Internationally renowned Italian architect and designer Piero Lissoni, a judge for Perspective's A&D Trophy Awards 2019, speaks about his inspiration and the need to kill bad ideas
One of the most versatile masters in contemporary design, Piero Lissoni is known to the world for his unmistakable minimalist style, giving simplicity a whole new definition. He co-founded the Milan-based interdisciplinary studio Lissoni Associati in 1986, embracing architecture, interior- and industrial-design projects, with recently completed architectural projects including The Middle House in Shanghai for Swire Hotels (pictured below).
He is the art director of Italian brands such as Alpi, Boffi, De Padova, Lema, Living Divani, Lualdi, Porro and Sanlorenzo Yachts. During Milan Design Week in April, he presented new collections for Boffi, Salvatore, B&B Italia, Flos, Lema and Porro, as well as a cafe lounge showcasing his body of design works. Speaking at the Porro booth (which he designed) Lissoni spoke about the thinking behind his design approach.You have a long relationship with Porro. How did it begin?
It's not normal. It started 30 years ago. I only realised a few weeks ago we have worked together since 1987. I studied at the same university as Lorenzo Porro (the third-generation heir of the family business). I was a new student and just came in at that time. Thirty years ago, we started to work together. Thirty years later, we're here – another Salone del Mobile, another evolution, another long list of new products and projects. What hasn't changed are the relationships and human beings. Porro was quite a high-tech factory 30 years ago, now it's a super high-tech factory with incredible robots, machines and technologies but in the same spirit, with two ingredients that are human touch and artistry.
As an architect, I have two simple points of view: one is to use furniture like structural walls; the second is to use the world of architectural dimension in several spaces
What elements have you injected into the brand?
I've been the art director for 30 years. I'm both inside and outside [of the company]. At the same time my work is provocative, to be an artist and to push the limits – technologies, research, new models and new combinations because we need to be a little bit different. We are like small rabbits – they need to be very fast and constantly try to adjust to the new way of life, otherwise, they'll shoot you.
What have you brought to the design of Porro's new furniture collection?
As an architect, I have two simple points of view: one is to use furniture like structural walls; the second is to use the world of architectural dimension in several spaces. It's again about proportions: in one we are modelling in the proportion around the architecture; in the other one, I use the proportion to become architecture. I want to push this deadline. I don't like to use furniture like a component; I like to use furniture like a topic. And I like to use furniture to be architecture or to become a decoration.I see something like solid and void, empty space that is put alongside solid space in Porro's new cabinet collection.
It's a possibility. I like to use full spaces and void spaces. It is a combination. Sometimes void is more specific than fully functional spaces. This year I've used a lot of voids, sometimes with no sense of space because they add proportion to the users – they can choose functionality with another point of view.
I don't like to use furniture like a component; I like to use furniture like a topic. And I like to use furniture to be architecture or to become a decoration
What inspires you?
I get inspiration from all around the world, life, the street, museums, concerts, fashion shops, in books. I think inspiration is all around me – music, life, smell, food, poetry, paintings, photography. In the end – life!
What comes first in your design, form or function?
For me function is inside of the form and vice versa, but even now with a lot of new technological issues, it's possible to choose because you like the form and of course you're putting inside invisible function. But in the end, they're connected because if you design a chair – design a form of the chair – but of course it's a chair. It's impossible for me to disconnect but don't forget in the modern time now it's possible to design something formal with the old issues of functionality inside.How do you approach design when you start to create something new?
It's not a creation because it's a day-by-day discussion. I never design anything without a team discussion because I'm not alone. It's a process, sometimes we design something, sometimes we start to produce some prototypes, sometimes we don't have any idea. It's a long, single and simple process.
What is the most challenging stage of the design process?
When you design something, it doesn't matter if it's a building or an object, the most dramatic moment is when you decide to stop the prototype. Cutting the life for me is not easy. It's like killing the creator. But sometimes we need to do that. When you build a prototype, you know if there is life inside or not. When you feel there isn't a life, you need to be very brave and kill the project. You have to start again and again. It's not easy.