2007: the Canadian design collective Samare with heart in Montreal. 2010: the gallery Carwan Gallery in Beirut with Pascale Wakim. 2011: the design studio Oeuffice in London with Jakub Zak. 2017: the collectible design fair Nomad with Giorgio Pace in Montecarlo and St. Moritz. With the exception from Samare, these your initiatives are working on. Architect, designer, gallery owner and curator: you promote design and you are designer at the same time. How you combine these souls?
I like ‘’to wear many hats’’ and I am always curious about full processes and systems. I consider myself an architect-designer, a gallerist, a curator and more recently a fair director. Same phenomenon also applies to my identity, I grew up in Canada and being North American is the first thing that comes to mind, but I migrated to Europe more than 17 years ago and I feel also truly Italian in my lifestyle and the way I express myself. Finally, I have spent a lot of time in Beirut, Lebanon in the past eight years and the Lebanese culture really infused me and I feel very concerned and protective over this part of the world, as if it was my homeland. I guess I am quite transversal in everything I do.
I actually don’t like to define myself solely as a designer. I think my strength is in collaborations, I have a transversal vision of where I want to take projects and I think this holistic approach makes the difference.
Although you have chosen Milan as your base, do your current and past wanderings (which also includes Venice and Berlin not mentioned yet) influence your design and your choices as a curator and gallery owner ?
I feel my creative process is quite instinctive. I am constantly inspired by different cultures, ways of thinking in different languages, trips and discoveries. I like how all of my cultural backgrounds melt around a concept in a natural way. For me the most important thing is the first vision, to see a true potential in an idea, a concept, in someone or in a project.
I love Milan as a base, I feel at home. It is probably my nomadic spirit that brought me here after a few years in Berlin, I needed a city where things are happening without giving up a certain lifestyle. Milan is my oasis where I come to rest, think and work more precisely. Beirut is an explosion of meetings, parties, shows, setups, happy chaos and it is quite restless for me.
In Beirut the vision of creativity in this part of the world is interesting— you feel very strongly the western and oriental influences meeting here and the idea of relativity is so different. It is very inspiring to see things through different eyes and cultures.
Culture is for me the starting point of many great concepts and ideas. Globalization has the sad effect to make design very uniform all over the world, I believe that culture has a strong narrative and makes an object very unique when it comes from a specific context.
You prefer to work on unique pieces or small series, developed in-house, and not for companies. Is this also due to your nomadic soul?
I feel collectable design goes beyond the simple need to furnish an environment or produce another object for the industry. A design collection is a statement of culture and identity, defining who you are and in what kind of space you want to evolve. I like very much the conceptual and intimate approach/relationship collector-gallerist-designer in this field, this is probably why I chose to operate in this field.
In 2009 and 2010 you have partecipated to the SaloneSatellite with Samare. What do you remember and what did those experiences leave you? Is this to coincide with your debut in the design world?
For me SaloneSatellite was my very first contact to the design world at large. I was young (27) and very excited about the design world, it was a great meaning of freedom for me after architecture and I felt more comfortable in this field than art. I was quite naive in my approach to design I must say since I brought a project of auto-production made in Canada with native artisanal techniques who had nothing to do with the majority of designers showing there prototypes with the objective to sign with some manufacturer. But maybe this is precisely what I learned for Satellite and the world of design in general, to find my own way towards the field of collectible design which is still not easy to understand!
Milan is also the city that you choose, among a few other destinations, to present your personal works and those of the designers which you select. Is it just a sentimental bond or do you think that the association design + Milan is always a winning combination?
As I said before, I love Milan. It is obviously a convenient base since you have the global design scene of professionals coming often to the city, especially for Salone.
One last question: your design vision is, at the same time, concrete - because it is often based on precise spatial and constructive conceptions - and visionary, because it shifts the attention of things and known forms towards an apparent or declared transformation. Could it be a definition of contemporary utopia?
Obviously, I always question myself about my own definition of a perfect environment. My vision of a perfect space (even if I don’t like the word perfect) is a multi-layered sensorial experience that goes beyond the single object, towards a universe that accepts chaos and history with positivity and openness, in search of strong but soft ideas about the way to improve everyday. This is exactly around what I try to create collections of objects, or as a curator a vision I look for or that I try to share with other designers.