The “bon viveur” of Domus’ editors, Flavio Albanese was born in Vicenza on 28 September 1951, under the sign of Libra. “We must be effective as well as efficient.” was his mantra in the editorial office. An excellent organiser, pragmatic and observant of the tiniest detail, he moulded a close-knit work team. Condensed, lively and slightly “schizophrenic” – his definition not ours – his weekly meetings might sometimes develop into mini-parties, a preamble to real parties, such as the one in Berlin celebrating the magazine’s new graphic design by onlab, with the editor acting as chef and the entire editorial staff busy in the kitchen. It is he who must take the credit for – among other things – our beautiful offices, proof of his conviction that people must surround themselves with art and beauty. During his tenure, contemporary art was to play an even more important role, entrusted to the expert gaze of Francesco Bonami. In his first editorial, he promised readers “honest lies” and to sail the “heavy seas of contemporary life” together.
Piece of architecture – Mies’ Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin is powerful in that it is and it isn’t. During the Berlin night, you can see the city inside and around it. By day, it is reflected in it, vanishing and reappearing in a fragile but forceful dialogue. I am amazed every time I see it.
Design object – My favourite design object is the Brionvega Cubo. I have always been a passionate radio listener. I find it a splendid device that, unlike television, offers great freedom of imagination and movement, not forcing listeners into a static and passive state. Zanuso’s design has an added advantage over the screen – once closed, it is no longer an appliance but becomes a small and discreet presence in the domestic ecosystem.
Work of art – Choose a masterpiece of art: painting, sculpture, music, literature, dance… If I really must choose, I will stop at Mantegna’s Camera degli Sposi. You are wrapped in a painting inside a closed building that is open on the landscape, with gold-embossed leather curtains serving as temporary walls. It is a celebration of the Gonzaga apotheosis, the balance of religious and secular power but, equally, the family and familiar relationships – all steeped in a strange stillness. Military power and sentiment are perfectly coupled, with people, dogs, architecture and splendid horses all on the same imaginary plane.
A book – Two very different books: Of the Nature of Things by Lucretius (second book) and Shipwreck with Spectator by Blumenberg. Both portray the castaway but from opposite standpoints – one dramatic and hazardous, the other hopeful and with chances of salvation. I think that, today more than ever, architecture offers a chance of salvation, to look beyond the boundaries and at the margins of human cohabitation, far removed from the sensational and more focused on small opportunities for redemption.
Art director: Giuseppe Basile, onlab – Nicolas Bourquin
Deputy editor: Stefano Casciani
Consultant to the editor: Massimiliano Marchica