“For me, it’s objects that mean home – not places”
“Artificio” was held in Lugano between 7 and 23 April. The event showcases local design in more than 20 spaces in the city over a two-week period. Its varied programme featured art and handicrafts alongside works by young designers, including Ticino’s own Giulio Parini. He tells lifeathome why he more or less lets his design work be guided by materials, stories and people and why objects mean more to him than places when he thinks of his homeland.
All your designs focus on materiality and the way materials are used. What is the driving force behind this urge to use natural materials – in a natural way overall?
Every material has its own aesthetic, haptic and mechanical properties. There are countless different materials out there and even more ways of combining them. It’s this multitude of possibilities that fascinates me – each material adapts in a certain way to fit a certain role. I always feel obliged to choose the right one. As far as I’m concerned, the material is key to the design of a project.
What are the influences that shaped you as designer?
I’ve had two main influences ever since my student days: the poetry and creativity of Italian design that you find in figures such as Enzo Mari, Achille Castiglioni and Bruno Munari, and the rationality and minimalism of Swiss design championed by venerable companies like Horgenglarus or designers like Kurt Thut. I’m lucky to come from somewhere [Ticino] that combines two very different cultures. One characteristic that some Ticinese share is the complex nature of their sense of belonging to either one culture or the other, which an optimist would say can make them ideally placed to be more open and receptive towards both cultures.
What would you say was your approach to designing a new object?
I don’t have the same approach to all my projects. I enjoy finding new angles and discovering new ways of thinking about a piece. For “Neolithic”, for example, I spent a lot of time in Ticino’s granite quarries hunting for scraps that local companies had rejected. When I designed “Le Suisse”, on the other hand, I was chained to my computer for hours on end meticulously crafting every last detail.
You seem to have many more sources of inspiration than just the material itself.
Generally speaking, I draw inspiration from those who’ve created something good before me or who are doing so right now. I’m inspired by people who work so hard to achieve their goals in keeping with their ideology. I don’t just mean designers, but also musicians, architects and writers. [The Italian singer-songwriter] Fabrizio de André is one of my inspirations, as is the imagination of the designer Bruno Munari, or the architect Gion A. Caminada and his concept of being part of a local culture.
A lot of designers create something that already exists; your approach is rather poetic. How come?
The design for an object or a piece of furniture emerges naturally. As the design process unfolds, I make the decisions that I feel fit best with the ultimate aim of the object itself. The poetry in “Neolithic” comes straight from the richness in the natural stone and it was the decision to leave it rough that gives it its poetic element. In each of my projects, I want to find its true essence – the fundamental characteristics that it needs in order to become a good piece of work and to express its original idea in the best possible way.
Can you tell us a bit more about the desk you call “Le Suisse”?
“Le Suisse” was born out of a need to work together with someone else in a restricted space without being forced to use the same work surface. The answer lies in putting some shared storage space between the two workstations. I did a lot of work on the dimensions of the various elements and their sizes in relation to one another as I wanted to create a piece of furniture that was as compact as possible without being unergonomic and that was entirely geared towards being comfortable to use.
There’s one important detail, though maybe it’s hard to spot at first glance: if you look at the desk front-on, you’ll notice that, instead of being positioned at the very ends of the work surface, the steel legs are about 25 cm further inwards, forcing the user to sit towards the central wooden column. This arrangement underneath the desk is mirrored on top, splitting the single work surface naturally into two zones, an “active” zone facing the user and a “passive” zone at the far end of the work surface, thus helping the user to organise their own workspace.
As far as you’re concerned, what makes a home a home and a place you can withdraw to?
Light is critical in an interior space. All you need is a well-placed table under a skylight and you’ve got the perfect place for a good chat with friends. Light defines the zones and volumes in a space. At the other end of the scale, the zones that are in darkness are also important in their own way, a bit like how, in photography, the composition of an image is chosen by giving more or less weight to the areas of brightness and shade, light and dark. We can create an interior space by finding the right balance between these two elements.
As a millennial, do you see the home in a conventional way like older generations do? Or is it more so a feeling without any connection to materials or furnishings for you?
I’d be more tempted to say that my home is actually the connection I feel with certain objects rather than a particular place. I’ve got a number of objects, books and fabrics that have the power to make me feel at home wherever I am. Ever since I was a boy, I’ve always travelled a lot, first with my parents and then on my own, and it’s now been twelve years since I left my home town and since I last lived for more than three years in the same place. Some objects have taken on particular significance, almost like they’ve become a kind of travelling companion or my real home. I believe that objects can possess a special energy.
What projects are you working on currently? Do you have anything new you can share with us?
I finished a piece done on glass a few days ago. The project was sponsored by the IKEA Switzerland Foundation, which gave me the opportunity to try out an unusual craftsmanship technique directly on the material itself – a real luxury: experimenting on material is a rare treat, mainly due to the time and cost involved.
I’m currently working on developing “Ritualis”, a project involving a table lamp and candle holder made from sheets of metal that are ultra-thin – just one-tenth of a millimetre thick. It’s an incredibly flexible material which lets you create shapes that would be hard to make using other materials. It’s got the lightness and look of paper but the strength and sturdiness of metal. In September, I’ll be unveiling the “Metallo dolce” brand, which will initially focus on designing and marketing two table lamp collections and one candle holder collection.