In­tu­ition and serendip­ity

Neue Luxury - - News - By Roj Amedi

Flavio Man­zoni im­bues ev­ery conversation with can­dour and pas­sion, his sen­tences scat­tered with lit­er­ary quotes and ref­er­ences to works of art and ar­chi­tec­ture. Ac­cord­ing to the self-taught de­signer, great au­to­mo­tive de­sign is achieved by cross-fer­til­is­ing dis­parate dis­ci­plines and ap­pre­ci­at­ing in­tu­ition and serendip­ity through­out the process. He ex­plains this dur­ing his re­cent Aus­tralian visit to launch the Gtc4lusso in the South­ern Hemi­sphere, fol­low­ing its in­ter­na­tional pre­miere at the Geneva Mo­tor­show in March 2016. Dur­ing our conversation, he speaks en­thu­si­as­ti­cally about his team and the world of cre­ative op­por­tu­nity in Fer­rari. His ethos is best de­scribed as the ‘meta­lan­guage of form’, where de­sign is an act of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and form is the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of mem­ory, moder­nity, tra­di­tion, artistry and cul­ture, rather than be­ing purely util­i­tar­ian or or­na­men­tal. Man­zoni sub­scribes to the be­lief that a Fer­rari is much more than its tech­no­log­i­cal and me­chan­i­cal prow­ess, it rep­re­sents and en­cap­su­lates moder­nity in its truest essence. “Creativ­ity, for me, is the abil­ity to see be­yond re­la­tion­ships where they still don’t ex­ist,” he ex­plains, point­ing to Lás­zló Mo­holy-nagy, the Bauhaus mas­ter, who es­poused the virtues of unit­ing and con­nect­ing el­e­ments that are not ob­vi­ously in­te­grated at first view.

The Sar­dinian born au­to­mo­tive de­signer holds a de­gree in ar­chi­tec­ture, with a spe­cial­i­sa­tion in in­dus­trial de­sign. He be­gan his ca­reer in au­to­mo­tive de­sign in 1993 and pro­duced work for Lan­cia, Maserati, SEAT, Fiat, Volk­swa­gen, Škoda, Bent­ley and Bu­gatti, be­fore join­ing Fer­rari in Jan­uary 2010. As Fer­rari’s se­nior vice-pres­i­dent of de­sign, Man­zoni has the en­vi­able task of lead­ing the Fer­rari De­sign Cen­tre and specif­i­cally the de­sign of the 430 Scud­e­ria, 458 Italia, Cal­i­for­nia T, F12 Ber­linetta, F12 TDF, La­fer­rari and the Gtc4lusso. Man­zoni’s role— as a cre­ative di­rec­tor of sorts— is a first for the mar­que in over 70 years. The Fer­rari De­sign Cen­tre rep­re­sents the rein­tro­duc­tion of com­plete in-house de­sign, from con­cep­tion all the way to the fi­nal model— an ap­proach that had been dis­re­garded in the years pre­ced­ing Man­zoni’s ap­point­ment.

Un­der­stand­ing Man­zoni’s de­sign prin­ci­ples is tan­ta­mount to un­der­stand­ing Fer­rari’s mod­ern iter­a­tions and de­vel­op­ments. Each Fer­rari is re­alised by the slow and care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion of key de­sign el­e­ments. Liken­ing his col­lab­o­ra­tive ra­tio­nale to jazz, Man­zoni de­scribes “mul­ti­ple in­di­vid­u­als work­ing to­wards the same vi­sion and with an equal abil­ity to in­ter­pret the pro­ject in dif­fer­ent ways. Sim­i­lar to a jam ses­sion, mul­ti­ple mu­si­cians are able to im­pro­vise in­di­vid­u­ally whilst con­tribut­ing to one whole piece of mu­sic.” These jam ses­sions are an op­por­tune time to cu­rate think­ing by dis­ci­plines out­side of au­to­mo­tive de­sign, in­clud­ing ar­chi­tec­ture, sculpt­ing and math­e­mat­ics. “For the de­signer, the prob­lem is how to bal­ance beauty and com­plex­ity.” Man­zoni demon­strates his in­sights by virtue of the other dis­ci­plines that he draws in­spi­ra­tion from, in­clud­ing the sculp­tural works of Anish Kapoor or the rev­o­lu­tion­ary 4D geo­met­ric cal­cu­la­tions de­vel­oped by Ger­man math­e­ma­ti­cian Ge­org Friedrich Bern­hard Rie­mann.

Con­sid­er­ing the en­gi­neer­ing, aero­dy­namic and bud­getary con­straints, au­to­mo­tive de­sign al­most al­ways ad­heres to the ‘form fol­lows func­tion’ mantra, which can make in­no­va­tion dif­fi­cult. Ideally, the evo­lu­tion­ary de­sign process would start with a blank and ex­pand­ing can­vas, “in re­al­ity, [Fer­rari] never start from a true blank page but from a tech­ni­cal base of the car that is called a ‘pack­age’. It de­fines the ba­sic ar­chi­tec­tural lay­out of the car and pro­vides the de­sign team those fun­da­men­tal con­straints to be re­spected in or­der to en­sure a spe­cific per­for­mance range,” ex­plains Man­zoni. “The aero­dy­nam­ics plays a highly rel­e­vant role to the de­sign process— es­pe­cially when you con­sider the breath tak­ing speed that a Fer­rari can reach—while the er­gonomics and in­tu­itive lay­out of the con­trols in­flu­ence the in­te­rior lay­outs of the car and dash­board.”

This con­cep­tual process of­ten means that each de­sign de­ci­sion is made with a frame­work that Man­zoni de­scribes as “the log­i­cal con­se­quence of ra­tio­nal choice”. Mean­ing that the de­vel­op­ment and de­sign of a Fer­rari is not con­ceived in­de­pen­dently from its tech­no­log­i­cal abil­ity, but rather as a vis­ual in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the power un­der­neath its shell. “We avoid su­per­fi­cial and dec­o­ra­tive styling, be­cause we al­ways need to reach a de­sign con­sis­tency,” ex­plains Man­zoni. “It’s also a method or a phi­los­o­phy that is based on the con­tin­u­ous chal­lenge and ap­ti­tude as de­sign­ers, to be both cre­ative and co­her­ent at the same time. This kind of rig­or­ous ap­proach to de­fine the shape, re­flects the ‘essence’ of the pro­ject and dis­tin­guishes true de­sign from mere styling.” Work­ing on sev­eral lev­els con­cur­rently, Man­zoni and his team aim to cap­ture the emo­tion of Fer­rari, while en­hanc­ing its ca­pa­bil­i­ties with ev­ery re­lease. In or­der to ful­fill the prom­ises of this method, Man­zoni es­pouses the ben­e­fits of heuris­tic pro­cesses (where log­i­cal and prac­ti­cal short­cuts are utilised to meet im­me­di­ate goals), lat­eral think­ing and so­phis­ti­cated de­sign. “We don’t like to follow the phi­los­o­phy of small in­cre­men­tal changes, based upon the op­ti­mi­sa­tion of the pre­vi­ous ex­ist­ing so­lu­tions and prod­ucts,” Man­zoni adds.

“I be­lieve that a ‘new icon’ should be born from new ideas and con­cepts, some­thing un­ex­pected and not a mere re­work­ing of past icons. This is why my col­lab­o­ra­tors and I in the Fer­rari De­sign Cen­tre are con­stantly look­ing for new par­a­digms,” ex­plains Man­zoni. Man­zoni stresses that de­sign should look to the fu­ture to bet­ter rep­re­sent the de­sires and de­mands of mod­ern so­ci­ety. The process should re­alise the la­tent needs of the mod­ern age and as a con­se­quence pri­ori­tise fu­ture de­sign over retro de­sign. “This does not ab­so­lutely mean that we for­get a her­itage as rich as that of Fer­rari, but we can ref­er­ence el­e­ments in a metaphor­i­cal and sub­lim­i­nal way— a sub­tle hint to her­itage in a so­phis­ti­cated way.” Man­zoni points to the noses of Le­fer­rari and FXXK, which were in­spired by the shark like nose of the F156 that had won the 1961 For­mula 1 World Cham­pi­onship and the Gtc4lusso with twin lights ref­er­enced from the 308 and the 456. When asked about Eric Clap­ton’s SP12 EC and its homage to the 458 Italia and 512 Ber­linetta Boxer from the 1970s, Man­zoni high­lights how the end re­sult was a com­plete ap­pro­pri­a­tion of both the 458 base with a 512 body— a rare ex­cep­tion to his ethos of sub­tle adop­tion of iconic de­sign el­e­ments.

The chal­lenge of rec­on­cil­ing client de­sire against de­sign in­no­va­tion is a balanc­ing act that has to be con­fronted in ev­ery Fer­rari model. “There is a con­tin­u­ous ten­sion be­tween the yearn­ing of moder­nity, the dream, the vi­sion and what state of the art tech­nol­ogy en­ables us to do,” he re­flects. With al­most 95% of Fer­rari’s pro­duc­tion aimed to­wards in­ter­na­tional markets, this meta­lan­guage of de­sign must not only re­flect the her­itage of the mar­que, but speak the lan­guage of a global and cos­mopoli­tan con­sumer. Ac­com­mo­dat­ing to such con­sid­er­a­tions is not a bur­den but rather part of a broader fo­cus on ‘uni­ver­sal­ity’, where the de­sign team en­vi­sion forms and lines that tran­scend bor­ders and ex­ceed ex­pec­ta­tions. “We push our­selves to match our cus­tomers’ high­est ex­pec­ta­tions from the de­sign point of view (that’s my role ob­vi­ously), but also un­der all of that, we do the same for the tech­ni­cal and per­for­mance val­ues,” adds Man­zoni. “A Fer­rari is more than a car, it’s a true myth. And all the Fer­raris are de­fined as true ‘mov­ing sculp­tures’ or ‘art works’.” Man­zoni as­serts that there is also a po­lar­ity in Fer­rari’s brand of lux­ury, where a Gtc4lusso rep­re­sents sports lux­ury with its coupé in­flu­enced shoot­ing brake, ar­chi­tec­ture and spa­cious in­te­rior, the FXXK, in com­par­i­son, sym­bol­ises high per­for­mance and hy­per­tech­nol­ogy. “How­ever both ex­am­ples are ex­clu­sive, and their rar­ity make our prod­ucts even more de­sir­able and unique.”

These ‘mov­ing sculp­tures’ can also be re­de­fined by re­quest through Fer­rari’s be­spoke de­sign pro­gram, Tai­lor­made. A ser­vice born out of the Fer­rari De­sign Cen­tre, where Man­zoni nom­i­nated a divi­sion—what is known as a Ma­te­ri­oteca— purely fo­cused on ar­chiv­ing ma­te­ri­als and re­search­ing new com­po­nents. Within a few months the archive be­came a source of in­spi­ra­tion and was used to in­tro­duce clients into the world of Fer­rari be­spoke. Clients were per­son­ally in­tro­duced by the CEO or Pres­i­dent to pe­ruse the cre­ative op­por­tu­ni­ties and the vast ex­panse of ma­te­ri­als that could be utilised in any Fer­rari de­sign. “Step by step we un­der­stood the strate­gic im­por­tance and the func­tion of this area. So we de­cided to cre­ate a spe­cific pro­gram based on in­creased per­son­al­i­sa­tion,” Man­zoni ex­plains. Within this divi­sion, ma­te­ri­als such as fur­ni­ture, tex­tiles, leathers and com­pos­ites are sourced to am­plify each client’s Fer­rari. Man­zoni spot­lights a 458 MM Speciale de­signed for an English client with an in­te­rior in­spired by the 288 GTO and the ex­te­rior painted white to am­plify the tra­di­tional Ital­ian tri­colour stripe that runs through the cen­tre of the car’s ex­te­rior.

How­ever, be­spoke de­sign is not just con­cen­trated on el­e­ments such as colour, tex­tiles and ma­te­ri­als, it can also in­flu­ence new think­ing and tech­nol­ogy. When asked about the fu­ture op­por­tu­ni­ties, Man­zoni be­lieves that aug­mented re­al­ity and im­mer­sive spa­ces will be fur­ther ad­vanced and bring new pos­si­bil­i­ties for ex­pe­ri­enc­ing ob­jects, space and sur­face in the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try. Space­crafts are also a new fron­tier that may over­come is­sues of fi­nite land re­sources and will ul­ti­mately de­ter­mine the fo­cus of Fer­rari de­sign. Man­zoni’s pas­sion for sci­ence fic­tion led him to a conversation with a UFO ex­pert and jour­nal­ist who in­spired him to de­sign a space­craft pro­to­type based on Le­fer­rari. Man­zoni re­de­fined and sim­pli­fied the La­fer­rari ex­te­rior with the as­sis­tance of his de­sign team. He as­serts that Le­fer­rari’s adapt­abil­ity to the con­cept re­in­forced his con­stant drive to de­velop cars that are fu­ture fo­cused. The pro­ject un­veiled the pos­si­bil­ity of adapt­ing new ma­te­ri­als, tech­nolo­gies and aero­dy­nam­ics that could be as­sim­i­lated into the Fer­rari de­sign lex­i­con.

With over 77 years of Fer­rari his­tory, Man­zoni and his team have the chal­lenge of main­tain­ing the her­itage and brand iden­tity of one of the world’s most iconic mar­ques— a pres­ti­gious rep­u­ta­tion that can only be up­held if one con­tin­ues to push the bound­aries of in­no­va­tion. It is clear that Man­zoni is want­ing to leave his mark on this pe­riod of au­to­mo­tive his­tory and cap­ture the cu­ri­ous minds of a new gen­er­a­tion of Fer­rari en­thu­si­asts. “The de­sign of a Fer­rari rep­re­sents to me a con­nec­tion be­tween moder­nity and re­spect for the tra­di­tion, be­tween in­ven­tion and mem­ory. It’s the meet­ing point be­tween artis­tic sen­si­bil­ity and the ‘cul­ture of the pro­ject’. A process steeped in in­tu­ition and imag­i­na­tion from the present in or­der to shape the fu­ture.”

Photo by Neue Lux­ury.

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