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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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May Online Focus: Access To Nature/Biophilia

by Jennifer Silvis | May 1, 2018


Continue reading May Online Focus: Access To Nature/Biophilia

Digital Tools Bring Botanicals to Life in Architectural Glass

Nature has been a source of artistic inspiration for millennia. Beginning with classical architecture and continuing into the contemporary era, elements of the natural world have found their way into our dwellings and public spaces. Modern design trends like biomimicry and wellness are today’s iteration of this longstanding fascination with the organic. Designers can use architectural glass to bring verdant images of nature into interior spaces, transforming sterile spaces into healthy ones for occupants and visitors.  

Flower Field used for a partition wall in a hospitality setting. Photography courtesy of Forms+Surfaces.

Forms+Surfaces’ Zoom Digital Darkroom and Zoom Image Library are intuitive options for architects and designers looking to bring a touch of the outdoors inside. The Digital Darkroom is an interactive design tool, housed on Forms+Surfaces’ website, that allows users to create highly customized architectural glass designs for the company’s ViviSpectra Zoom glass. Designers can crop and further customize the roughly 90 images in the image library, a collection of large-scale, high-resolution nature photographs. Everything from sweeping panoramic vistas to captivating close-ups can be manipulated in order to design true-to-life or abstract feature and partition walls.

Ginger Plant in a hospitality lobby setting. Photography courtesy of Forms+Surfaces.

The library recently expanded with the Winter 2018 collection. The nine new images depict florals, cabbages, Romanesco broccoli, succulents, ginger plants, and more.

Cabbage, Romanesco, and Citrus in a restaurant setting. Photography courtesy of Forms+Surfaces.
Carnations used for a feature wall. Photography courtesy of Forms + Surfaces.

Continue reading Digital Tools Bring Botanicals to Life in Architectural Glass

This Is Why Switzerland Is the Most Exciting Art-Centric Destination Right Now

Although St. Moritz, Gstaad, and other Alpine slopes have long lured ski enthusiasts, there’s yet another lofty reason to head to Switzerland this season. The country is packed with not-to-miss art museums and galleries. For those who can’t hop a jet soon, armchair travelers who love art should also take note.

In Gstaad, Gagosian has installed the Arte Povera artist Giuseppe Penone’s iconic Idee di Pietra, comprising two towering bronze tree sculptures right next to the chic Hotel Le Grand Chalet. Telling of its importance, there’s even a site-specific one at the newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi. Meanwhile, the gallery’s Geneva outpost is preparing to mount a Penone exhibition as well, and both the show as well as the installation are on view until March.

 

Gagosian Gallery’s installation of Giuseppe Penone’s Idee di Pietra in Gstaad.

Photo: Marcus Veith / Work by Giuseppe Penone / Courtesy of Gagosian

For such a relatively small town, St. Moritz is chock-a-block with major-league galleries. The Vito Schnabel Gallery is currently featuring “Dan Flavin, to Lucie Rie and Hans Coper, master potters,” which happens to be the first exhibition ever to present their oeuvre together. Flavin collected the work of Rie and Coper, two radical ceramic artists, and the examples on view are from his own personal collection, along with sculptures he made in tribute to them. The show features 18 light works and 15 ceramic works.

 

“Dan Flavin, to Lucie Rie and Hans Coper, master potters” at the Vito Schnabel Gallery in St. Moritz.

Photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography Zürich / Courtesy of Vito Schnabel Gallery

“It has always been a dream for me to show Dan Flavin’s work. I was exposed to it at a pretty early age, when I was around 10 or 11 years old,” says Schnabel. “So the opportunity to now work with the Flavin estate is a true honor.”

 

Galerie Gmurzynska St. Moritz’s Diana Widmaier Picasso and Yves Klein exhibition.

Photo: Courtesy of Galerie Gmurzynska

Galerie Gmurzynska, which boasts four galleries, is a longtime stalwart of Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach, as well as TEFAF both here and in Holland. Now on view in St. Moritz is the work of Diana Widmaier Picasso as well as Yves Klein, and their Zurich gallery happens to be the last interior exhibition architecture designed by the late architect Zaha Hadid.

 

Galerie Gmurzynska Zurich’s gallery interior designed by Zaha Hadid.

Photo: CarloVannini / Courtesy of Galerie Gmurzynska Zurich

The Cologne Galerie Karsten Greve was a pioneer in the St. Moritz gallery scene. “When I opened in San Moritz, we were the first international gallery there,” says Greve. “Now it is still one of the most beautiful mountain areas in the world but a destination for an ever-growing number of collectors.” Check out their current show comprising masterworks by Cy Twombly, John Chamberlain, and Joel Shapiro.

 

The Cologne Galerie Karsten Greve in St. Moritz.

Photo: Courtesy of Cologne Galerie Karsten Greve

There’s even a veritable artwork on the move through the Swiss Alps; Sarah Morris has emblazoned an entire railway train with her signature bold graphic designs.

 

Sarah Morris train artwork.

Photo: © Sarah Morris / Courtesy of the artist and Petzel, New York

Virtually everyone who treks over to Art Basel knows about the storied Fondation Beyeler. Yes, the Renzo Piano building is a stunner, but what’s inside is also tip-top. A major Baselitz show opens on January 21, but check out their permanent collection, too. There’s a bevy of masterpieces by Henri Rousseau, Richard Serra, and Gerhard Richter.

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Another iconic Renzo Piano–designed museum is the Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, currently featuring “Klee in Wartime.” On hand are a staggering 4,000 works.

Then the Karma gallery in Zurich has just expanded and Surrealist fans are in for a treat, as Swiss artist Méret Oppenheim takes center stage. No less than the London and Zurich–based Caruso St John architectural firm, which designed the Tate Britain, Millbank, has transformed the Karma gallery.

 

Kunsthaus Zürich’s Impressionist collection includes works by Monet and Rodin.

Photo: Courtesy of Kunsthaus Zürich

The Kunsthaus Zürich, the city’s modern-art museum, boasts a staggering 150 sculptures and 20 paintings by Alberto Giacometti. Plus, the ahead-of-the-curve museum has been collecting video art since 1979. Switzerland’s oldest museum, the Kunstmuseum Bern, includes a permanent collection boasting first-rate works by Paul Klee and Pablo Picasso.

If ever there were a good time to head for the hills, it’s now.

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