Please enter a long search term
Interview with the designer who makes marble flexible, creates objects from piles of stones and takes a metal sheet to the very limits of its possibilities. Not to create an unexpected effect, but always guided by importance on sustainability and economy of form. #MDW2016
Lorenzo Damiani is one of the designers who can be considered a worthy heir to the great masters of Italian design from the 1960s. He is in fact the only one of his generation to be granted “free access” to the Fondazione Achille Castiglione with a solo exhibition in 2012. He has clearly also absorbed from that history the capacity to render the heavy light and to place opposites in harmonious equilibrium.
In fact this was also one of the great lessons of Munari, to mix materials, imagining them with the opposite properties to the usual ones, in a material oxymoron that is almost a surrealist reminder. Thus Lorenzo makes marble flexible, creates objects from piles of stones and takes a metal sheet to the very limits of its possibilities, like a bridge suspended in midair. However this work, despite being at times spectacular, is not based on a desire to amaze or create an unexpected effect. It is always guided by research that places importance on sustainability and economy of form, where the minimisation of waste or reuse of it becomes the most faithful accomplice to achieving a successful design.
Extensive research, that signifies a thorough knowledge of manufacturing methods forms the basis of developing the most effective method of avoiding useless steps, unusable offcuts, loss of energy. It is perhaps precisely this complexity that means that when Damiani identifies a thread to explore, he takes it right to the extreme and continues to work on the same product type or with the same material. Thus his latest pieces presented at the Salone feature a number of constants: the metal bench and the object in marble.
His most recent works in fact include two benches. The first is called Aerea, produced for Da a and has emerged from heavy industry, more precisely from a mechanical component used to make an aerial platform (hence the name). It is based on a piece of laser-cut metal that is folded to create a rigid octagonal shape. The structure is then reinforced by an internal skeleton in such a way that it does not require additional elements of support that would interrupt the continuity. The result is a real suspended bridge with a clean-cut appearance and an extraordinary feeling of lightness, despite the solidity of the structure or perhaps precisely because of it.
Benna, made by Da a, is a bench that is again based on an element that already exists in the heavy mechanical industry. It is made using a mould that is normally used for producing grabs for agricultural use. The clever part of the design is the way that the two halves that go to make it up, do not enter into contact with the upper part and are stiffened by a tight curve that runs along the length. Again the base is a sheet of laser-cut metal where waste is minimised and the production stages are simplified as much as possible. The final key detail is the way the individual benches can be connected together using a simple fixing that makes them into a real actual system. It is perhaps this variability of configuration that led to the selection of Benna as a seat to symbolise the XXI Triennale with a limited edition in the characteristic red colour and the institution's logo.
The other major theme in Damiani’s latest work is the use of marble. Everything is based on a simple but realistic consideration: “Marble, like other natural materials ransacked by man – explains the designer – is destined to run out in a future that who knows how close it may be. A new possibility for ecological and rational use could involve a reduction in thickness, that is sometimes needlessly exaggerated.” This has led to a number of designs based on respect for raw materials. The first, produced by Luce di Carrara, is the Monolithos collection, a bath and sink obtained from a single monolithic block of marble. The block is cut with a diamond wire and from this is first derived the part for the base that is then worked and shaped with a five axis grinder and then the cornice that makes up the sides of the bathtub. This cut generates two other blocks that are used to cut out the sinks or tables, in such a way that none of the original volume is made unusable by the cutting. If in sculpture, marble is worked by "taking away" in industrial design, the aim is to skilfully come up with the right cut to save the greatest possible amount of material.
For the project Marmo Leggero with the company Pusterla Marmo, the theme was reduction of thickness. Damiani explains the collection: “Tables, stools and benches that in their design and production, challenge the usual notion of a material that is noble and antique, never before used in this new way: forms that up until now due to their curved surfaces could only be cut by grinding the block are now produced by simply bending thin sheets of marble, giving rise to surprising designs that offer considerable savings of material”.
Alongside this we find Boboli, a collection of vases and objects that is based on the reuse of waste. Also for Pusterla Marmi, Damiani has designed a series of vases and tables obtained from the assembly of stones in Carrara marble that are first glued and then modelled with CNC cutters. The result seems that of objects made by separate elements held together almost by magic, where the void plays an essential role as much as the solid of the raw material. Between one stone and another there is not resin but just a binder that creates invisibly the effect of suspension of material. A way of “utilising the residual resources giving them another possibility of use” as the designer puts it, and to do it in such a way that creates a strong visual impact.
To complete this interest in stone, Damiani is part of the collective "Doppia firma" that has created a dialogue between artisans and designers. He is working with an expert in the treatment of cooking stones to create a multi-functional pan that combines one of the most antique and healthy means of cooking with new functional possibilities for the conservation and presentation of food.