Ahead of just his second appearance ever in Chicago, multi-disciplinary creative Antonio Citterio waxes on design and more with Michigan Avenue.
When commercial design trade show NeoCon 2017 descends on the Merchandise Mart from June 12–14, some of the industry’s biggest names will converge on the Windy City. Coinciding with the affair is the appearance of famed multi-disciplinary Italian designer and architect Antonio Citterio—known for his pieces for Vitra, B&B Italia, and other lines—to celebrate the opening of his month-long retrospective at Luminaire, who hosts the creative visionary for a lecture at the MCA on June 13. Ahead of his arrival (just his second-ever visit to Chicago), Citterio shared his thoughts on Chicago design, his forthcoming exhibition, and what the rest of 2017 holds for him.
On what can attendees expect to learn from his lecture at the MCA: The cross-disciplinary approach to design typical of Italian culture. In our profession, there is now a kind of specialization. Mine was the last generation to keep some form of transversality: the way in which my career has evolved is based on the mixture between the architect’s conceptual approach and the creativity of the industrial designer.
On his favorite pieces from his exhibition at Luminaire: One product I’m particularly fond of is the “Charles” sofa system by B&B Italia, presented in 1997 and now available also in the outdoor version. First conceived for the living room of my apartment in downtown Milan, it was put into production and it’s still a best-seller after 20 years. The Kelvin LED lamp by Flos is also one of my favorite products. I have it on my desk in the office.
My approach to design has always been product-oriented instead of market-oriented. I have a pragmatic, atemporal approach—I like timeless products. For me, it is a compliment when people cannot date a product, when it lasts for years. When people buy my creations, they should be thinking that the object is right, that they can use it immediately. Price, quality, the emotions it triggers—there has to be a mixture of all these things.
Citterio's Charles Sofa design for B&B Italia, on display at Luminaire.
On his impressions of Chicago in the design world: Since 1937, when the Bauhaus moved to the city, Chicago has been one of the international centers of diffusion of the culture of design at large. Chicago today is also one of the most interesting cities in terms of urban development and renewal.
On the industry contemporaries he admires: I admire all of them! (laughing).
On what the rest of 2017 holds for him: There are several ongoing schemes being carried out by our architectural and interior design practice that are now under construction or reaching completion, such as some high-rise residential condominiums in the Far East. Later this year, we will inaugurate a new office building designed by our practice in Munich and three new luxury hotel developments in Dubai, Beijing, and Shanghai. Then there are the ongoing projects in the United States, being developed by our subsidiary office in New York City, which we opened in 2015. The first project reaching construction stage is a residential condominium at Miami Surfside.