DE­SIGN HERO

With his love of the anti-es­tab­lish­ment, this Ital­ian has be­come one of the de­sign world’s most trea­sured names

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Florence might be syn­ony­mous with the Re­nais­sance, but in the 1960s and 70s, the city was a hot­bed of ex­per­i­men­tal style. It was the birth­place of the Rad­i­cal De­sign and Anti- De­sign move­ments, whose key play­ers in­cluded avant- garde col­lec­tives Su­per­stu­dio and Archizoom. Th­ese groups wanted to shake up main­stream Ital­ian de­sign, and the em­pha­sis that they be­lieved it placed on ‘ good’ taste at the ex­pense of so­cial needs. The ex­traor­di­nar­ily pro­lific ar­chi­tect and de­signer Michele De Luc­chi – who was born in 1951 in Fer­rara, north­ern Italy – was closely as­so­ci­ated with both groups while study­ing ar­chi­tec­ture at the Univer­sity of Florence from 1969 to 1975. ‘ We were in­flu­enced by the May 1968 anti­estab­lish­ment protests in Paris,’ De Luc­chi ex­plains.

He and his peers were also in­flu­enced by kitsch and Pop art, and aimed to im­bue de­sign with hu­mour and hu­man qual­i­ties. ‘ We re­belled against ob­jects that felt cold and dis­tant,’ he says.

In 1973, De Luc­chi co-founded for­ward-look­ing ar­chi­tec­ture group Cavart and in 1978 joined Stu­dio Alchimia, for which he pro­duced the ec­cen­tric ‘Sin­vola’ light, in­cor­po­rat­ing a tar­tan pin cush­ion bristling with pins. In the late 1970s, he also cre­ated elec­tri­cal ap­pli­ances in nurs­ery hues, such as candy pink and baby blue. He achieved greater fame de­sign­ing pieces for 1980s group Mem­phis, notably the now highly col­lectible ‘First’ chair.

One of Mem­phis’s mem­bers, Ernesto Gis­mondi, the founder of light­ing firm Artemide, com­mis­sioned De Luc­chi to cre­ate one of his most iconic de­signs: the ‘Tolomeo’ desk light, whose head ro­tates 360 de­grees. Launched in 1987, it’s a best­seller to this day.

In 1988, De Luc­chi founded his Mi­lan-based, mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary stu­dio, now called AMDL – it’s a truly global en­ter­prise, which has de­signed build­ings in Italy, Ja­pan, Switzer­land and the US. De Luc­chi has also cre­ated such clas­sic home­ware prod­ucts as the cur­va­ceous ‘Pul­cina’ es­presso cof­fee maker for Alessi, the solid beech ‘Radet­zky’ chair for Ge­brüder Thonet Vi­enna, the el­e­gant ‘San­giro­lamo’ book­case for Poltrona Frau and the ‘De­hors’ out­door sofa for Alias. While more re­strained than his ear­lier cre­ations, ev­ery one of th­ese pieces still re­flects the unique and idio­syn­cratic ap­proach to de­sign that was en­gen­dered by De Luc­chi’s for­ma­tive years in Florence.

De Luc­chi and his peers from Su­per­stu­dio and Archizoom were in­flu­enced by kitsch and Pop art, and aimed to im­bue de­sign with hu­mour and hu­man qual­i­ties

From top ‘Tolomeo’ lamp for Artemide. ‘First’ chair for Mem­phis. The first sketch of the ‘Tolomeo’ lamp. ‘Pul­cina’ cof­fee maker for Alessi. ‘Se­dia’ chair and ‘Hori­zon’ bed, both for Mem­phis

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