The Greek philosopher Plato likened thought to “a conversation of the soul with itself—a philosophical communication.” It isn’t unusual for me to attend thought-provoking events but the Salone del Mobile press conference on January 15th brought me a deeper experience than I would have expected thanks to the presentation Milanese architect Michele De Lucchi gave regarding La Passeggiata, his project at iSaloni to be installed at Workplace3.0/ SaloneUfficio from April 14th through 19th.
Michele De Lucchi Designs Deep
The former design director for Olivetti and leading figure in the Memphis design movement has since created a thriving conglomerate melding architecture and product development. He has envisioned everything from lighting fixtures inspired by Sufi poets to power plants during his esteemed career so far, and his client list is a who’s who of commercial heavyweights.
De Lucchi was required to work within the themes of this year’s fair, office and lighting design. Honoring another design great, he opened his talk by recalling French architect Jean Nouvel’s groundbreaking installation celebrating futuristic office environments at Salone del Mobile in 2003. From there, he dug deep and took those in attendance on a philosophical journey that had me scribbling my thoughts in my reporter’s pad as fast as I could get them on paper.
Where the office is concerned, this architect is intimate with the territory. He has witnessed the transformation that technology has brought to the workplace—from designing products for Olivetti and creating offices where computers had no relevance to conceiving ones in which technology now holds sway.
Michele De Lucchi’s Sufi Poets
He could have spent his time addressing the impact technological advances have made on architectural and design demands but he decided to present his theories behind his process, which date back to the early Greeks, and I’m thrilled he did.
“In designing offices, buildings, furniture and lighting, I understand it’s no longer important to consider the legs of tables in and of themselves,” he remarked; “it’s more important to design how you walk from one desk to another because so much happens on that short walk. Today, it’s important to talk about what will happen as we move around our workspaces rather than to limit our discussions to the shape of the furniture.”
As a work-at-home writer, I put quite a lot of thought into the configuration of my workspace when I moved into my current New York City apartment (code for spatially challenged wizardry!). One of the considerations I addressed before any furniture was put into place was the fact that one of the ways I process creativity is by pacing.
Michele De Lucchi Takes Us for a Walk
There is something about strolling in circles that helps me to work out the theories I’m proposing before I get to the writing, so I was enthralled when I heard the architect equate walking to living. “There is a philosophy of walking in the most antique writings, like those of Plato,” he added. “Every step you take when you are walking, you have a different perspective of space.”
In explaining his sketches for the exhibition that will be unveiled in Milan, he spoke of being present in a way that is difficult to achieve without great intention. “We are so conventional in our world today that we see what is there but we don’t understand the meaning,” he said. “Conventionality makes you a prisoner of what you think, though you don’t understand why.”
The Eye of the Soul
Plato discusses this difficulty humans have in accessing the “eye of the soul” in his groundbreaking work “The Republic,” describing this level of vision as “more precious than ten thousand bodily eyes, for by it alone is truth seen.” I would like to thank Michele De Lucchi for inspiring me to revisit Plato’s writings, as well as for this statement, which was the most thought-provoking of the evening for me: “I have a personal theory—memories do not exist. We think we keep memories in our brains and when we want to retrieve one, we open the door and pull it out; but analysts say when we want to pull forward a memory, we create it.” How is that for a mind-blowing conversation-starter?
I am planning to travel to Milan for iSaloni and you can bet I will do my utmost to have a conversation with this visionary who gave me an evening of authenticity I had not expected when I rsvp’d for the event.
I won’t likely be able to see another project De Lucchi has designed in Milan in collaboration with Davide Rampello because it won’t open until May 1st. It is called Pavillion Zero and will be on view as part of Expo2015. The pair envisioned the space as a vehicle to tell stories that stretch back into the mists (and myths) of time. If I happen to get a sneak peek while I’m there, I will share my experience here sometime in May. If I don’t, let me know if you see it during Expo2015, as I’d be interested in hearing what you feel De Lucchi and Rampello accomplished.
In closing, I send a salute to Mr. De Lucchi, who I believe has the degree of awareness Plato dubbed the “sight at the end of the visible.” I also congratulate him on his recent A&W Designer of the Year award. It’s just January and he has already had quite the year!
The Diary of an Improvateur and this DesignLabs entry © Saxon Henry, all rights reserved. Saxon is an author, poet and journalist, as well as a contributor to Architizer. Her books include Anywhere But Here, Stranded on the Road to Promise and Four Florida Moderns.by