04 May Stefania Andorlini: Do you love me? Do you need me?
Just take for instance the TS502 radio made by Brionvega, anno 1964. Now take a good look at it, after almost 45 years. I’m certain, you are smiling. It is charming. It is beautiful. It is an icon of modernity. You are asking yourself, how did Zanuso and Sapper conjure it up on that particular morning? How did the exact radius of modernity flow from their hand? A radius that has penetrated, without resistance, every trend, taste and design theory over the past decades.
What would modernity be without the TS502? An icon would be missed. One of the few perfect timehonoured and equally timeless smile-of-an-object-icon. Do I love it? Do I need it? Yes.
Everything that successfully mirrors a side of reality, interprets it, creates it, impresses us and awakens an emotion. The more comprehensive and complex the inner world is, the more contrasting sources of emotions one can allow. One can even love contradictory things (legendary: Renzo Piano, when asked which contemporary building he loves most of all, he replied Frank Gehry’s museum in Bilbao)
Let’s stay with design. And for example with me. Some of my great loves: The technical glamour of Mollinos, the grace of Tenreiros, the meditative class of Citterios, the poetical free spirit of Urquiola, the authenticity of Tom Dixon, the presence of Joe Colombo, the intellectual elegance of Gio Ponti, to name but just a few.
I also would not want to do without the fashionable hyper-production, amusing and nevertheless meaningful, from Philippe Starck or the first unsuspicious “It’s design? It’s art? Who cares?“ by Ron Arad. Even simple, conservative and boring design á la Lissoni, doing “no wrong”, it is nevertheless something where the eye sometimes has to land to recover from the wondrous without hurting the aesthetic feeling.
I forget the rest. Things that do not spark emotions do not leave traces. (I feel, paradoxically, Konstantin Grcic’s achievements are definitely emotional in spite of the highly technical content of his current designs. The enthusiasm amongst male colleagues evokes pictures of all these lads in a mythical workshop of their youth where they all happily got covered in oil working until deep into the night…his last chair is called, by the way, “Myto”…and the lads love it)
What am I trying to say? We are worn out by the abundance of things, by impulses, by information and impressions. The world is bursting at the seams. Sensory overload is exhausting our senses. (See the enduring health spa phenomena as a counteraction.) Just like in the design world.
But, in the design world the overload is to an astonishing degree positive. There has never before been such a sensational explosion of fantasy, ideas, intelligent solutions, artistic crossovers, visionary creations.. During the last legendary design epochs, the production of significant objects was limited to an easily fathomable horizon. In the last 10 years, the horizon has been enlarged to an unidentifiable extent. Beautiful, ingenious. It tell us a lots of positive things about the economic, political and intellectual mood – even though it does not always match reality.
But what can I take on my way? Concrete and/or intellectually? As a user, I can only take what I love with me, what I need. As a designer, does the world need what I make? Will somebody love it or even need it? Will somebody see my armchair as a “must have”? The most correct and most honest – slightly metaphysical – answer would be: no. Nobody needs me, nobody really needs my designs. It is also wonderful living without it. There are so many things of beauty, excellence and intelligence.
When I set my thoughts in motion, pick up my pencil, let myself go, I have always got one thing in the back of my mind: everything I do is not good enough until the moment I arrive at the feeling that the world needs what I am currently doing. One should set a world standing as one’s standard in order to prevent premature satisfaction. It is so easy to not even come close to that standing, both when it is one’s goal and even more so when it is not. It is not enough to not produce rubbish or to only produce a good draft.
Does the world really need the 111th stiff backed deck chair, which is non-adjustable and heavy, because the lines of its legs look a little better than No. 89’s and because the armrests are new? It only serves as an object and one that is totally devoid of excellence. No. How often do we yearn for a mental health spa. In order for us to overlook the mediocre, to finally let ourselves be inspired by things of significance and things that delight, to savour the irreplaceable and essential, which, as I have said before, are all slowly taking on a considerable variety? The question, “Does the world need it?” is not really meant in a commercial or a concrete way. The world needs many things, even though it does not know it yet (see, all the things one does not discover posthumously). The question should only pose an inner standard which should, at the least, prevent us from consciously and actively contaminating the world. I love enduring things that one can love, even need, for this whole life, or perhaps the next one or even several…
Only artists can achieve the paradox of imprinting endurably the absolutely changing, provisional, and the momentary in our emotional memory. And the borderline between design and art will become ever more fascinating, precarious… but that is another story.