A TALK WITH PAOLO LUCCHETTA

Photography by Marco Zanta

In the past days we visited architect Paolo Lucchetta in his studio RetailDesign, founded in 1999 in Venice. We talked about his work, the most important projects and numerous side activities carried out since the beginning of his adventure in interior and exterior design.

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How and when was RetailDesign founded?

Retail Design was created in 1999 with the idea of ​​setting up a research and projects inspired by the cultures of the Retail and Design and the vision that from the dialectical encounter between these cultures a non sterile innovation can be born; through sensitive and aware projects, innovation is not sterile, but designed to improve the quality of people’s lives.
In fact, our ability to consider the human factor as a central element of the creative process, in the following years has aroused growing interest in clients interested in social projects, both cultural and housing, often fused into innovative concepts of existing urban architectures.

Who are the founders and how do they work together?

RetailDesign was founded by me. Since its founding in the laboratory architects, designers, artists, graphic designers came together, bound by interest and multidisciplinary propensity, motivated by curiosity and propensity for innovation, storytelling, for the social dimension of architecture, passionately taking care of existing buildings and its redevelopment.
For each project RetailDesign builds multi-disciplinary project teams in which technical skills are put to test in the design of projects with a high value of thought and simultaneously effective, practical, aesthetical and sustainable solutions.

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If you had to define the concept of the studio in one sentence, what would it be?

A permanent investigation on the mysterious charm of relations between places, things and people.

Among the projects carried out over the years, which one you remember with more interest?

Surely Ambassadors, a place that had housed a market, a church, a red light movie theater, regenerated in a space of commerce and culture with a library, an Eataly restaurant and an event space, a true landmark in the heart of Bologna.
And then the Rizzoli bookstore in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan, in which Enzo Biagi and Oriana Fallaci had their favorite study, a library and a meeting place carved in the collective imagination of the metropolis lovers, a place dedicated to contemporary book lovers, equally attracted by the smell of printed paper and the new digital languages.
But we cannot forget our roots in the fashion world from which we come from, so the list includes the prototype of the Puma Urban Mobility concept store in New York, Union Square, again a comparison with the energy of the city in an attempt to capture the essence and beauty of their fruition.

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What is the role of Venice in the choices and aesthetics of the studio?

Our direction is divided into two words, Venice and Marghera.
Our vision of Venice is inspired by a famous photo exhibition that was called just like that, expressing a vision of a land suspended between the weight and the myth of the historic city par excellence, Venice, and a city post -industrial, Marghera, whose design will say a lot about our ability to make proposals for the qualification of degraded areas of our suburbs and industrial areas. This vision of Venice, still hanging between his great and decadent beauty and hopes of a possible and sustainable development, fuels significantly our sense of places in every part of the world we happen to design and our sensitivity to the landscape, the architecture and the city, understood as “our best collective production”, as Ricky Burdett used to say.

In 2012, you led some MAs at the University of Tongiji with the Politecnico di Milano, and you founded the ‘AtelierPaoloLucchetta Co. Ltd. What is this all about?

Working with international brands has fostered opportunities of participation in processes of complex innovation and design in varied contexts.
This experience, culminated with projects for Puma at the 2008 Olympics, put us in touch with the Chinese universities particularly attracted by the charm of a Made in Italy and looking for qualified experiences in the world of interior design.
Despite the country’s system still does not seem to believe in its quality, our experience shows the evidence of the seduction factor exercised worldwide by the Italian way of life and our culture of living.
The Atelier idea began like that and in recent years our contribution in international projects has grown continuously: in the past months we have been working in the UAE for the design of a new model of contemporary souk, inside a Norman Foster architecture in Abu Dhabi, Moscow and around the themes of food and style for a major contractor with a project called the Alphabet of Taste.

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At the same time you work as a researcher at IUAV. How do you manage all these activities?

We carry out research and teaching in several universities nationally and internationally very often. The comparison with the world of students and universities is an important element for the development of a trade based on the concept of “permanent learning”. Things and places evolve in their meanings in a constant process of learning and relationship with people. The aesthetics of relations is the research area that is the heart of our activities, which is expressed in comparison with areas and different cultures and feeds our imagination and the desire to improve the world around us.

When did you hear of Mutina the very first time?

Under the brand named Mutina I had finally caught in specialized magazines a new aesthetic attitude and a new challenge to technologies and materials that claimed autonomy of thought compared to a manufacturing sector validated on commercial stereotypes. A visit to Cersaie convinced me of the value immediately perceptible in the Mutina space and beneficial alliance between the craftsmanship know-how and the industrial production, quality may be defined as the quintessence of design.

Do you have a favorite collection?

My favorite collection, used in two projects that we value – the Rizzoli bookshop and the ZetaZegna concept of Milan and Chengdu – is the Jay Osgerby and Edward Barber’s Mews, inspired by the variations of light and shade of the London landscape, designed with the desaturation of color and seemingly random pattern, concepts that return to space, elegant and unexpected vibrations. A sort of Smart Neutrality that is well suited to our ambition to draw narrative spaces with simplicity and character.

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If you had to associate a particular place to Mutina, what would that be?

I think I have no doubt in considering the building designed by Angelo Mangiarotti in the 70’s as the synthesis of the brand values ​​to which Mutina takes inspiration, in particular the ability of its collections to dialogue with the architecture, engineering, design and art. Thanks to Angelo Mangiarotti for that too.

Is there any particularly interesting project that you would like to share with us?

On our tables these days we deal with contemporary architecture of a souk (the soul and the sense of a kind of architecture as old as the world, updated for new subjects and contemporary objects in a quality space) represents an aesthetic, cultural, but also economic and technological challenge.