Children of Art: In Conversation with Italian Furniture Designers Piero Lissoni and Monica Armani
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Children of Art: In Conversation with Italian Furniture Designers Piero Lissoni and Monica Armani

Italian contemporary designers Monica Armani and Piero Lissoni. Photo courtesy of B&B Italia

Photo: B&B Italia

Discover the passion and inspiration driving acclaimed architects and designers Lissoni and Armani to create functional masterpieces in collaboration with B&B Italia

In contemporary Italian design, architects and product designers Piero Lissoni and Monica Armani are acclaimed figures in modern furniture design and full-scale interior design. The design veterans tell their story, of how they both shared an affinity for the craft and how their partnership seemed destined from the start. 

“I have always felt I am a part of this world,” says Piero Lissoni, Lissoni & Partners founder. “Just like any child, I experimented with building things and loved drawing. I wanted to be an architect.”

For Armani, it was a combination of having her father, rationalist architect Marcello Armani, to look up to and growing up in a home surrounded by art. “I am a child of art,” reminisces Armani. “I was born in a house designed by my father in the 50s and furnished with the icons that made design history.”

Decades into their foray into the world of architecture and design, Lissoni and Armani share with Vogue Philippines their design processes, their numerous collaborations with B&B Italia like the Eda-Mame armchair and PROGETTO1 table system respectively, and how they envisage the evolving future of furniture design.

How do you both find inspiration for your designs and what role does the current world play in influencing your work?

Lissoni: I’m inspired by what we could call life in general. For me, it’s impossible to choose a series of references when I’m working on a project. This is not where I start. I use a very complex matrix. I take into consideration worlds that are wildly different and then—little by little—this complexity is whittled down and sometimes becomes a design project.

Armani: Each time, for each new project, my creativity moves on two parallel paths: a context analysis work that takes into account the brand, trends, and lifestyles and the dream and the sign. I continue to refine these two processes in a kind of mutual questioning. From the synthesis of this process comes a new product.

Eda-Mame by Piero Lissoni for B&B Italia
A sketch of Eda-Mame by Piero Lissoni
Eda-Mame by Piero Lissoni for B&B Italia
Inspired by a soybean, the Eda-Mame is a sculptural armchair designed by Piero Lissoni. Photo by Lissoni & Partners.

Can you discuss the importance of materials and craftsmanship in your designs? How do you balance aesthetics with functionality?

Lissoni: If we are honest and respectful, the materials speak to you. They allow you to do certain things and they prevent you from doing others. The language is there inside; you have to listen to the voice that issues from the project. The materials have their own voice. If I have to choose between aesthetics and function, I always choose the former.

Armani: As I tell all my young students, “Endless curiosity is the prime mover of this work.” Every way of working with all materials, whether industrially or handcrafted, is interesting to me. So many of my projects are born from the reworking of these processes that allow me to bring to life my collections, which are always the synthesis of magic and logic.

Piero, your work with B&B Italia has been widely celebrated. Can you share a few of your favorite projects and the creative process behind them?

It’s impossible to choose just one. Every project is beautiful in my opinion, including all the different phases—from design to prototype. When you enter the world of the prototype, it’s like opening Pandora’s box. You discover the true nature of the project, but also all its defects. From there, you begin a journey and continue until the prototype sometimes becomes a product.

Monica, as a designer known for your innovative and responsible engineering approach, how do you integrate these principles into your work with B&B Italia?

As is well known, my studio was founded more than 25 years ago by me and my husband, Luca Dallabetta. From the beginning, in architecture and design, we combined “sign and technique.” This approach of ours was fundamental at the time of our international debut, which took place precisely with B&B with our PROGETTO1 collection. Working in their research center was instrumental in our career.

PROGETTO table system by Monica Armani
Monica Armani’s debut collection with B&B Italia, the PROGETTO1 table system. Photo by Monica Armani

What makes a design truly timeless, and how do you strive to achieve this quality in your work with B&B Italia?

Lissoni: It’s impossible to deliberately create a timeless design. It’s also a question of chance. As for me, I try to design ‘silent’ objects that tend to disappear; taking on lives of their own because no one disturbs them and they, in turn, disturb no one.

Armani: I like to think that all my products first have a harmonious mark, and I believe this is the secret to their international success. My designs are never shouted but designed to be authentically lasting. Add to that the intrinsic quality of the materials we use, the industrial culture of B&B Italia, and a symbiosis between them and me in the fine-tuning and care of every smallest detail.

How do you see the future of design evolving, particularly in the context of sustainability and social responsibility?

Lissoni: I believe that design has simply to be responsible and honest. There are various levels of responsibility for someone who constructs and dedicates their efforts and dreams to what they are doing. The future does not lie in the hands of designers, but in the hands of companies and a complex system of which we are just one part. 

However, sustainability lies in choosing the right materials. Generally, I think that the best way to be sustainable is to realize objects and products that can last as long as possible, and this is exactly what I have always done and will continue to do.

Armani: I think my design is an episode in a centuries-old history that will last for a long time to come. The combination of sign and manufacture has made the history of Italian culture. It is this sophisticated process that gives rise to authentically lasting objects, and this when you think about it is a great value for sustainability.

Interview answers were edited for clarity. B&B Italia is exclusively distributed in the Philippines by Focus Global Inc. at Twenty-four Seven Building, 24th Street corner 7th Avenue, McKinley Parkway, Taguig City. For more information, visit B&B Italia Manila’s official website and follow them on Instagram and Facebook.

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