Decades ago, when the architecture and design industry was dominated primarily by men, Paola Navone entered the field not so much by intent as by fortunate accident. "I was very stubborn when I was younger," she recalls with a laugh. "I had a friend who was studying architecture, so I just followed his footsteps. However, my father was furious because he thought that it was a male industry."
True to her stubborn self, Navone refused to be swayed, and set about making her own mark in the field. Today, her works are scattered across the globe; in Hong Kong, she dreamed up the vision behind the revamp of the iconic JOYCE Central boutique, where she translated her own innate curiosity into a design which aims to take the customer on a journey of discovery.
Her vision for the store was to ensure continuous points of interest and seamless flow from one zone to another. Using her signature techniques to pull the zones together — in particular tham ma da (Thai for 'everyday') — Navone takes the seemingly ordinary and presents it in unexpected and exciting ways.
Born in Turin, northern Italy, Navone graduated from Turin Politecnico with a degree in architecture in 1973 — a time when male architects and designers ruled, and her female counterparts were few and far between. Undeterred, she went on to work alongside a number of big names, including Alessandro Mendini, Ettore Sottsass Jr and Andrea Branzi in the Alchimia group.
When asked how she dealt with the gender imbalance in the workplaces of the era, Navone shrugs. At the time, she says, she did not encounter too many difficulties, and simply got on with the job. Going on to become a leading light during the avant–garde design movement in the 1980s, she has moulded contemporary forms out of heritage design.
A strong advocate of using colour and light to bring warmth and awaken the senses, Navone — like many designers — loves to travel for inspiration, citing Asia as one of her favourite places to visit. She switches between offices in Milan and Paris, and cites Hong Kong and Bangkok as two of her favourite cities. South America is next on her agenda, pointing to Colombia and its rich history as a particular draw.
This is an excerpt from the “The Enlightened Nomad" article from the January/February 2017 issue of Perspective magazine.
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