Martina Malomo & Francesca Scipioni
Please tell us something about yourself: who you are, your past and what made you approach the world of architecture and design.
My name is Martina and I’m a designer. I consider myself to be a bright and breezy person who sees the glass half full, especially if it's a designer glass! My ambition is to see my projects become tangible items and for them to excite the people who will use them; this is what drives me to improve as a designer, day after day. My dream is to be able to produce what I consider good design: practical products that have a strong aesthetic content, that are simple and not overly complicated, and that tell a story, producing emotions and generating new experiences. I am inspired by everything around me, and I try to see and explore the world with the curious, eager eyes of the child within me. I love designing and I never want to stop doing it.
My name is Francesca Scipioni and I’m an architect with a strong interest in design. I have been passionate about illustrations, cartoons and music since I was a girl, and they are still a constant source of inspiration for me. Professionally, my ambition is to not only work in architecture, although that is what I trained in, but to express my creativity and design skills in graphics, illustration and design. I am totally committed to these areas and my ambition is to see my plans and ideas materialise and emerge with my style and my own personal way of seeing the world around me. Merging my passion with my profession. For now, I try not to dream too much and instead work slowly and surely towards my individual goals.
Do you think you have a specific style?
No, because I think design shouldn’t follow a style but respond to the aesthetic and practical demands of its specific environment and period. I think design should be capable of turning people’s aesthetic and emotional needs and their practical demands into products that are beautiful, simple, comfortable and stimulating, and can become part of the life of whoever owns them.
No, and to tell the truth, I don’t think that would necessarily be a positive thing. I believe the work of any designer is the outcome of his or her observations, personal taste and sensitivity, but I personally try not to focus my attention on coming up with a particular style, instead I aim to comply with some basic principles that I use to guide me.
Who are your benchmarks in the world of design?
Bruno Munari is certainly a major benchmark for me, especially with the design method described in his 1981 book "Da cosa nasce cosa", start with a problem to reach a solution: "A problem will not resolve itself, but it does contain all the elements for its own solution, it is our job to understand them and use them in the solution". I consider all of his work, especially what he designed for children, to be a fundamental guide for me as a designer.
Since my formal training was in architecture, my first benchmarks in design were primarily the great masters of the 1900s, from Gropius to Mies van der Rohe. I have always greatly admired designers who have shown themselves to be versatile, and I consider having an all-round approach to design as an important lesson.
How do you rate the architecture and design of today?
I believe recent developments in technology and manufacturing have given architecture and design the potential to create spaces and items that can help people live in equilibrium with nature, in harmony with others, things that are exciting and attractive and can make daily life easier. I believe that the drive in both fields towards innovation is pointing this way, even if it means major investments in research and development, as well as cultural changes.
Styles, design processes and methods have always been an outcome of their time, and are closely linked to the specific social and cultural dynamics, but in today’s era we are witnessing change as its happens and there is no time to take it in. There are many different attitudes towards this: the concepts of co-design, slow design or democratic design, for example. In general, I think designing stems primarily from a need and so an approach to the project, whether it's for a spoon or a city, should always try to meet a need in an honest way, looking for solutions that combine aesthetic and practical value as far as possible.
How do you get your inspiration?
I am inspired by everything around me, things I saw in a film or read in a book; when I find what I was looking for, I try to take it out of context and see it from a different angle, giving it new reason and new meaning, and this is how the creative phase in my projects gets off to a start.
It may sound trivial, but anything can be a source of inspiration. In my case, the creative process can start from a transformation, from a combination or from parts of elements; reinterpreting an object or a material; or simply from an image that catches my eye.
How did you hear about the contest?
We both work for Open* living solutions design studio: Francesca Scipioni is an architect and is the director of communications, and I am a trainee given my specialisation in product design. We wanted to see how we would fare in a contest that was stimulating in design terms and had resonance and credibility in the world of design.
We came across the Restile Contest when we were exploring some of the main design and architecture portals, and we realised immediately that it matched our current design needs and fell in with the line taken by the studio, which is involved in interior design too and has extensive know how of finishing materials.
Why did you decide to take part?
The conceptual and aesthetic challenge of designing an innovative tile based on a reinterpretation of the specified materials was stimulating, mainly because it applied to porcelain stoneware tiles, which is a material that has already been tried out a great deal. What’s more, being able to work out of our studio and submit our own idea was a nice challenge.
Did you find the experience interesting/challenging?
Our work at Open* drives us to study and update ourselves day after day with regard to the materials and/or products that will become an integral part of the rooms and spaces we design. None of us had ever had tackled a design theme of this type, for both of us it was definitely an interesting and professionally enriching experience, since it helped us get to know and understand a fascinating and versatile material like porcelain stoneware.
What are your expectations?
We would like to see Lamerai in the Mirage catalogue and to one day use it in the spaces we design at Open*, our ambition is to be able to work with top companies like Mirage.
What inspired your design and what are its main characteristics?
The Lamerai collection of porcelain stoneware tiles has a decidedly urban inspiration. The materials we started out with, non-slip (or textured) sheet metal and cement, were taken together and redesigned, so they are both used to rework an innovative product that reproduces the warm industrial mood that is typical of a metropolitan loft.
The formal and aesthetic reference came about by abstracting the textured element of the sheet metal whose practical and technical characteristics have been supplanted by its aesthetic and decorative value.
This aesthetic and textural 'refining' process was merged with another poor material, concrete, whose surface texture was used together with the metal to create a hybrid material, capable of producing an extremely experience pleasant both to touch and to see. In tactile terms, we worked with a surface process that has a hint of the raised surface of textured sheet metal but is softer and smoother. Visually speaking, we tried out an approach based on graphic synthesis that takes the decorative element of the sheet metal out of context and reduces it to a coloured pattern, where the different colours are combined together. The result is a wide range of variations in colour and surface that can be used individually or in conjunction to create original and unique layouts. So, the collection consists of two raised decorations (Mandorlato and Puntinato) made by a pressing technique on a solid colour base tile, and two base tiles that are identical in terms of the shape of the raised decoration but are made by combining the different contrasting colours. The base tiles have graphic decorations on a scale that is twice that of the raised decoration tiles.
The four colours available (Beige, Rust, Grey and Anthracite) were chosen from the many natural shades of metals and applied on a matt surface, imitating concrete and avoiding a metallic effect.