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8 answers

Below there is an interview featured in the book “Interior Designers Say” published in 2008 by Liaoning Science & Technology Publishing House, Shenyang, China. It is a little long, but I decided to publish it anyways because I still strongly identify myself with it (except the eighth one, which is a bit out-dated) and I also had lot of fun having this interview.

1 – “crossover” is very popular in different design areas nowadays. And what is your view towards this and is there such design elements in your works?

This question implicates the subject of specialization.  Personally, I am against specialization in my profession, I prefer to talk about “specified abilities”. Specialization dries up the source of ideas, ideas come from the comparison with different situations and experiences, and pass from one project to another one through transfusion.

For example, it happens that I have to design offices that are much warmer and more inviting than an habitation, where it is much nicer to work, because people spend more time at work than at home. I designed a restaurant using the standards of a contemporary office with high flexibility because it was a necessity to have the possibility to modify the space even 4 times a day . I designed habitations with the project logic of a theatre, having the possibility to change scenes through mobile walls, a necessity because nowadays housing spaces are small.

“Transfusion” is a good thing for designing, instead of “contamination”, witch is negative, like in medicine.  The word “contamination”, very trendy, quite fairly disgusts me. Also the word “nomadism”, very trendy, is very close to the concept of “Crossover”.  To be a nomad, without a place to stay, is very unlucky, and how could that be “trendy”?

2 – Environmentally friendly and advanced materials are very popular today. Are these materials largely applied in the interior design? What is the common idea of most people towards this?

Ecology and recycling are a big business in the future, in fact, it already is a business nowadays.  Like all business, it is full of lies.  How much does it cost to recycle a bottle of glass, to make another bottle, that is identical at the first one?

It’s a very serious question.  Something will really change if we reduce consumption, when we re-use objects and when we repair things that are broken. Personally, I am too young to have fully enjoyed without remorse the advantages of consumerism, but I am to old to become an ecologist and this quit disturbs me.

However, fortunately, there is al lot of young people that is sensible to this argument, and they are right.  Instead, in front of innovative materials, I get really enthusiastic, it is a real incurable passion!

3 – Would you please talk about fashionable elements applied in the interior design? And how do you use these  to express your creative design ideas?

Honestly, I think that fashion is a poison that has contaminated a lot of other ambits in society, including interior design.  Fashion is not transformation or alteration.  Instead of that “fashion” as well as “style” want to fasten time in a fleeting moment.  Fashion remains on the surface and fears life.

It is much better “to be contemporary”, only what is contemporary can hope to become classic : the future generations recognize in what is contemporary the profound and permanent elements of the human spirit, and look at the past as something happy and still alive.  Fashion and style instead age and die instantly, and that’s very sad.

4 – Detailed design usually determine the overall effects, and what is your  attitude towards this?

What would you say about a surgeon that is not precise? (let’s cut here, no, over there, what’s this? Oh, it’s a kidney!)  Precision means detail, and a project is made of details.  Giving an absolute importance to the details means willing to know how things really function, it means being a curious, conscious and responsible person, and means being passionate about your own work.

I like essentiality, and when a project is essential, the details become even more important.  Also the detail has to be essential, and to make essential details is very difficult, but when I succeed in that, it’s a real pleasure!

You should not trust a person who doesn’t value the details of something, women know that very well.  Of course, to get lost in details is another topic, that’s called being an idiot.  But that’s just a detail.

5 – How can you balance the practical and artistic feature of the interior space?

This question recalls a very, very ancient topic : the presumed conflictual antagonism between form and function, between what is beautiful and what is useful.

This question was invented by the ancient Greek philosophers, and is dragged into the present.  It is important to mention that these philosophers had nothing to do all day long, and by living a boring life you lose contact with reality and clearness of mind.  The mind begins to be unsteady and to be interested in completely useless questions.

When this was made with seriousness, completed with inner suffering (it is a real mental disease), it happens that these poor men find other persons who listen to them.  That’s why, even today, a lot of respectable persons listen to them.

In reality, this presumed dualistic conflict between what is beautiful and what is useful, between form and function, simply doesn’t exists.  It is a false problem.  Is a painting of Picasso beautiful or useful?  A chair by Charles Eames, is it useful of is it beautiful?  On the contrary, a serious question is : but why ask yourself all these questions?

6 – How can you deal with the different opinions between your design and client’s demand?

Very often a client asks me, very certainly, to do exactly that what is absolutely no good for him, so the situations immediately gets more complicated.  And there are clients that challenge you, they are irritated because you are capable, you are a concurrent to beat, and they only want you to say they are right. What can you do about it?  The worst of all strategies is to use rational arguments. Logic and common sense irritate the client.  If you want to obtain your purpose, and that means acting in his interest, you have to trick him.

For example, you have to let him believe that your beautiful ideas are his, not yours (it’s incredible how people believe that right away), and so they won’t tell you anymore that they don’t like the project.  But it also happened to me that I had to throw out of my office some client.

7- As a successful designer, in your opinion, what professional quality is a must?

First of all, what does it mean to be successful in our profession?  To have notoriety?  To have a lot of money?  To have important commissions? Yes, but only because these things increase the conditions of work, having more resources, more authoritativeness and more possibility to select targets. Beside that, being successful to me means reaching the priority objectives, that are different each time, and very often the primary objective of a project is simply to succeed to do the project.

From that point of view, for being successful, there has to be an essential instrument : the method of designing : you need passion and tenacity.  In fact, designing is not creating, designing means discovering, you have to search the solution of a problem inside the problem, not outside of it.

8 – What do you think is your most satisfying work among your recent creations? what aspects have you paid more attention to?

A recent project that gave me more satisfaction is “Globe”, that, also thanks to my work, has become the most important restaurant of Milan.  To be honest, it is a great satisfaction because there were a lot of difficulties during the designing.  Beside that, people say that they feel relaxed in the restaurant, and that is for Milan, with his very neurotic habitants, a great compliment.

Designing a restaurant is a minor work that is also very troublesome.  In fact, a restaurant is at the same time a productive, commercial, social and cultural activity that is under the stress of big exigenceS like regulations and installation needs, fast realisation times, and every single thing has to work out and has to be coherent. Nearly always, a restaurant is pure scenography, a theatre that simulates a certain place: at the far west, in Ireland, in Japan,..I think that's very embarrassing and disquieting, it reflects a society that lives on simulacrum.
On the contrary, I believe that, even if it's minor, a restaurant however is an architecture, and an architecture has to be honest, and when it's about a public architecture, that is in contact with thousands of people, it is an extraordinary opportunity to spread the cultural identity of people in a peaceful and pleasant way.

Ten years ago I designed a building in Taichung, Taiwan.  One day, I saw two girls make a picture of that building.  I asked them if they were students in architecture but they were not.

Recently, I did a quite important and complex project.  The boy that worked on the project was very young and it was his first experience into practice, when he arrived in my office, he didn’t know much about it.  At the end of this project, I showed his drawings at the European Institute of Design, where I teach, as an example for all students.  The satisfaction is this case was his, and that was my satisfaction.

© 2021 Massimo Mussapi

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