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10 Questions With… Matteo Thun

Cala Beach Club at Hotel Cala di Volpe in Porto Cervo on Sardinia. Photography courtesy of Matteo Thun & Partners.

A holistic approach to nature and wellness drives Matteo Thun’s built projects. The award-winning Italian architect and Interior Design Hall of Fame member co-founded the iconic Italian design and architecture collective the Memphis Group with Ettore Sottsass in 1981, before striking out on his own, forming Matteo Thun & Partners in 2001. Thun’s happiest designing something new, he admits, and his firm’s creative eye, honed out of a headquarters in Milan and an office in Shanghai, is behind a long list of high-profile hospitality and healthcare projects spanning the globe.

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Most recently, summer saw the reassembly of Thun’s temporary beach structure, Cala Beach Club on the breathtaking Emerald Coast of the Italian island of Sardinia. Situated at Hotel Cala di Volpe in Costa Smeralda, a playground for the rich and, at times, famous—many of them yachting enthusiasts—Cala Beach Club is an environmentally sensitive structure only accessible by foot or boat. In summer it hums with private parties, with clientele seduced by the stunning natural landscape. Interior Design sat down with Thun to hear more about the Cala Beach Club, what toy kicked off his imagination at a young age, and which project reachable solely by cable car he considers a career turning point.

Interior Design: What was your overall design goal for Cala Beach Club?

Matteo Thun: Cala di Volpe is a beautiful beach in Sardinia. We wanted to create a shady oasis just between the woods and the sea. Restaurant, bar, and treatment rooms have been designed to melt within the landscape, to respect the charm of this special place.

ID: What was particularly challenging about this project?

MT: This property is reachable only by boat or on a path through nature. Since it serves only for the season, we designed a removable structure that is easily to assemble and dismantle.

Cala Beach Club at Hotel Cala di Volpe in Porto Cervo on Sardinia. Photography courtesy of Matteo Thun & Partners.

ID: What materials did you use and why?

MT: The structure unites with the beach vegetation, terraces value the inclination of the land, and views are open to the sea. We only used natural materials that integrate with the surroundings, such as chestnut wood and bamboo. All colors are natural and warm.

ID: What else have you completed recently?

MT: We like to bring nature inside and believe in concepts that emphasize an overall healthy lifestyle as a main approach. Healthy architecture and interior design guarantees physical and mental well being, allowing a relationship between humans and the environment. In Obbürgen, Switzerland, the Waldhotel at Bürgenstock Hotels & Resort, which opened at the end of last year, is a space for wellness and medical services. It’s made from local stone and wood, and nature will take over in a few years so that the building will melt with the mountain. As with most of our projects, we also designed the entire interior.

Another recent project is the new headquarters for Davines, an Italian beauty company dedicated to sustainability and based in Parma, Italy. Here, we grouped traditional rural shapes and innovative volumes around a greenhouse that serves as a restaurant for the employees. Maximum architectural transparency with a minimum amount of masonry elements provides every working station with a view of the green areas.

The Waldhotel at Bürgenstock Hotels & Resort in Obbürgen, Switzerland by Matteo Thun & Partners. Photography by Andrea Garuti, courtesy of Matteo Thun & Partners.

ID: What’s upcoming for you?

MT: The Evangelisches Waldkrankenhaus Spandau in Berlin at the largest university orthopedic center in Europe. Waldkrankenhaus means ‘hospital in the forest’ in German, and the new hospital building and rehab building connected to it will transform the hospital campus into a health center with a hotel character. This project represents our idea of a healing environment, an architectural and organizational structure that helps the patient and his relatives endure stressful situations caused by illness, operations, treatments, and sometimes pain.

Another hospitality project, a health bathing spa with medical treatments and maximum comfort, is underway in Bavaria, at Tegernsee, a resort town on the banks of Germany’s Tegernsee Lake. Nature is also the point of departure here and was key to the project. The landscape design integrates the existing flora and references the natural presence of water, allowing a direct communication with nature without interfering with the privacy of the patients.

The Evangelisches Waldkrankenhaus Spandau in Berlin by Matteo Thun & Partners. Photography courtesy of Matteo Thun & Partners.

ID: Is there a project in your history that you feel was particularly significant to your career?

MT: I designed the Vigilius Mountain Resort in South Tirol more than 15 years ago. It was one of the first design hotels, made from local larch wood and reachable only by cable car. The owner and I shared the same vision: to create a hotel that fuses with its surroundings, a place where you can breathe and relax instantly. Now, after all these years, the wood has a beautiful patina and the hotel a constant influx of international clientele.

ID: What are you reading?

MT: I very much like to read books in parallel: such as German philosopher Martin Heidegger with a novel or short story by Italian journalist and writer Italo Calvino

The Vigilius Mountain Resort by Matteo Thun & Partners. Photography by Serge Brison, courtesy of Matteo Thun & Partners.

ID: How do you think your childhood influenced your design thinking?

MT: My parents took me regularly to the Venice Biennale, so I became familiar with art and architecture at quite a young age. I grew up in nature, in the mountains near Bolzano, Italy, where my mother worked with pottery. She gave me clay to play with—so I had to use my imagination to have fun with it. I was always very close to material and materiality.

ID: How do think the Italian design culture influences your overall approach?

MT: In Italy, architecture is approached holistically. Let me quote Italian architect and writer Ernesto Rogers: ‘From spoon to city.’ This means working on a chair, on a lighting product, and on a house at the same time. We’ve worked like this in my office since the beginning, and the different teams of architects, interior designers, and product designers perform across disciplines.

Another big strength is Italian craftsmanship. At Salone del Mobile 2019, we launched a wood chair collection produced by F.lli Levaggi, a small manufacturer in Liguria, Italy, and work regularly with the glassblowers from Murano, such as Venini, Barovier & Toso, and Seguso. We very much believe in ‘Made in Italy.’

The Vigilius Mountain Resort by Matteo Thun & Partners. Photography by Vigilius Mountain Resort, courtesy of Matteo Thun & Partners.

ID: Is there a person in the industry that you particularly admire?

MT: Ettore Sottsass, chief designer of Olivetti. I first worked for him as an assistant, then we formed Sottsass Associati and in 1981 we co-founded Italian design and architecture collective Memphis Group. Memphis had an important formative influence on my career, and provided a platform to experiment with the challenges of constant innovation. Ettore designed the first Italian computer—in the late 1950s.

Keep scrolling for more images of projects by Matteo Thun >

The Vigilius Mountain Resort by Matteo Thun & Partners. Photography by Florian Andergassen, courtesy of Matteo Thun & Partners.
The Waldhotel at Bürgenstock Hotels & Resort in Obbürgen, Switzerland by Matteo Thun & Partners. Photography by Andrea Garuti, courtesy of Matteo Thun & Partners.
The alpine suite at the Waldhotel at Bürgenstock Hotels & Resort in Obbürgen, Switzerland by Matteo Thun & Partners. Photography by Waldhotel, courtesy of Matteo Thun & Partners.
The pool at the Waldhotel at Bürgenstock Hotels & Resort in Obbürgen, Switzerland by Matteo Thun & Partners. Photography by Waldhotel, courtesy of Matteo Thun & Partners
The Davines headquarters in Parma, Italy by Matteo Thun & Partners. Photography by Andrea Garuti, courtesy of Matteo Thun & Partners.
The Nudes seating collection by Matteo Thun, launched at Salone del Mobile 2019. Photography by Marco Bertolini, courtesy of Matteo Thun & Partners.

Read more: 10 Questions With… Gert Wingardh

Continue reading 10 Questions With… Matteo Thun

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These Hotel Frescoes Are Worthy of the Sistine Chapel

If these hotel walls could talk, they’d paint you a picture.

Continue reading These Hotel Frescoes Are Worthy of the Sistine Chapel

Accent Pieces for the Home that Make a Grand Statement

Gallerist Bernd Goeckler shares his favorites from eBay Collective.

Continue reading Accent Pieces for the Home that Make a Grand Statement

7 Glass Mosaics Around the World That Take Design to New Heights (Literally)

From a mosque in Iran to the largest Tiffany glasswork in existence, AD rounds up the locales of the most beautiful mosaics

Upon first entering St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, most visitors can’t help but do one thing: look up. This hulking Italian Renaissance church—designed in part by Michelangelo, Raphael, and Bernini—dates back to the 16th century and boasts some of the world’s most impressive, painstakingly crafted ceiling mosaics. During construction, the church enlisted the most skilled artisans of the period for the job, resulting in a treasury of shimmering glass-tile creations that are so precisely executed that they’re often mistaken for paintings.

 

Many awe-inspiring examples of this centuries-old art form can be spotted outside the Vatican City walls—you just have no know where to look. From a palace turned hotel in Budapest to a historic Chicago department store, we’ve rounded up some of the world’s most stunning glass ceilings.

Photo: Alamy

Palau de la Música Catalana, Barcelona, Spain

Built between 1905 and 1908, architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner’s Catalan Art Nouveau masterpiece is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and boasts a monumental stained-glass-and-mosaic ceiling.

Photo: Getty Images/Izzet Keribar

Shah Cheragh, Shiraz, Iran

Shah Cheragh, a funerary monument and mosque, is also known as the Emerald Mosque because of its mesmerizing mirror-mosaic ceiling and the shimmering chandeliers that hang from it.

Photo: Getty Images/Stefano Oppo

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan, Italy

Built between 1865 and 1877 at the intersection of two streets, this sprawling arcade is regarded as the oldest shopping mall in Italy. The crown jewel of the arcade is its soaring 164-foot-tall octagonal glass dome, located at the very center of the complex.

 
Photo: Courtesy of Hotel D’Angleterre

Hotel d’Angleterre, Copenhagen, Denmark

Hundreds of thousands of pieces of glass comprise the mosaic ceiling of the d’Angleterre’s Palm Court, making it the largest ceiling of its kind in Northern Europe. It was designed by Italian glass artist Albano Poli, whose other mosaic credits include a blown-glass rose window at the Santa Croce Basilica in Florence and mosaics in the Vatican Gardens.

 

Photo: Getty Images/UIG/Jeff Greenberg

Tiffany Dome at Macy’s, Chicago, USA

High above the makeup department on the first floor of Macy’s in Chicago sits the largest Tiffany mosaic in existence. Originally commissioned for the Marshall Field’s department store (acquired and renamed by Macy’s in 2006), Tiffany’s magnum opus is comprised of 1.6 million pieces of iridescent glass.

Photo: Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace

Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace, Budapest, Hungary

Guests of this Art Nouveau treasure, located on the banks of the Danube River, are greeted by a sprawling white-and-aqua-blue glass atrium in the hotel’s lobby. The glass ceiling, described by the hotel as “a true labor of love,” was designed to enclose what was originally a horse-and-carriage drop-off for the palace.

 
Photo: Getty Images/ppnmm

Nasir Al-Mulk Mosque, Shiraz, Iran

Also known as the Pink Mosque, the Nasir Al-Mulk Mosque features a sprawling presentation of candy-color glass mosaic ceilings, accentuated by kaleidoscopic stained-glass windows and rainbow-hued carpets.

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Continue reading 7 Glass Mosaics Around the World That Take Design to New Heights (Literally)

14 of the Most Beautiful Buildings That Defy Gravity

Building: Museum of Tomorrow
Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Architect: Santiago Calatrava
Fun fact: Completed in 2015, 1.4 million people visited the Museum of Tomorrow during its inaugural year, far exceeding the anticipated 450,000 visits. It is currently the most-visited museum in Brazil.

 

Photo: Getty Images

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Building: Takasugi-an (Tea house on the Tree)
Location: Chino, Nagano Prefecture, Japan
Architect: Terunobu Fujimori
Fun fact: The name Takasugi-an means, “a tea house [built] too high.”

Photo: Getty Images

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Building: Hypo Alpe-Adria Bank
Location: Udine, Italy
Architecture firm: Morphosis Architects
Fun fact: The architects tilted the entire building 14 degrees to the south so the upper floors naturally shade the lower floors of the building, thereby conserving energy.

 

Continue reading 14 of the Most Beautiful Buildings That Defy Gravity

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