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Above: Piero Lissoni, image courtesy Lissoni Associati. Article by Sandra Tan.
Much about Piero Lissoni – his reputation as prolific creative director of Lema, his masterful body of work – is dauntingly impressive. Hence, upon meeting him on his recent visit to Australia as a guest of Rogerseller, I was caught slightly off-guard by his humour, and quietly conversational manner. Coming from Italy, where the heritage of European design continues to shape global trends, Lissoni shared his perspective on design cultures, the creative process and his longstanding relationship with Lema.
ADR: Have you observed a marked difference in the way people interact with design in Australia, and the way it is expressed?
PL: No. Design is a specific, and if you like, consequential attitude, shaped by an economic attitude. This is equally relevant in any other country, though Australia is far away from the rest of the world. But without factories, it’s impossible to do anything. Think of California, the San Fransisco area, and why technology is growing there. Because it’s full of factories! And a sense of purpose. And it’s the same in Italy, with furniture. It’s possible now to grow a good design movement here in Australia, but without factories, there are no possibilities.
Do you think good design is economic? And if so, will we see China become a bigger force in design?
It is of course possible for China to become a design leader. But for China to truly compete on the world scale, they have to respect the rules. They have to address human rights, and they have to pay people correctly. The playing field is not equal in that sense. In Europe, we achieve quality, and you have to pay for quality.
Can you share an insight into your design philosophy – how do you think about your profession?
Humans started to design as monkeys. We could move a stone next to a tree and start to invent a new chair! This level of interaction, it’s in the nature of human beings. Historically speaking, we never forgot the interaction between space and the object inside.
I jump away from this strong definition because it sounds a little bit too German, but they like to say ‘form und funktion’. Of course form follows function. But ultimately, we choose something because we like it, not because we need exactly that object. I’m not thinking about the manufacturing or the function, it’s a sentimentality – we use our soul, our taste.
You have been working with Lema for a long time.
Unfortunately for them, yes!
What are the projects that you have been most satisfied with out of that collaboration?
It’s really a day by day project. We started to work together in 1995, so over more than 20 years – it’s not a new chair, it’s not a new system, it’s not a new bed or wardrobe, but it’s the day by day collaboration. When you work in a team like that, everything becomes interesting, and at the same time, everything can become quite boring. But the real project is the continuity. It’s not a new product, because that can be a little bit banal.
But I smile when I talk about all our projects, because they are ecologically respectful. Components are durable, and the life of the piece is 10 or 15 years. And I don’t just mean material durability, but the aesthetic durability – I think that is the secret to being both modern and timeless. To be respectful.
How do you feel about being the public face of Lema?
They pay quite well.
But really, it is fun. And you have to use fun. It’s a strange profession, with a combination between work, passion, knowledge and surprise. You have to combine many different worlds, and you need to keep things moving forward.
Lema, arguably Italy’s finest designer and manufacturer of wardrobes, living systems and furniture, is known for its continuous production of innovative and sophisticated living pieces. With a large team of celebrated designers who hail from all corners of the globe, Lema enjoys a constant stream of original designs inspired by the unique backgrounds of its multicultural team.
A stylish collection of new furniture from LEMA, designed under the direction of Piero Lissoni, is now available at Rogerseller.
Based around King Living’s engineered steel frame, the new Zaza sofa blends form and function with detachable backs and arms.