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Tag Archives: Memphis Group

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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Alessandro Mendini Puts His Own Work on Display in His Magical Italian Getaway

Legendary architect Alessandro Mendini fills his vibrant vacation home in the mountains of northern Italy with highlights from his illustrious career

Alessandro Mendini has a confession to make: “I never created furniture for a house of my own.” The 86-year-old Italian architect has long separated work and home, filling his humble Milan apartment—just upstairs from his atelier—with only simple, functional basics.

But 12 years ago, as Mendini looked for a vacation home outside the city to share with his two grown daughters, Fulvia and Elisa, a photo-graph of a beauty in the Stile Liberty mode (Italy’s term for Art Nouveau) caught his eye in a real-estate agent’s office. “I immediately loved it,” he recalls. A private residence that served for a time as a summer camp for children managed by nuns, it sat snugly in the mountains of Olda, a village north of San Pellegrino Terme. Soon, keys in hand, Mendini felt something change: “I put my own furniture on display as if it were a museum and positioned them next to Liberty-style antiques.”

The house makes me think, links me to the past, and detaches me for a few days from the speed of life and work.

With a wildly prolific career of more than 50 years and counting, there was a lot of material to choose from. Mendini’s affinity for environments began earlier than most. Born prematurely in Milan in 1931, he and his twin sister were placed along with a couple of hot-water bottles in a large, zigzag-patterned armchair designed by Piero Portaluppi (who also decorated the family house) and left to incubate. From that improvised cradle, an infant Mendini gazed up at the Annunciation, a Surrealistic artwork by Alberto Savinio. “That was my first habitat,” he once wrote. “A Tyrolean Futurist arm-chair and a metaphysical painting.”

 
The living room.

Alessandro Mendini in the living room. The armchair wears a proust fabric by the designer.

After he graduated from architecture school at Milan Polytechnic, Mendini’s career took off in wild and unprecedented directions. Critical of bourgeois culture, he moved within the late-1960s anti-design Italian Radical movement, from which he went on to cofound (along with luminary Ettore Sottsass) Studio Alchimia and later designed for Memphis (founded by Sottsass). All the while, he built buildings, penned books, and served as the editor of Domus and Casabella. Discerning as he is, he created not only objects of contemplation, but also ones for practical use—corkscrews for Alessi, watches for Swatch, and plastic stools for Kartell, among countless others—that tirelessly deliver his cheerful wit to the masses.

 

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Of his new home, Mendini says, “It allows me to experiment, especially with color.” Sweet pastels—calamine-pink; pistachio-green—splash the rooms, which are filled with Technicolor furnishings. Like so much of Mendini’s work, the juxtapositions are improbable, even jarring. As design dealer Didier Krzentowski of Paris’s Galerie Kreo, a longtime collaborator with the designer, puts it: “He will never do something that is not himself. He really has his own world.”

The star player of that world, of course, is Mendini’s unforgettable 1978 ode to French writer Marcel Proust: a baroque seat hand-painted with thousands of Pointillist brushstrokes. One of the limited-edition versions shares a sitting room with Fulvia. Two green plastic models produced by Magis—the design has been reimagined in dozens of materials ranging from marble to cast bronze—sit downstairs in the belvedere, and Pointillist spots sprinkle headboards, mirrors, and rugs all over the house.

Mendini’s own works (rare prototypes, wild cabinets, and charming rugs) mingle with those of his friends, such as a gelatinous vase by Gaetano Pesce and circus-like poufs by Anna Gili, as well as a table that she designed for the Memphis Group. And all that vibrant modernity sits with the Stile Liberty antiques that came with the house and a cache of other venerables—small tables, lamps by Émile Gallé and Tiffany, a few bronze sculptures—purchased at an auction of decorations from the nearby Grand Hotel.

“I do four things here,” Mendini says, reflecting on his new place of solitude. “I read, I write, I draw, and I take walks in the mountains. The house makes me think, links me to the past, and detaches me for a few days from the speed of life and work.” Thinking about the arc of Mendini’s lengthy (and still extremely active) career, the filmmaker Francesca Molteni—whose documentary about the architect debuted in 2016—laughs. “He said that he started his career as an anti-bourgeois designer, and he ended up being a bourgeois in the end,” she says. “But a good one.” And now, like every good bourgeois, Mendini has a country house, too.

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