Following his recent solo show at MAMbo, Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna, architect Massimo Iosa Ghini talks about his thirty-year career and his contribution to the evolution of Italian society. From fashion to Bolidismo, from the first chain stores to IBM briefing centres, from the Oko Office Building in Moscow to the recent Linea di Luce project for Iris-FMG Fabbrica Marmi e Graniti’s showroom.
What can we expect to see at MAMbo in Bologna? How did this thirty-year adventure begin?
The exhibition at Mambo reflects my own personal evolution, the evolution of the world of design and the evolution of Italian society and lifestyles, all starting in the '80s, a time of great power and strength. I started out in fashion, and in fact the exhibition includes some of my designs for Ferré, Krizia and other stylists at that time.
What is Bolidismo, the movement you became famous for when you were still very young, and what is its message for the present day?
Bolidismo’s manifesto was all about speed. There was no internet in those days, but the movement had an inkling of the idea of simultaneity, of a world in which information would travel much faster, practically instantly. And our reaction, as young architects, was to represent speed in the physicality of objects, in the objects themselves.
You have worked on a lot of shops and showrooms in your career. How has retail design changed in recent years, and how do you think of it today?
The first shops of any real importance that I worked on were Swatch stores. After which Elio Fiorucci asked me to design some of his stores, which were already something like a chain. And now this is the method: we come up with a concept and apply it to the world as a system, in some cases on a very large scale.
Then there are some retail projects linked with brands that don’t sell a physical product. We recently worked on IBM briefing centres, which are places where the company receives a brief from the client about the software. It’s still a matter of sales, not of a material product but of a project. There’s a shift from the atom to the bit.
The Mambo exhibition includes projects you designed for both Italian and international companies. How has the designer’s relationship with the client changed?
The Italian productive system generated an opportunity to cultivate creativity. Our industry is made up of lots of small but very flexible companies capable of working on projects that the big international companies wouldn’t dream of working on. And this is where the difference lies: the ability to set your heart beyond the barrier, which is a rule for us, an ability that we need to continue developing.
Tell us about Oko, the residential and office complex in Moscow, an important interior design project you currently have underway.
The Oko Office Building is a big complex in Moscow City, Moscow’s office district. In this project we’re using 150x300 cm tiles, a major technological innovation developed in recent years by Iris-FMG Fabbrica Marmi e Graniti, with some really new finishes. It truly is a pleasure to see them made, because these are surfaces that have very little grouting, creating a very prestigious look that I like to use both on the floor and, in part, on the walls.
And what does Massimo Iosa Ghini have to say about sustainability?
I think that what sustainability means today is managing to come up with new interpretations of the idea that we need to save energy, without giving up the effect of surprise, of discovery. Because this is the point: we need to make things that are sustainable, but beautiful too!
After working on the new showroom in Iris-FMG Fabbrica Marmi e Graniti's historic premises, you completed the design by redeveloping the outdoor area around it. What is Linea di luce?
Linea di Luce came about after designing the Iris-FMG showrooms, in which the key idea is dematerialisation. A showroom must provide a background for a product, without competing with it for attention. The basic idea is transparency, light, intangibility as the substrate supporting the tile itself, to highlight all its expressiveness.
The idea of light also inspired me outside the building, where the product is clearly showcased in application in a public space, which also represents the company for practical purposes, where it can organise events. Conceptually the result is a sort of embrace, because the space has a curved shape inspired by the ancient Greek amphitheatre.
To me architecture is design, but also a place of dialogue determining something physical, a manufacture which is based on our culture, on the imagery we all have as citizens living in the city.