Raffaella Mangiarotti, an architect and product designer, is known for her works for numerous electronics brands, as well as for her famed Dandelion Lamp, which is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
In Jakarta to commemorate the inaugural Italian Design Day, Mangiarotti was teamed up with Cosmas Gozali, one of Indonesia’s most acclaimed architects, to delight a crowd of aficionados and professionals in a discussion.
The inaugural design day was staged in over 100 cities across the globe and featured important Italian architects, business leaders, critics, academics and designers to illustrate the history and new trends the Italian design sector has to offer.
Mangiarotti has won the RedDot Design Award, the IF Design Award, the Good Design Award and Green Dot Award. Meanwhile, Cosmas is a graduate of the Vienna Technical University and launched his eponymous atelier in 2005. A passionate promoter of the nation’s creative class and brilliant designer, Cosmas has numerous accolades, including nods from Skala+ Contemporary Design Magazine and the Skala+ Annual Award for Urban House.
Mangiarotti discussed how she got into the business after completing her studies at the Milan Polytechnic. She collaborated with Marco Zanuso, a notable Italian architect famous for product designs. “Working with him, I immediately started to work on product design, particularly furniture. When doing some prototypes, I realized that furniture design is about innovation and function, which I have kept in mind until now, even when I do electronic designs,” Mangiarotti said. “To work in another field in design is a great opportunity, as you are gifted with a ‘cross-thinking’ effect. One field can give you an idea that you can do in another field in a more innovative way.”
Mangiarotti said she took inspiration from things big and small, such as the natural world and jewelry, giving the example of her Dandelion Lamp. “I was fascinated by [the flower’s] big head, the thin structure and how it moves along with the wind. Then I was thinking that nature can do this kind of thing–maybe we can do this in artificially.”
While it was not easy to convince her client to make the Dandelion Lamp’s movable structure, Mangiarotti said she fought for the project, feeling what she referred to as the “poetry in the design”. Together with Matteo Bazzicalupo, she won the A Design award for the lamp, which has been shown at numerous international exhibitions around the world.
For Mangiarotti, tradition and innovation are the factors driving Italian design. She says that Italians have been doing constructive and innovative designs since the post-Second World War era–and that has become a tradition. “Now that we are in crisis, designers are still dedicating their best to make innovations. This tradition has trained us to do things in a good way, with innovative thinking and very good quality control, to work on something we have never seen before.”
Cosmas agreed. Although an architect, Cosmas has ventured into other fields such as product design to great acclaim. “Things shared between both Indonesian and Italian product design are surely craftsmanship and natural materials. At one moment, we are amazed by how technology ‘un-limits’ industrial design.” On the other hand, Indonesians like to keep natural things in their living spaces, he added. “Our local talent Abie Abdillah is a fine example. He designed a structural chair that was made of rattan and processed by industrial machines. This balance and combination attracted the famous product designer and curator Giulio Cappellini, who later equated this chair ones made by world famous designers.” (Check out this edition’s article on Singapore Design Week for more on Cappellini).
When asked about her definition of good design, Mangiarotti was direct. “When you don’t repeat a design and are original instead, you have made your contribution.” She continued. “Product design is about giving your personal view to project a tradition with the culture you want to create,” Mangiarotti said. “It has the context of time, hence product design can be used as a barometer of culture, tradition and innovation.”