Milan – Oddly enough, globetrotting design powerhouse Paola Navone is thinking of an object-free future for the world. Where did that idea come from?
Here, the discusses what she’s learned since her early days as an architecture student at the Polytechnic University of Turin.
‘During my studies I discovered, somewhat by accident, that there were groups of architects doing something very different from what I was being taught. They were not interested in designing “normal” buildings, like the ones I was learning to build, but rather fantastical ones, utopias. I was so fascinated by their ideas that I started to physically run after them. I travelled all over the world with the objective of meeting everyone creating this type of conceptual work. I went to see Archizoom Associati, Superstudio, UFO in Florence, Archigram in London, Paolo Soleri’s Arcosanti in Arizona and so on.’
‘Our mission [at Studio Alchimia] was to understand what we could do for tomorrow. In 1978 we presented our first collection, Bau.Haus uno, at the Salone del Mobile in Milan. Nobody bought our collections, but we didn’t care. We were trying to imagine a new way of working – a new kind of design. By then Italian design was already famous, but it was all black and made from leather and steel. We wanted to propose something different. We worked with colour, pattern and asymmetry. We covered furniture with designs and patterns, when most of what was on the market resembled a blank canvas.’
A good meal promotes sociability, and good design works in much the same way: it starts a conversation
‘So much has changed since I started with Abet Laminati. The approach to design and the history of design have changed enormously. Production is very different now. The use of digital printing has completely changed how we produce, communicate and sell our designs. Because data sharing is so fast, we can go quickly from design to production. Before, every collection we released had a huge economic impact. We had to sell thousands of metres of laminates in order to make it pay. It was unthinkable for an architect back then to ask for a custom laminate. Today we can print almost anything.’