Piero Lissoni: don't call me architectArchitects
The project view as a responsibility and a daily dialogue. Our interview to Piero Lissoni
The editorial staff of Isplora, a few days before the start of the 2019 Salone del Mobile, met one of the most important architects and designers of the world: Piero Lissoni. In an interview with Lissoni, we explored the intense design activity of Lissoni Associati, their themes and works, exploring in particular the discourse on the genesis of the creative process: between proportions and invention.
Piero Lissoni: architect, builder, creator, designer, inventor. How would you define yourself?
Let’s put it this way: more or less an anarchist, more or less disciplined and quite responsible. “Architect” seems quite offensive, “being an architect” is sometimes an excellent way to do something ignominious, as if this minor art had the ability and power to give consent to any monstrosity.
I don’t disavow the role of the architect, I am very happy to be one, but at the same time I am also a bit anarchist, quite disciplined and I try to be as responsible as I can.
The topic of the responsibility of the project is crucial, we can’t, as you said before, bring a series of operations which have little to do with architecture under a single umbrella.
Whatever we do, any move, is a sort of Pasodoble: on the one hand there is what I can call the political, daily dimension of our profession, on the other hand there is an act of responsibility, dialog and discussion, while remaining rigorously responsible. This leads you to be an architect who is a bit more disciplined.
So, which is the relationship with your many works: buildings, installations, furniture and objects? Is there a leitmotiv or is every project the result of a specific situation?
I happily grew up with a very humanistic vision of the profession given by the Politecnico in Milan. For me being an architect has meant different aspects connected to one element, which is proportion. Proportion is human proportion, not proportion per se. So anything I touch runs this sort of gauntlet, be it a building, a factory, a museum, a boat, an interior or an object. The leitmotiv is given by proportion, moving through different scales and different types of knowledge. If an architect doesn’t know anything about engineering, he might as well change his job, the same thing is true for designers and technology.
Speaking of “proportion”, you often mentioned “right disproportion” and “repeated error” when talking about your production. So architecture and design are a continuous experimentation experience?
I assume that everything is connected to a model of proportions which started thousands of years ago and has a strong connection between us human beings and the things that surround us. We even got to the point that we theorized the “golden ratio” and the Pi. Then however you have to try and leave this behind, trying to make some mistakes. I think failure is a wonderful teacher, but repeating mistakes gratuitously is quite foolish.
From the outside it seems that every project hides an amused approach, almost ironic, curious, inquiring. Are these all essential elements in your creative process?
Absolutely, but when we are dealing with complex projects, both industrial design or buildings, I try to be the least ironic possible.
Instead, I like the idea of having fun, that is true, of sometimes laughing about what I do, of making mistakes.
At this point, where do Piero Lissoni’s projects come from?
My projects are the result of a daily dialog with my interlocutors. No project is born by virtue of the ability of an architect or a designer per se. All our projects are the result of close daily cooperation, a dialog and debate which sometimes end in lively arguments, this is the first part. The second part is that I need strong interlocutors, working with a weak interlocutor has never led me to deal with good projects in my experience. The quality of the projects is the result of more than one person, but is mainly due to the fact that I have excellent clients.
The future of Lissoni associati? Are there any particular projects under way? What are you preparing for the Salone del Mobile?
We have a great number of projects, more or less 28 sites all over the world, and they include factories, private buildings, residences, hotels, headquarters, designed by the Milan-based firm, while in the American one in New York we develop and control all the architecture projects which refer to the Atlantic hemisphere.
For the Salone, I have been working with businesses that are in our "catalog": Alpi, Boffi, B&B, DePadova, Flos, Glas, Kartell, Kerakoll, Knoll, Lema, Living Divani, Porro, Salvatori, etc.
All our clients present something special for the Salone del Mobile, every year!
So this is a very busy period...
The reason why I do this job is first of all because I like it and then, or maybe mainly, because I am very passionate. The day I’ll no longer be so passionate and I only see it as a job maybe I’ll try skiing instead!
I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of being a ski instructor, teaching a very technical and very “physical” movement, physical intended as physics and not muscles.
This reminds me of Carlo Mollino...
Yes, Mollino. If I have to choose an architect who has always fascinated me because of the girls he chose, his passion for ski, speed, flying and cars… I mean… What more could you want more from life? (he laughs)
Moving on, easy question, according to Piero Lissoni can something still be invented?
I think so, if you consider how electronics or molecular chemistry are developing.
Of course things can still be invented! Just look at how the structural prodromes of all things change every day: from cars to buildings to bicycles. It’s different in terms of form, although technology very often modifies the form, so there is no need to worry.
Cover photo: Piero Lissoni, by Matthias Ziegler