“Made in Italy” is an infinitely facetted brand. It still exerts a strong attraction but with its highly varied and changing identity it embraces great masters, undying masterpieces and the products of a continuing industry. Despite having become a legend, “Italian design” is a phenomenon that still has its living witnesses. In some ways these are the founding fathers of Made in Italy, contemporary oracles who are rightfully and universally recognised as authorities on design, whose opinion is worth considering. Thus a radical thinker like Enzo Mari has found himself involved in a conference on “luxury”. Not in the guise of an antagonist, addressing the topic as a social polemic, but as a guest around the table amidst champagne and high-end luxury vehicles.
“Mari, what do you think of our luxury speedboats that are also an important product of Italian design?” San Lorenzo, a leading boat builder in the elitist world of yachting, invited Enzo Mari to express his opinion on their products. Subjects: wealth, beauty and in one way or another, the sea. Mari observes that someone interested in a product such as a yacht is certainly rich but also possesses a strong inclination for beauty in a broad sense and therefore for art. Without Lorenzo the Magnificent, Pope Julius II, Pericles, and the kings of France, we would be without almost all the art of the western world that makes part of our cultural identity. Undoubtedly, to a certain extent art is made where wealth and beauty is manifested and where there is space to produce it. Beauty is intended as a total cultural phenomenon that, even in the latest industrial design products, involves the entire history of western thought.
At San Lorenzo well-known designers were encouraged to have a specific opinion on the beauty of their products, Mari replied. The main problem is achieving quality. Not in a theoretical sense, as a fundamentally instrumental value that is certainly of a high level in products at the top end of the range. The problem is the quality of the form. Good form is what there is, not what seems. Talking of luxury boats the theme broadens. Here we are dealing with large boats that are technologically developed to travel great distances over water in a short space of time, with sophisticated navigation equipment controlled by a specialised team. But they are at the same time large luxury apartments with environments and services that go well beyond the essential requirements of resting during navigation: they have fixtures and finishes on a par with a villa.
Therefore, judging the quality of the interiors, Mari recognises the quality and good taste of San Lorenzo, compared with the stereotyped and flashy fit-outs of many of its competitors. At the same time, however, here form is detached from its substance, where the hydrodynamics of the exterior do not coincide with the effective use of these boats. Because the dream represented by the hull of these boats, of ploughing the waves from Venice to Labrador, does not coincide with the stationary use anchored in front of half the world’s beaches. It would be perhaps more appropriate to study floating villas, without motors, left to float before the most beautiful panoramas of the world and perhaps towed by another vehicle from one setting to another. The public forms their own taste on the totality of the stimuli to which it is subjected, and in a certain way can do none other that fit in with the other of products available on the market. Perhaps the companies themselves could consciously start to produce alternative typologies that come closer to a real quality of form for living, developing innovative luxury solutions, not necessarily decorated by false myths.