by Anmol AhujaNov 05, 2021
“Many people think that everything needs to be combined between function and form. I think before that, you need to design something with beauty. It is, of course, a subjective idea of beauty. But if I decide to choose beauty in a certain project, and even if that means I need to kill the functionality, I’ll kill the functionality. Because our eyes, our heart, our stomach, they all need to be shocked by beauty and not the qualities of comfort.”
- Piero Lissoni
To the world, Piero Lissoni is a name firmly settled among the highest echelons of contemporary design. Over an illustrious career spanning three decades, the multifaceted Italian architect and designer has donned many hats - both as the head of his Milan and New York-based studio Lissoni & Partners (and its numerous divisions), as well as a creative director for several reputed design brands, including Alpi, B&B Italia, Boffi, Living Divani, Lema, Lualdi, Porro, and Sanlorenzo. Alternatively, besides his design prowess, Lissoni is also well-known for his acerbic wit, candour, and humility. Needless to say, his inimitable sense of humour and penchant for striking, instantly quotable statements were brought to the fore over the course of his UNSCRIPTED conversation, as he illuminated the ins-and-outs of what it means to be the man, the myth, and the legend that is Piero Lissoni.
Born and raised in the vicinity of Milan, Italy, Lissoni describes his younger self as brimming with inquisitiveness, driven by a self-professed ‘anarchist’ attitude, and compelled to discover the world around him. Alongside his capacity to remain a child at times, he believes he has retained all these traits well into adulthood, but tempered them with a sense of discipline that he views as essential for continuity. His early years were equal parts traditional and unorthodox, underscored by his unending curiosity, as he notes, “Curiosity. I think it is one of the most incredible secrets of life.” He also speaks fondly of his maternal grandfather, who taught him the ways of the world as a youth. Narrating tales of being introduced to martini cocktails at bars in Venice, Lissoni attributes his snappy dress sense, eye for wine pairings, and an appreciation for the finer qualities of life to his grandfather’s tutelage.
I like to remain inside a special state of childhood, to live all my life like I’m on the playground.
On the professional front, Lissoni has dipped his toes into virtually every sphere of architecture and design: from graphics to hotels, yacht interiors to corporate headquarters, sofas and armchairs to kettles and lighting design fixtures. Recent endeavours by his studio, which include the ‘Regenerate’ toothbrush and Sanlorenzo SX112 yacht, are a testament to the incredibly varied scales he works with. In spite of all the high-profile projects he has lent his talents to over the years, Lissoni still humorously expresses his disappointment on not having designed the latest iPhone and cheekily adds that he is only chosen for projects by virtue of being “super decorative and beautiful." His office within the Lissoni & Partners studio is, according to him, a “combination of attitudes - life, work, and memories, a collection of many different thoughts." Contrastingly, he labels his home as ‘private,' and a little more calm, cool, and clean.
Recognised for the effortless regal elegance that pervades his multidisciplinary oeuvre, Lissoni’s characteristic style is typified by a rigorous attention to the minutiae of proportion and harmony, often expressed in slender profiles, sophisticated material combinations, classical sensibilities, and a disarming air of lightness. Conversely, when questioned about his idea of the divine (with regards to his affinity for the oft-uttered idiom ‘the devil is in the detail’), Lissoni dryly retorts, “I normally prefer the devil, as he seems more human.”
Stating that he was “born to be a traveller," the famed designer shares his love for discovering food, people, languages, and culture on his globe-trotting exploits to Patagonia, the South Pole, Cambodia, Hong Kong, and remote parts of India. He reflects that travelling to extreme locations is a constant reminder that he is “nobody in the middle of nowhere. You realise immediately how small you are." Furthermore, Lissoni is also an admitted skiing fanatic, mentioning that he is “totally, completely, addicted to freestyle and freeride skiing wherever possible." Preferring to always live in the present, he is unapologetically disdainful of nostalgia and dwelling on the past, viewing the prospect of tomorrow as a “great surprise."
All this and more: tap on the cover video to view the full conversation.
All photographs © Piero Lissoni, 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.