Interview with Massimo Iosa Ghini

Mr Iosa Ghini, tell us about your design and style thinking.

I remember a TV quiz where the catch phrase was “the first answer is the one that counts”. Well, in my job the opposite applies: we refine the question with partial answers, until we obtain the most advanced answer, so you could say that the last answer is the one that counts.
Sometimes I find that, after weeks of “refining”, I get the right answers almost at the last minute. You think and think for as long as possible, while keeping within the strict time limits life imposes.
This urgency sometimes tempts us to ignore the exterior message in favour of so-called substance. But I believe that content and substance cannot be separated from appearance, which is why, in my creations, I keep content and the container firmly in mind. Style identifies the container and speaks of the content. Our job is to create empathy in the use of the things and spaces we design, through the art of the visible.
Massimo Iosa Ghini, one of Italy’s most eclectic artists and designers, why do your projects and works have drawing in common? In the 80’s you were involved in avant-garde groups. Tell us about them.

Drawing is a powerful tool for creation, design and transmission. By drawing, you refine the idea and make it concrete. You design it and make it operative while you are drawing it. Drawing makes the idea profound. Draw – and you’ll have done the design.
With the design done, you must transmit the necessary elements to whoever is going to do the making. And even with today’s powerful computers, without drawing you cannot transmit an idea. I encourage my staff and students to draw while they are creating; with a good drawing, you have what needs to be done clearly in mind, and you have taken the first concrete step towards making your initial idea reality. Sometimes I do daring drawings, going beyond what I feel is possible. What is achievable is my form of research, of experimentation, the link with the avant-garde.
The avant-garde is an attitude that I would say has a political background – one goes forward with thought, one looks at what might be, one imagines it as better than reality. It’s a design squared, a super-design. The super-design is a simulation of situation. You simulate something that doesn’t exist and accelerate the process of definition of that thing.
It’s connected to science fiction, to some novels by Philip Dick and Ray Bradbury, but also with the de-negations of physicist Michio Kaku. You imagine an object, a space, a different world, even, and its definition is accelerated only through the passages. The aim is to build the ideal, a better world than that achieved by the hyper-realist or prosaic process. You obtain a poetic world, from which you get ideas for improving the real world. In the eighties, we defined the roots of the avant-garde, with discussions around the theme of speed. With Bolidism, we understood that by making society faster and more materialistic the world would change. Design where form is no longer function but image was a prophecy that came true, as today we are all icondependent
in front of the screens of our smartphones.
Perhaps the forerunner of classic contemporary style?

Classic style is the result of sedimentation of the idea we have of history. Again, this is a fact connected to images. I don’t repudiate history, which is part of our everyday, in our towns, and I integrate it daily into my accelerated, futurist vision of reality. If this becomes a new classic, that’s fine.

What are the principal architectural projects you carried out? In which countries?

I do architecture and interior design all across the world. Our studio works and has worked on some of the biggest store rollouts for retail chains – a great chance to understand the urban contexts in which they are built. International contexts,
where we also design residential buildings, such as in Berlin and Moscow, in high-level areas and buildings. There is currently a big ongoing project in Miami, where we are working on a 66-storey residential tower in the Brickell neighbourhood.
In Bologna, my town, a large structure is being created to transport people, the People Mover, for which we have done the architectural project and design concept. An innovative transport system that involves an infrastructure about 5000 meters long in total, comprising, as well as a monorail, two terminals (Airport and  railway Station) and the intermediate stop of Lazzaretto, about halfway along the route.
Few weeks ago, in Italy, we inaugurated the refit of the Chef Express motorway service area in Novara, belonging to the Cremonini Group. This is a symbolic place, an authentic icon of the motorway network. It was here in 1947 that Mario Pavesi, biscuit manufacturer, opened the first café. We came up with the architectural design for the external cladding, with special attention to matters of environmental sustainability.
What does “made in Italy” signify for you?

It has to do with the avant-garde movements. As well as signifying a solid production system, it is a way of thinking. It is based upon a fundamental idea: producing something beautiful and innovative compared with what already exists. Innovation and beauty are the distinctive features that then imply ability to do things, technology and skill. “Made in Italy” is a condemnation (gentle) towards innovation. Although we might try, the history of Italy shows that we are not great at optimising, unlike northern Europeans and some Asian countries, but we prefer to look for what is new, unexpected. The great capacity of our Italian system is being able to respond to requests by defining solutions for new requirements, an accentuated dynamic process.
This is generating a capability of response to all those specific needs that do not find solutions in a mass serial response, but whose solution lies in what is created specifically, in a special way.
This is possible thanks to technological evolution, which allows us to define highly sophisticated products and services, not necessarily associated with large-scale production.
Smart Automation 4.0 enables minimal responses with small series, no longer tied to mass production. Skilled industrial capacity at the service of a great, worldwide request for 4.0 tailoring – less seriality, more speciality. This special production ultimately determines a difference in quality throughout the production chain, especially in the mentality of those who physically make the things, the objects, the goods. Along with the effort of doing, there is the desire to do well, to improve. This is reflected at the end of the process, even in a highly industrial product like ceramics, where, however, the taste, the detail, the finishing, the obsession with quality create the difference in a product that is more evolved and more attentive to sustainability.

Collaboration with Gruppo Ceramiche Ricchetti – how did it start and how did it grow?

The collaboration with Gruppo Ceramiche Ricchetti began with Andrea Lodetti, Group CEO, and with the company’s need to develop an artistic direction, along with renewal of the corporate image. The debut was with the IN/OUT  installation, which was created during the “Interni Open Borders” exhibition event at Milan Design Week 2016: an ancestral micro-architecture in which two simple dwellings, tiled with ceramics, were in dialogue together, symbolising the open boundary between external and internal, chaos and order, individual and  community.
This was followed by I’M-MATERIAL (FuoriSalone of Milan 2017), a space made of ceramics and light that addressed the old question of the dualism between material and immaterial.
The evolution of the corporate design identity is told principally through the design of exhibition spaces for big international fairs, such as Cersaie and Coverings. This year, Cersaie 2017 gathers all the Group’s companies into a space of about 1000 square metres, where ceramic products designed by our studio are also shown.
Gruppo Ceramiche Ricchetti and Cersaie: booth, concept, image….

We began collaborating with Gruppo Ceramiche Ricchetti on Cersaie in 2016 and this year, too, we are taking up and reinterpreting the themes that we believe characterise the company: a strong presence as a Group, but at the same time a wide variety of offers, provided by the various brands, to satisfy a multi-faceted market. For this reason, I chose the theme of “work in progress”, of the “building site”, to express the spirit of the Group, as a constant ability to renew and respond to the many architectural needs that arise in both public and private design.
The architecture of the stand is the result of continuous modulation between tiled surfaces and permeable mesh, joists and uprights, which introduce the visitor to the various characters of the Group, as if in a constructed garden.
The theme of nature is central in underlining the diverse reference targets by means of the carefully chosen woods, and also in evoking the Group’s attention over the years to technological research, to achieve increasingly innovative production standards of environmental sustainability.
Tell us about Cisa’s “Craft” collection, from the concept to the product, to its appearance at Cersaie 2017.

Nowadays ceramic techniques are highly developed in their ability to reproduce and simulate natural materials, such as stones, woods, cements etc., almost completely eliminating the gap with reality. This results in us thinking counter-intuitively and giving tiles back their authenticity and traditional value of being technical covering products used as decoration. So the idea for Cisa Ceramiche’s “Craft” collection started from the graphic reworking of a gauze fabric, emphasising its texture and transparency by using sharp chromatic contrast. This material with a strong personality is intended for a discerning, selective market. At Cersaie 2017, “Craft” will act as background and connection to the common reception and meeting areas.