Gioia's monolith - Design - Domus
Gioia's monolith
 

Gioia's monolith

A steel monolith demonstrates Gioia Meller Marcovicz’s skill in drawing the line between art and design. Design Gioia Meller Marcovicz. Text Lucy Bullivant. Photos 747 Studios.

 

Design

Gioia Meller Marcovicz is a rare designer in that she started off as an haute couture expert, and switched tracks to one-off and industrially produced furniture. She is fond of quoting artist David Hockney’s deadpan humour: “Art has to move you and design does not, unless it’s a good design for a bus.” But she adds her own words to sum up her career: “Whether through industry or art, my aim has been to find solutions, but art pieces give you more freedom.”

After 14 years (1977-91) directing Zwei, her successful fashion business in London, she was hungry for a new challenge and decided to go back to college, first to the London College of Furniture and then the Royal College of Art. At her RCA graduate show, Issey Miyake commissioned her distinctive sofa design with drop-down arms. From that starry point onwards she continued to produce winning solutions including Bia, a floor lamp with rotating lampshades of overlapping forms, for ClassiCon, in 1995. Eight years later she was living in a palazzo in Venice, and she launched the production company Gioia to develop and market her own furniture and lighting.

The secret to her success in furniture can be traced in her approach to fashion: “I never cared about the decorative aspect of clothes, for instance using patterned fabrics or adding extra pockets, bows or buttons. The importance lay in the cut, the fit, the shape, the structure.” Her clothes were plain, simple and wearable, multifunctional designs to suit entirely diverse situations. It is significant that her furniture also embodies these concepts, without relinquishing sensuality or freedom of movement. Her work is innately adaptable: a sofa turns into a bed, a larger table collapses into being a coffee table, a dining chair is tipped over to become a lounge chair, the armrests of a chair are pushed to the side to make it into a three-seater, and the shades of a lamp are twisted to create different forms or functions for reading or simply to tilt their illuminating function to the ceiling or wall.

The secret to her success in furniture can be traced in her approach to fashion: “I never cared about the decorative aspect of clothes, for instance using patterned fabrics or adding extra pockets, bows or buttons. The importance lay in the cut, the fit, the shape, the structure.” Her clothes were plain, simple and wearable, multifunctional designs to suit entirely diverse situations. It is significant that her furniture also embodies these concepts, without relinquishing sensuality or freedom of movement. Her work is innately adaptable: a sofa turns into a bed, a larger table collapses into being a coffee table, a dining chair is tipped over to become a lounge chair, the armrests of a chair are pushed to the side to make it into a three-seater, and the shades of a lamp are twisted to create different forms or functions for reading or simply to tilt their illuminating function to the ceiling or wall.

Being a designer who is also her own manufacturing director, she is highly adept at finding and working with the most suitable firms in Europe, especially Italy and Germany. Now her next collections of small, exclusive editions are being developed for eventual showings at two leading galleries, one in London and one in Munich. The Monolith, her latest design for a dining table and chairs for up to ten people, is a sign of things to come. Made entirely from sheet stainless steel, it is a sculpture that you can use in the normal way for dining, and evolved from thinking about how her large palazzo living room could best match her sociable lifestyle. The main meeting room of her palazzo was, like most in Venice further back in history, used for business, and she was anxious to ensure that its lofty atmosphere was not compromised by a large, strait-laced dining arrangement. The space needed something with impact yet neatly sized and manageably adaptable.

Her modest cardboard model piqued the interest of a Parisian art collector she knew, who immediately commissioned The Monolith for his home. That meant Meller Marcovicz could choose such a precious material as stainless steel, not an option for an industrial range. Because it is a heavy metal, she used the finest gauge (3 millimetres) so that two people can carry the table, which has a top measuring 90 centimetres x 2.5 metres. Taking advantage of the material’s capacity to be bent and welded, she has devised an easy-to-use machine with a top that rests on a bed of rollers. For use, it can be smoothly rolled into position and then, with its custom-made hinge, opened up like a book. The chairs’ adaptable formula allows them to “merge” into the sculptural form, being fitted with hinges that fold up to fit the chairs into the table, and down for sitting.

“I didn’t invent the concept of hiding chairs in a nest,” says Meller Marcovicz, “but I’ve added the sculptural value. The function is engrained, while the art aspect dares to go off the cliff.” With its artistic roots discernable in the work of Serra, Judd and Kapoor, The Monolith strikes a compelling and versatile balance between art and design.

The
chairs are also fitted
with hinges – folding
up for fitting into the
table, folding down
for sitting

The chairs are also fitted with hinges – folding up for fitting into the table, folding down for sitting


The
tabletop is attached to
the base and lies on a
bed of rollers. A custom-
made hinge connects
two plates that
open out to become a
full-sized table

The tabletop is attached to the base and lies on a bed of rollers. A custom- made hinge connects two plates that open out to become a full-sized table


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Design / Beatrice Galilee