Massimo Iosa Ghini is an Italian architect, designer and professor known for pioneering the Bolidist Movement in the 1980s, a style which he sums up as “a way of narrating the transition from materiality to drawing things in which the visual and media aspect prevails with respect to the object’s functional purpose”. In the year 1990, Massimo founded Iosa Ghini Associati with his Wife, Milena Mussi.
He is known for his streamlined and organic designs and is praised for his “visionary ability to blend disciplines, forms and dimensions crossing boundaries in art, design, and architecture. His work spans across product design, architectural and museum planning, public transport, as well as in the design of retail chains all over the world, developing projects for major international groups such as Ferrari, Capital Group, IBM Italia, CMC Group Miami, Seat Yellow Pages, Alitalia among many others. One of his notable projects is the Ferrari Factory Store in which his dynamic, Futurist and strikingly Italian style is transparent. He has been involved with the Memphis Group since the 1980s with some of his iconic creations.
His design and architectural works have received important honorable mention including that of the Compasso D’Oro Award ADI, and various awards including the Good Design Award by the Chicago Athenaeum, the Red Dot Award and the iF Product Design Award, Germany, the Roscoe Award, USA, the IAI AWARD Green Design Global Award and the IAI Awards, Shanghai, China and many more. SURFACES REPORTER is delighted to share an interaction with the design maestro where he discusses his dynamic style, his journey as a designer and much more.
1. You are known as the father of the Bolidist movement. Tell us more about this.
The main idea behind Bolidism was around ‘speed’ because at that time, 30 years ago, we considered that the world would have an evolution based on the idea of speed, like today everyone has WiFi, the technology that pushes the people to go faster. We started to design the idea of speed as simultaneity, as a sharing of things, as intelligence within things and as a paradox. The dematerialization of the object that becomes an icon rather than a material element and prepares itself to enter into the new WEB.
We didn’t design pieces which are just functional but had a message inside. In every design, there is a sort of a collateral message. It’s not only an armchair or a sofa but it’s also communication of a philosophical idea or something. In every piece of Italian design, in my opinion, is an idea to put a message inside, in particular in Bolidist, we put the message of quality of speed, sometimes with the shape because this is part of every day that we live.
2. About your famous Ferrari project, how did you come up with such an important project and how was your experience in designing that project.
I designed quite a few different projects for Ferrari, probably because there is a sort of common nostalgic vision of the world. They have this very heroic idea of ‘speed’ with their fast cars. When I think of Ferrari, I think of my land, the land of engines, of Bologna, of Modena, I think of the Marinettiani futurists, of Boccioni, of Sant’Elia and all the heroic/mechanical epic of the last century. The shapes that they use and also the ‘red’ colour which is the colour of passion. We had those points in common, this created the first relationship when we started to work in the 90s, I designed the interiors of this museum/gallery. After this, we started to design all the stores all over the world. Normally we use different designs for all the places but sometimes we use the same language.
3. Being into art, architecture and product design, how do you combine all the three?
The fact that I am an Italian and it is kind of historically normal in Italy to have this kind of approach. I do get asked in other places, why don’t you have only one kind of specialization like architecture or design, but we don’t do such kind of segregation. I like to say that we are specialists in a horizontal way not in a vertical way. And this gives us the possibility to work in very complex projects because you have a vision that permits you to follow very different phases of the project with the result to get quality for those who will then take advantage of what has been designed.
4. As a young boy, alumni of Polytechnic Milano, how was your journey and how did you land
up as a designer.
The first element of my personal story is the fact that I liked to draw and not to design. I consider drawing a way to think, a sort of philosophical attitude. While you draw you have the possibility to think and it’s not just another activity like driving. When you draw you think of what you draw, this creates a sort of circuit that creates an elevation of the thinking. I teach this art method because I consider we have to create something that has a sense and whatever we create today has to be better than what has been done. It needs to have a certain quality and this is something to think about. My love for drawing and using it as a method to stimulate thinking led me to Polytechnic.
5. What was your first project after your tenure at the Polytechnic?
The first object that I designed was for this group called ‘Memphis’, with Ettore Sottsass, one of the masters of Italian design. He was in love with India, indeed he had lived in India for a number of years and after that in Milan, he found this movement called the ‘Memphis Group’. There was this exhibition and I knew him so he asked me to design some object what he had seen my drawings.
He told me you have to be tri-dimensional not just bi-dimensional. I designed furniture for him.
6. Do you like doing selected projects or experimenting with a variety of projects?
When I started to design objects, I started to have this confidence in the material; I did quite a number of projects. Now I take up less projects about 5-6 objects not more because the time is limited. But it is not just time but the idea of designing a few well-thought things, putting all the possible value into it.
I am involved in varied fields and prefer to do only things which require my attention and not take up too many projects.
7. How do you manage to juggle between architecture and product design? How do you manage time?
Everything needs attention so currently, I take up about 70% architectural projects and 30% design (interior & product). What is interesting in Architecture is that you have to learn to work with a group of people, you cannot work alone. This is really interesting because you have a very fast increasing knowledge when you work with other people who know the topics better than you. In case of product design for me personally, the first phase of product design, you are alone, the second phase when you have to realize the project is when you have to work with people. In Architecture, you cannot create a design without speaking to the engineer, a specialist; you have to collaborate to move in one direction.
8. Which is an interesting project you are currently working on?
Right now, we are working on a system for a group of stations in my city – Bologna. There are 3 stations where we developed train lines, these are sort of shuttles that start from the harbour that goes on to the train stations. These three stations are to be completely green covered and in a couple of years. This is a project; we are doing along with the University of Agriculture, Bologna to make the right choice of the best plants/ green cover for this project. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s not possible to make this kind of choices alone. You have to learn and execute together as a team. The project also has a static integration of photovoltaic technology and architecture, we have about 30% energy saving.
9. When you talk about the Bolidist movement, do you incorporate the same kind of concept in art, architecture and design that you do.
I would say yes because it’s my work and when I design something and I have to make a choice, I prefer dynamic but it’s not an obligation. I am not minimal because I like a context where I feel there is enough culture to make the right choice. I feel some of this culture came with the science, the materials from different directions. When I say culture, that doesn’t mean you need to do the same furniture for 20 years with the same colour. I think it should move with the time, dynamically with the requirements.
10. How do you keep yourself updated with the latest materials and products? What are the new materials you are using in your projects?
The new material that I am using in my project is ‘Wood.’ I consider wood as the material of the future especially the wood that is from eco-friendly fast growing wood. Normally, whenever we find new materials, I tell my team to do research and find more information. Lately, I am liking to use traditional materials like stones, porcelain tiles, textiles and even leather (I know it’s not very eco-friendly) but I like it because it’s a very good material, very strong and natural.
I consider drawing a way of thinking. When you draw, you think of what you draw, this creates a sort of circuit that creates an elevation of the thinking. The new material that I am using in my project is ‘Wood.’ I consider wood as the material of the future especially the wood that is from eco-friendly fast growing forests.
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