Roberto Sironi

Alert to the anthropological side of design, Roberto Sironi tells us about his new project – Fuoco – developed with the Bensimon gallery and the Fonderia Battaglia. #MDW2017

Roberto Sironi: Fuoco project developed with Gallery S. Bensimon and Fonderia Artistica Battaglia, for Miart 2017 and Milano Design Week 2017. Photo Federico Villa
Roberto Sironi graduated in industrial design from Milan Polytechnic, where he now works as a researcher in the design department. Born in 1983, Sironi was awarded an honourable mention in the Compasso d’Oro two years ago for his project Madre Pane (Mother bread), a series of refractory ceramic stamps inspired by the early twentieth-century Southern Italian traditional of stamping unbaked dough with an identifying mark, so that the loaves could be recognised once they came out the communal ovens.
Roberto Sironi: Fuoco project developed with Gallery S. Bensimon and Fonderia Artistica Battaglia, for Miart 2017 and Milano Design Week 2017. Photo Federico Villa
Roberto Sironi: Fuoco project developed with Gallery S. Bensimon and Fonderia Artistica Battaglia, for Miart 2017 and Milano Design Week 2017. Photo Federico Villa
The designer looks first of all to the anthropological side of design and its endless possibilities. Sironi sees each project as a journey through the multiple possibilities of the materials that most inspire him. He examines their history and their use in different traditions, but in a way completely free of preconceptions – his collection Mother Earth is a happy ensemble of objects created in different types of ceramic material, but in an absolutely contemporary style. Roberto Sironi loves design as he loves the freedom to look to the past to re-imagine the present. He loves bringing together things that are ostensibly very different– fire-damaged wood and tomorrow’s internet, for example – but which are then united by a unique style that is all his own. His works gets at the essence of things, creating each time, with a different rationale dictated by the context, a new expressive language – and with it his own point of view. His is an atypical language, one that whispers instead of shouts, but has deep roots and a marked capacity for surprise.
Roberto Sironi loves design as he loves the natural world, which has inspired more than one of his collections, but equally he is interested in investigating the technologies of today – those enclosed in a laptop – and so the history of a burnt and abandoned piece of wood. Recently, he wandered through the Lombardy woods in search of these, using them to make a collection of objects, some of which will be replicated in bronze, another material with ancient origins that has a deep fascination for him. This latest work is called Fuoco (Fire). It is the product of an obsession with time and the inexorable traces it leaves on things. When talking about design, though, Sironi uses another metaphor, this time meteorological – rain, storms and clear skies… As when the ancients attempted to give answers to ancestral questions (which are the same today), questions to which there are in truth no indestructible answers.

Maria Cristina Didero: What is your relationship with design and how did it start?

Roberto Sironi: It varies. There are days when my work makes me happy, others less so. My daily relationship with design changes like the weather: there are sunny days, rainy days, and then there are storms – and sometimes the sky is completely clear.

Maria Cristina Didero: I understand that you like working with natural materials that can be fashioned, such as stone, alabaster and ceramics. What is your design style?

Roberto Sironi: I believe in the theory that everything is design. Art, design and science have the same meaning. As I see it, there is no difference between these disciplines. Art is full of science and vice versa. There are no boundaries. Materials are everything to me. They are my support, they grab me. I try to use materials like a painter uses colours; I have enormous respect for materials like stone and wood that need years, centuries or millennia to develop. The awareness of their use is fundamental and changes your perspective completely.

Roberto Sironi: Fuoco project developed with Gallery S. Bensimon and Fonderia Artistica Battaglia, for Miart 2017 and Milano Design Week 2017. Photo Federico Villa
Roberto Sironi: Fuoco project developed with Gallery S. Bensimon and Fonderia Artistica Battaglia, for Miart 2017 and Milano Design Week 2017. Photo Federico Villa

Maria Cristina Didero: You are a researcher at Milan Polytechnic. Can you tell me about that? What is satisfying about the work and how do you find it enriching?

Roberto Sironi: I work in the field of wearable technology, so I have the opportunity to exchange ideas every day with a multidisciplinary team of architects, biotechnologists and electronic engineers. We try to bring together arts, science and technical disciplines. It completes my approach and gives me a different perspective on things. Disseminating knowledge is the point of research and that’s an idea that can make you happy.

Maria Cristina Didero: How much time do you spend on your personal research, and how do you make your projects concrete?

Roberto Sironi: Research is everything for me. There is no schematic modus operandi. I always try to find the right approach for each new project. Travelling and going “out in the field” is definitely the best way. I try to avoid getting swallowed up by the web. I like walking around quarries and woods, where I have a physical and dimensional relationship with things. I try to embody the figure of the contemporary designer – someone who is fluid, as in Zygmunt Bauman’s vision of modernity. I can design equally with CAD or a pen, or by meeting people or wandering in the mountains in search of materials. My generation came to the world of work during the economic crisis, so we exploit all the means at our disposal to get the best result. We’re a guerrilla band.


Maria Cristina Didero: Wood – an iconic material – has a particular fascination for you. Tell me about your latest project, Fuoco, which you are presenting at the next Salone del Mobile. Why have you chosen to use fire-damaged wood? Is there perhaps the theme of reclamation in all this? Some of these pieces will then become bronzes…

Roberto Sironi: I am presenting a preview of Fuoco with the Bensimon gallery and the Fonderia Artistica Battaglia – it’s a project we’ve been working on with great enthusiasm. Fire has an ancestral call for me. Burning wood is a symbol of the beginning of things. I am fascinated even more by the look of carbonised wood and how it can express a conceptual value. I understood right from the start that I would have to pursue the project fully, and get down to its essence. I got in touch with Giuseppe Pruneri, a friend of mine and the owner of Haute Material, and we went to the woods in the Valtellina, 2,000 metres above sea level, looking for trees destroyed by fire. It was an experience I have repeated by exploring other woods across much of the arc of the Prealps in Lombardy, looking for interesting wood, pieces I can see something in. The pieces – some of them re-burnt – are given new life and meaning by fusing them with bronze. This has allowed me to recreate the thermic process of heating and cooling that brings the sculpture to life.

Maria Cristina Didero: If design reflects its time, how do you interpret this idea in your work? I am referring here to your project on “big data”.

Roberto Sironi: In my projects, I am always engaged with time. There was a stage when I tried to recover things from the past, but now I want to work on ideas about changes brought about today by new communication technologies. I am beginning to work on a project on the theme of “big data”, or how the “Internet of things” is having an effect on our lives. There’s a wealth of material to think about. I want to set up a short circuit between different concepts of the technological era, such as the memory of data or strings of code, and the use of ancient and primordial materials like stone.

Maria Cristina Didero: Do you have any particular obsessions?

Roberto Sironi: I think that my most problematic is my relationship with the flow of time. I have never owned a watch or had a clock on my wall. One day, I would like to design a clock though – I particularly like the work of Maarten Baas.

Maria Cristina Didero: Do you see the history of design – the pages already written – as a source of inspiration, or are you focused solely on the future?

Roberto Sironi: I think it’s important to know everything that has been done, but I try to maintain an attitude of detachment from the figures and the work of the past. I’m now more interested in connecting with the current changes underway in our society, and so I would prefer my objects to reflect the here and now.

Maria Cristina Didero: Do you take a close interest in any particular figures?

Roberto Sironi: I have always followed conceptual art movements with interest, particularly those connected to Arte Povera and Mono-ha. Vinicio Capossela and Björk inspire me, and I have a weakness for the French poets of the nineteenth century.

Maria Cristina Didero: La multidisciplinarietà funziona secondo te?

Roberto Sironi: Multidisciplinarity is everything. It creates biodiversity. It’s the difference between staying in the same place and travelling.

Maria Cristina Didero: How do you see yourself in 50 years?
Roberto Sironi: I find it very difficult to imagine. I find it hard to look beyond tomorrow; the truth is that I feel very focused on the present.

© all rights reserved

Most recent

Latest on Domus

Read more
China Germany India Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Sri Lanka Korea icon-camera close icon-comments icon-down-sm icon-download icon-facebook icon-heart icon-heart icon-next-sm icon-next icon-pinterest icon-play icon-plus icon-prev-sm icon-prev Search icon-twitter icon-views icon-instagram