North Italy and Milan are the epicentre of product design with an exceptional concentration of top manufacturers who set esthetical and technological standards. For the last thirty years the main protagonist of this scene is Piero Lissoni, architect and designer who follows the rich modernist tradition but also acts with great skill in the contemporary context of rapid technological innovations and even faster succession of trends dictated by the logic of the market. The conversation with Piero Lissoni was also a great opportunity to discuss his interior design project for the Grand Hotel Park in Rovinj.
Oris: You studied at the famed Politecnico di Milano in the late 1970s when postmodernism was at its peak. Yet, leading and influential architects in Milano like Gio Ponti were, at that time, still advocating modernism.
Piero Lissoni: We were connected. He was one of my grandfather’s cousins; I lived in a house nearby and saw him, more or less, every day. However, at that time, I was more interested in some other architects like Achille Castiglioni. I was studying with Aldo Rossi and that was a good intellectual exercise. Gio Ponti did a lot of incredible things. I still do not understand if he was an incredible designer or an incredible visionary to design something
so outstanding like the Pirelli building, probably the most beautiful object in the world.
Oris: Today, the skyline of Milan is radically changing.
Piero Lissoni: Yes, I am not against it. In architecture school, we spent hours and hours discussing whether the city should be vertical or horizontal. I prefer to save space and work vertically, not to spread buildings everywhere without any reason.
Oris: Were you in any way influenced by the Italian radical movements in the architecture of the 1960s and 1970s? When you follow the work of Andrea Branzi, you see this quite unusual shift from life without objects and conceptual works towards playful, even figurative product design and participation in the Memphis group. I guess that the connection is the intellectual playfulness.
Piero Lissoni: This kind of a revolutionary approach was very interesting and creative, but it was like a playground – totally disconnected from real life. I kept my distance from that because when you design something – it doesn’t matter if it is a chair or a building – you have to do it responsibly.