by Jerry ElengicalNov 19, 2021
“There is no reason to design if you don’t want to optimise the world, if you don’t want to create a better condition, if you don’t want to make a contribution to a better world for the next generation.”
- Michele De Lucchi
For any creative profession, it now seems to be a fact printed on a manifesto that states multidisciplinarity, a certain urge to not be contained or labelled by a single professional term, to be a thorough creative in anything that requires the cerebral function to be elevated by more than mere machination and calculation. Where this stems from is how one of the most well known Italian architects in the world, Michele De Lucchi, introduced himself at the beginning of his UNSCRIPTED chat. “I really don’t know what it is that I do,” mentioned De Lucchi, going on to then state 10 different things he was proud to call an encompassment of his work. The salutation and the intended confusion in it paved the way for contentment, as De Lucchi closed his stoic introduction by stating that he was just happy to be here, on this planet. For creativity, and for the pursuit of manifesting it through tangible objects and buildings, De Lucchi believes in letting it all flow, as he compares living to fluidity.
Founder of his eponymous practice, named with his initials, AMDL Circle, the 70-year-old architect and designer has forever been fuelled to “be different”. It would be rather easy to pit that difference to pure cosmetics, but a single chat with De Lucchi would enunciate that the Italian designer has a method to find his groove, his style, a distinctive element to define his works. Interestingly enough, De Lucchi’s first project itself was aimed at finding distinction. One half of a pair of identical twins, De Lucchi’s answer to one of the questions I had forever been raging to ask the veteran: the secret behind his glorious beard, immediately reminiscent (to me) of Prof. Albus Dumbledore from the Harry Potter lore, took me by surprise. The flowing snowy beard, now a part of De Lucchi’s own visual identity, was intended as a differentiator between himself and his twin brother, Ottorino De Lucchi, an artist in Italy.
Now 30 episodes down the line, UNSCRIPTED has had its fair share of stories that break the mould and see the designers flexing a creative muscle, with that segment making it to the opening of the video, breaking that templatisation. De Lucchi’s becomes a particularly endearing one: watching an architect of global renown ransacking his pockets, trying to find his pencil to explain his conditioned, intrepid ritual of sketching on used printer paper cut into equal quarters, a bundle of pulp he calls his “pocket paper”, bears a certain charm, and begets a different kind of inspired fascination. “Without my pencil, I am dead!,” exclaimed De Lucchi, the near treasure hunt culminating with a sigh of relief and a proclamation of victory. The “finally” graces his title card for the chat.
De Lucchi was trained as an architect in Florence, a title he carries affixed to his name now. In his own words, being born in Ferrara, near Venice, studying in Florence, and practicing in “dynamic” Milan, lent him an inimitable perspective. Much like Italy oscillating between the Renaissance and the onset of modernist principles, along with a new design voice in Memphis, De Lucchi too found peace in the process of finding his radical voice, torn between the past and present. At the forefront of multiple movements in design, De Lucchi most fondly remembers his association with Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis Group, wherein he states his most significant learning to be a kind of “intellectual aggression”, a quality of being louder than the normal voice of the world, of life itself. His voice found its way through some of his most profound creations, including the Bridge of Peace in Tbilisi, Pavilion Zero for Expo Milano, the ‘Tolomeo’ lamp, ‘Bottiglia’ vases, ‘Viso’ Lamp, ‘Pulcina’ coffee maker, ‘Strip’ drinking glasses, ‘Lyric’ piano, and ‘Maramaldo’ bookshelf; and through his collaborations with brands including Alessi, Artemis, Hermès, Armani, Ferrari, Kartell, Poltrona Frau, and Unilever, establishing him as a global icon in the arena of design.
The master designer has also been a master craftsman through decades of his own practice. From creating miniature replicas of homes in wooden blocks, to modelling his own creations in wood to lend an Italian identity to the Harry Potter books, De Lucchi strongly advocates the use of naturally sourced timber to build responsibly and without waste, and considers the material to be his ally. Armed with a chainsaw alone, an act he sees as sculpting most directly, De Lucchi has been famous for giving form and face to entire habitable houses, using only wooden blocks and slats: a relationship he wishes to leverage to correct the narrative of the planet's dubious future.
On the occasion of his 70th birthday, a plethora of other unknown, interesting facts about the maverick designer and architect unveil themselves through the chat. Click on the cover video to view the full conversation!
All photographs © Michele De Lucchi, unless stated otherwise. Images may not be downloaded, copied, reproduced or used in part or whole without obtaining permission. The photographs in this video are not licensed for personal, commercial or public use, or use in the public domain in any form.
Curated by Pramiti Madhavji (Consultant, Content Adviser, STIR), UNSCRIPTED is a STIR-original series of quick-witted video interviews with leading design professionals who give us an undiscovered peek into their lives. A melting pot of quests, revelations and quirks, the series releases a new episode every Sunday as designers reveal unheard and unknown nuggets from their lives, in response to 30 questions.