Rationalist culture has imposed the “less is more” rule, but for some time in the world of design and interior an opposite approach has prevailed, what Cinzia Pagni calls “more and more”. An approach that makes decor an important moment in the language of design. Cinzia Pagni supports this thesis in a recent successful book, Ornament is no longer a crime, published by Franco Angeli. A thesis that the author, contract professor of the Polytechnic of Milan, also demonstrates with her work as a designer.
Cinzia Pagni, in your book you explain how personalization has become the design code of interior design in recent years. Is laminate a resource in this sense?
“The house represents the personality of those who live in it, it must be a sort of tailored suit, an expression of different lifestyles. Certainly materials are an essential value to allow the designer to express that behavioral grammar that translates into the inhomogeneous and therefore personalized language of the project because it no longer refers to a rigid approach made only of norms and standards. Personalization and materials is the combination with which the designers expressed themselves from the Eighties onwards, when the laminate and the research on surfaces carried out by Sottsass and then by Mendini became part of the design language, affirming itself more and more as a valid alternative to other materials that gave the product a more traditional connotation. With the introduction of laminates, the aesthetic value of the furniture and the design possibilities completely change. As I write in my book, there are natural materials that are already composite individually, and others that designers combine eclectically to obtain better results in terms of resistance, performance and quality. Even the designed objects should respond to this material eclecticism, using natural and synthetic materials together, and looking for different combinations and assemblies each time”.
Laminate is a human product that has allowed us to unleash the design imagination. What is its potential today?
“Today more than ever laminate offers infinite possibilities not only from an aesthetic and decorative point of view but also functional. In this pandemic period, we realized how personal hygiene and compliance with hygiene rules are important. Laminate, in this sense, is fundamental: on the one hand it offers infinite expressive possibilities and on the other it guarantees maximum cleaning practicality, characteristics today considered fundamental. In this pandemic period we designers have re-evaluated those materials that allow applications on all surfaces and are easy to clean and have low costs. With the introduction of laminates, the aesthetic value of the furniture changes completely. In some cases laminates reproduce natural materials and in others invent new textures with an autonomous language that goes beyond the reproduction of fake wood or fake marble”.
Can you tell us how you used laminate in one of your architecture or interior projects?
“Laminate has multiple application possibilities, I personally use it to create various furniture both on design and production, furniture for kitchens, bathrooms, wardrobes and many other containers for the home, office, hotels. Today laminates offer designers a very wide range of expressive possibilities both in colors and textures and in the re-proposal of other materials that would not always be suitable for furnishings: I think of concrete, stone, marble, copper, steel, corten, fabric. These are all material effects that today thanks to laminates we can choose and combine without the problems that, instead, we would encounter if we used the real materials. Today what matters is the performance of a material, and in this sense the contribution of the designer who guides the customer in the choices is fundamental. Lately I am working on a renovation project of a shop transformed into a home, where to exploit the space in height we designed a sleeping area which is a block furnished with a mezzanine and a bed. The block is inspired by some solutions that have contributed to the evolution in the history of furniture: the Home for a young woman by Cini Boeri, built in Milan in 1978, and the Mini Space by Joe Colombo, dated 1968”.
What is the relationship between artificial and natural in your projects?
“Our projects (mine and Claudia Borgonovo’s) focus on the well-being of the person, of those who will live the spaces and furnishings. We design mixing natural and artificial in a continuous harmony between practical and emotional. Natural materials often have problems in some situations and therefore we tend to recommend the most suitable materials based on customer needs. If the customer loves white marble but has a family with 4 children and two dogs, perhaps the kitchen will be easier to manage if made with a laminate, or if he loves resin but is afraid that the bathroom furniture is too delicate, it’s better opting for laminates. The relationship is not algebraic, but it is a choice made together with the customer to create an environment in harmony with his needs from every point of view”.
How important is sustainability in your design thinking?
“Living today is increasingly sustainable. Sustainability is present today in every area and scale of the project, from architecture to design, to the production of building materials. We all participate in this paradigm shift. The sustainable project is a modus vivendi, a thought that leads to the creation of quality homes and workplaces, aesthetically beautiful, which are ethically efficient from an energy and water point of view, and which use innovative products and materials, environments that involve, which according to our design approach, they are designed for the client’s well-being and happiness”.
How do you imagine the laminate could evolve from a graphic or chromatic point of view?
“Already observing the great masters, we can see how one of the first in Italy to deal with the importance of the surfaces of the furniture product is Gio Ponti, who captures its strong communicative component. The decoration was an idea of the 80s with the application of patterns over normal surfaces (Memphis was born in Milan in 1981). Materials that normally hide, such as plastic laminate, are now enhanced. The introduction of laminates completely changes the aesthetic value of the piece of furniture and the design possibilities, which still offer us ample freedom. The pandemic pushed us to pay more attention to new priorities: today research should recover that innovative push that brought Italian design to be the reference point for companies and designers from all over the world, I think of the historic exhibition The new Domestic Landscape – MoMA 1972 when Italian designers were invited to create environments and furnishing elements capable of activating new rituals and habits throughout the day, creating spaces capable of hosting objects changing in form and function, a metaphor for a company’s identity who was experiencing a profound metamorphosis. In summary, less glamor and more innovation”.