Francesco Binfaré talks about himself: from the end of the 60s to today

edra, binfarè, standalto, salone milano

The works and ideas of Francesco Binfaré collected in a new book presented by Edra. A journey through pages that surprise, make you think, and delve into the life of one of the protagonists of Italian design


Presented at Edra’s Milan showroom in late October, at first sight this slim volume looks rather like a liturgical breviary with its long, narrow format, its leather cover with gold-coloured embossed writing, the bookmark ribbon the same red as the cover and the slender body of text. There’s also a mystical reverberation running between the lines:  “Chance brought me together with Edra, just as it had brought me together with Cassina, some time before. And chance is a gift from the angels that must be seized as soon as it comes up.”

Stories, events, thoughts, points of view, ideas, dreams, anecdotes and reconstructions of this eclectic figure are amalgamated and intertwined with the author’s words. It could be described as an autobiographical biography. Giampaolo Grassi says that Francesco led him into a wonderland. But who, in actual fact, is Francesco Binfaré, aside from what we already know? He says himself that he is not a designer and that he gets cross when he is described as such. He is neither a designer nor an architect – an author perhaps, although authors do everything themselves, like writers. He, on the other hand, simply produces the model, and the model is not concrete, it is an idea of what is in his mind, he continues. His truth emerges from this jumble of definitions: “My VAT registration says I’m an artist-inventor.” […] I felt it was time to put artistic expression into design. I wanted design to become aware that it was a new field of art.”

Born to an artistic family just at the right time, as he generously loves to point out, he dreamt of creating “an Italian Bauhaus.” This he achieved, as director of the Cassina Research Centre, from 1969 to 1976. “The Centre was like a ship on a mission,” he says. “We were sent by Queen Isabella, but it wasn’t important to know what she wanted. The important thing was to navigate the ocean and try to find the New World, a land we weren’t sure even existed. We were interested in exploring because it gave us the freedom of the oceans.” There Binfaré mapped out endless itineraries and pathways, and continues to do so, creating a real Design and Communication Centre for research and the promotion of projects in 1980, which was to spawn a number of Italian design icons.

binfare, book club, salone milano

Then the collaboration with Edra, set up five years earlier, came along. “The company had exciting prototechnology. It was a primal situation. The lack of an advanced technical facility forced me to find the solution in its essential form. […] Edra’s appeal was that it needed adventures,” recalls Binfaré. His career changed course whilst at Edra. He stopped pulling other people’s work strings and began to design pieces in his own right, culminating in those endless, enveloping, comfy, stunning sofas. They are invitations to drama, expressions of contemporary life that interpret and anticipate the myriad ways in which we like to be seated. His approach to his work is a balance of function and magic.

The “architects’ architect,” who kept pace with the authors, accompanying them along their creative paths, had no specific degree, which comes as something of a surprise (these days). “Thinking about it now, I think it was my great fortune. Because I’ve studied all my life, in an anarchistic and free way. I’ve surrounded myself with friends, books and readings. For me, the link between pleasure, design and nourishment was key.” The Binfaré method turned all the previous ones on their heads, as the author writes, quoting Massimo Morozzi, Edra’s art director: “It’s a somewhat curious and very interesting method. In practice it works in such a way that no one knows what to do except talk about what they like, about this and that, not necessarily about armchairs or table, but about life, politics, philosophy, women, until an idea emerges. Francesco is the person who manages to express the idea, capture it, and make it happen.”

Edra dedicated a special evening in memory of Giovanni Gastel to Binfaré at La Scala on  9th June,  a “karstic” precursor to the Compasso d’Oro Lifetime Award presented to him a couple of weeks later. “Even if no one can say exactly what his profession is. Not even him.”

Binfaré, Interview Intro

13 January 2023