ABET MEETS DESIGNERS | Calvi Brambilla

04 November 2020

They explore design through a creative approach in which fantasy counts as much as rigor and the control of all realization phases.

Since 2006, Fabio Calvi and Paolo Brambilla work together in interiors (private homes, offices, shops), exhibitions and products. Their Calvi Brambilla studio is among the most successful on the Italian and international scene.

 

Why do you use laminate?

Laminate was born in the 1920s and is one of the ‘possible dresses’ of modern furniture. It is a versatile and economical product with a range of very stimulating uses for a designer. These are the main reasons why it became popular and it still is today, although in different ways.

Which ways? For instance, how do you use it in your architectures and interior projects?

We often use laminate for both for furnishings and for interior projects because it allows us to experiment and create surfaces and structures with a high degree of customization. We recently did exactly that in a residential interior project, for instance.

Ettore Sottsass said that we must not be afraid of artifice: there is also evil in nature. He used laminate to fly with his design imagination. What is its potential today?

We are not afraid of artifice, quite the opposite, in fact. Using form to conceal and suggest a different universe is the greatest challenge for a designer dealing with installations. These are ephemeral architectures, made with materials that are themselves ephemeral. Replicating any type of material from an artifact product is a creative challenge, not a limit.

What is the relationship between artificial and natural in your projects?

It is a relationship of mutual necessity. What is natural needs artifice to evoke and suggest scenarios. At the same time, what is artificial needs to look to nature and materials to communicate something authentic. In the new SKS showroom, for instance, we have chosen scenography as a common ground between natural and artificial. We hired a scenographer to create rock-shaped displays: we talk about kitchens, warmth, shapes, it’s a celebration of physical matter through something digital. Natural and artificial are not mutually exclusive, on the contrary, they complement each other. The induction hob had to be a clean cut, so we used a glossy black laminate there, to evoke the heat inside the volcanic rock. And precisely to blur the boundaries between natural and artificial.

How important is sustainability in your design thinking?

Sustainability is a central theme in our projects: it is not a choice of mere material economy or low environmental impact. It is a methodical approach, which begins with the choice of materials and the message to be assigned to each color, shape and space. In this sense, laminate is a material that allows you to evoke the natural without violating it.

Surface design is part of the iconography of the history of Italian design. How do you imagine it can evolve from a graphic or chromatic point of view?

Evolution is in the absence of limits. Digital printing technologies today make it possible to reconstruct registered finishes and textures, in which there is no longer a distinction between finish and graphics. Somehow we can say that form and function blend into each other, and that laminate allows you to simulate a material by evoking its characteristics. It is not for a simple aesthetic quirk, but an investigation into its static behavior. By using laminate, it is often possible to imagine we are stroking a surface full of veins and textures. It is pure exploration, made through materials.