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Dispatch from Milan: Where Architects Live

At the furniture fair, an exhibition explores the homes of eight international architects.

By Josephine Minutillo
April 8, 2014
Photo © Architectural Record
Shigeru Ban, Daniel Libeskind, and Kartell CEO and Salone president Claudio Luti at the Where Architects Live exhibition.

More than any other furniture fair, the Salone del Mobile is the place for furniture manufacturers and product designers to introduce their latest creations. But it is also the place where practitioners from all fields of design converge each year for one week in April. Architects have a strong presence at the Milan fair, and the Salone recognizes that. This year, it organized an exhibit in one of the fairground pavilions to showcase the homes of eight renowned architects including Mario Bellini, David Chipperfield, Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas (designers of the fairgrounds), Zaha Hadid, Marcio Kogan, Daniel Libeskind, Studio Mumbai’s Bijoy Jain, and recently-named 2014 Pritzker Prize laureate Shigeru Ban.

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Several of the participating architects visited the exhibit for the first time today, accompanied by Kartell CEO and Salone president Claudio Luti. Each architect is featured in a video interview within a dedicated space representing their home. David Chipperfield—speaking from his apartment in Berlin, which he has maintained along with an office in the city after completing the Neues Museum—explains that when it comes to architecture, “It doesn’t matter if it is a house or not. You make places where you want to be.”

From the stark white interior of Bellini’s booth to the dominant—and what proved to be hazardous for some visitors—water feature of Jain’s, the exhibit speaks equally to the intimate objects one surrounds themselves with and the location each architect chooses to call home, whether immersed in the Indian countryside like Jain or overlooking Paris’ Place des Vosges like the Fuksases. For some, like Ban, who spends as much time in the air as on the ground, home can be what you least expect. “I have an apartment in Tokyo and one in Paris—every week, I travel between the two cities,” Ban explains. “When I am alone, on a plane with no phone calls, that is when I feel at home.”

Bellini is known equally for his product design for Kartell, Cassina, and Artemide, and architectural projects including the Islamic Arts gallery he designed with Rudy Ricciotti inside the Cour Visconti at the Louvre in Paris. Opened in 2012, the elegant insertion creates a golden cloud within the Second Empire courtyard—its undulating glass and metal mesh roof covers two levels of exhibition space below. Currently, his office is working on several projects for the Expo Milano 2015. Bellini took some time to speak with Record about his Salone experience and the exhibition.

Can you explain why the Salone is important not just for product designers, but for architects like yourself?

The Salone del Mobile has made Milan the center of the world when talking about and reflecting on design, architecture, art, and fashion because it is not only where the big fair is exhibiting design products, but where all the city itself—the streets, shops, restaurants, and museums—become part of the interface of communication. Critics, writers, photographers, architects, designers, and entrepreneurs come from all over the world. That is unique, it only happens in Milan once a year.

This exhibit for instance, includes some of the greatest architects in the world. Why do you think the Salone organized it?

They started last year doing something similar, but centered on the office environment. So to follow that, this year they wanted to do something that focuses on where and how architects live.

Tell us about where you live.

You can get a glimpse of the house in this exhibit—no one really opened their house to everyone—but we tried to show something about our relationship with our houses. I live in a very old building, from exactly what date we don’t know, in the Brera district. It was restored by Piero Portaluppi, a Milan architect from the early 20th century. He gave it a classical style, but in a way that you recognize it is of the 1930s. When I got the house 40 years ago, I renovated it again. My part of the building is an important part facing the garden. I respected the strong signs left by Portaluppi, and I introduced a library stair that connects the ground floor with the upper level, through which you move in a very active way because as you walk you see books, photos, objects, and records. It is a little trip through your life and your memories.

Booksand spaces for themseem to be very important to you, both in this exhibit, and in your home.

Oh yes, books and music. For example, I got the full collection of Mozart’s letters—not originals, but reprinted and translated from German to Italian, and I read all of them very fast, in a day almost. We also have a grand piano and we invite performers on the violin, cello, piano. It is a counterpart to my design work.

If you had one word to describe your home what would it be?

It’s my home, it’s me.

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