i-ItalyNY - 5thBirthday Special Issue. The Best of i-Itay - page 33

Special Issue | Winter 2017-2018 |
i-Italy Magazine
| 33
ured out how to restore order to
that space “with a beautiful hidden
bookcase” he’d seen at Ikea!
No high-end designers? I asked.
Just a piece of furniture from Ikea
that anyone can afford?
“Yes,” he answered. “You can
find excellent design pieces there!
Good, clean designs made with a
minimum amount of labor and
great modularity. That’s how you
do design.”
‘My style is minimalist’
Here I am, remembering – a little
nostalgically – the time I stood in
front of his hidden bookcases, in
a space where every contour had
been thought out, including the
profile of its owner and architect.
“Beautiful, huh?” said Massimo.
“My style is minimalist. Every lan-
guage has its own rules; everyone
has his own style and rules. That’s
why every house is different. My
style is more minimalist. You need
to keep subtracting until you’re left
with something.” The bookcases
from Ikea were a case in point.
Design Is One
Everything about the house of Mas-
simo and Lella Vignelli suggested
a life devoted to design, an intel-
lectual journey culminating in his
famous slogan: “Design is one.”
What does that mean in lay-
man’s terms? I asked.
“Design Is One was the title of
my lecture,” said Vignelli. “The idea
goes back to the Viennese [Adolf]
Loos, who believed that an archi-
tect must know how to make every-
thing, from a spoon to a city. Loos
was against specialization because
specialization led to entropy and
entropy led to the end of creativity.
Indeed, you must be able to design
everything—furniture, graphics,
packaging, agendas, books, even
the clothes I’m wearing.”
Vignelli shared that belief with
his lifelong companion, designer
Lella Vignelli, whose masterpieces
have yet to be properly recognized.
“Lella has designed amazing
jewelry,” said Vignelli. “We designed
what I’m wearing. I designed the
watch too. We’ve designed every-
thing in our house, the chairs, the
tables; I designed the books I often
read. I live in a space almost com-
pletely designed by me, with few
exceptions.”
From Europe to America
“I love my work because ‘design is
one,’” he used to say with an unmis-
takable smile. “It’s one profession,
one attitude. As Italians, we have a
long history of codifying design in
this way. It has existed for centu-
ries. It was the same for Leonardo
da Vinci. In Italy, after the war, we
had to do everything ... architects
like myself did everything... The
discipline was the same. The way
of thinking, coming up with solu-
tions, was always the same. The
mental process was the same and
the mental process was discipline.
This didn’t exist in American
culture. American culture is a cul-
ture of specialization. Ours, on the
other hand, is a culture of general-
ists. Specialists didn’t arrive in Eu-
rope till later. So in 1977 America,
architecture faced a crisis. In Italy
we thought, ‘But in Europe archi-
tects do everything! Not just houses
but furniture!’ That’s how I got my
start in America, doing the same
thing we did in Europe.”
Educating Clients
And did that notion give rise to the
concept of coordinated images, on
which you based your relationship
with clients?
“Yes, the total coordination of an
image is essential. One image for
everything, from the logo of a mu-
ww
In defense of female architects
“Designed by Lella”
“Female architects have often been
relegated —by assumptions, by the media,
by ignorance or arrogance—to supporting
roles, even when they shared the position
of partner,” writes Vignelli in the book he
edited and dedicated to his wife and
life-long professional parte,
Designed by:
Lella Vignelli
.
“The supporting role of the woman architect has often been created by the
macho attitudes of her male partner” he writes. “Most of the glory went to
the men (not accidentally) while the women, as partner architects, found that
their role was dismissed or totally ignored.” Massimo has always wanted to
create a brand that presented the couple together. But it wasn’t always easy:
“For years our office sent our work to magazines properly credited. For years
they only gave me the credit.”
ww
I love my work
because ‘design is
one.’ It’s one profes-
sion, one attitude.
As Italians, we have
a long history of
codifying design in
this way.
The famous “Intervista” armchair was designed
by Massimo and Lella Vignelli in the late 1980s
for TG2, a new television news program of RAI
(produced by Poltrona Frau)
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