean Marie Massaud knows only too well, the highly individual aesthetic of his Sydney chair collection for Poliform draws on the lively multicultural city from which it takes its name, exploring original compositional possibilities with the large range of modules available – and Auckland for Cassina, which revisits the classic lounge chair in a modern key. The structure of the shell-shaped seat of this swivel armchair with footrest has been left deliberately exposed to evoke the armour worn by Kendo fighters. Adelaide, on the other hand, fuelled the poetic collection of bone china vases and tableware by Xie Dong for Driade. The designer has managed to crumple and ruffle, almost pleat the porcelain, allowing the shiny, pure white surfaces to dance with the light, seemingly reacting to the luminous effect like living entities.
Finally, we’d like to mention the designer who, perhaps more than any other, has made travel his mantra in the broadest sense: Marcel Wanders, whose projects are in constant motion. As a child, he read about the exploits of the Mongolfier Brothers and their hot-air balloons and was thunderstruck. The places and mythical objects that they found on their amazing journeys often crop up in his work, poised to draw us into the designer’s dream world. Almost every continent, country and city makes an appearance in his work. His eclectic, contemporary Globe Trotter home furniture collection for Roche Bobois reflects the transformative power and the wonder of global travel. Then there is his WanderLust capsule collection of wallpaper for LondonArt inspired by 14 iconic cities, including Delft, Vienna, Versailles, Melbourne, Paris, London, Shanghai, Havana, Amsterdam, Pompei, Kyoto, Machu Picchu, Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town; and his Chaise Longue, Lune Chair and Diamond Screen for the Louis Vuitton Objets Nomades collection. Most of his pieces give one the sensation of having taken home a treasure from a far-off land and are, therefore, a homage to the explorer that every one of us has dreamed of becoming.
The moral of our journey? On the road and in change we find strength, energy, emotion, life … So let’s keep to the road less travelled – that’s how journeys begin – in design, in the world and in real life. Let’s take off towards infinity and beyond!
Top image: Auckland, Cassina, design Jean Marie Massaud