68 ALDO CIBIC HOME SWEET PROTOTYPE
The design guru lives in a 40-square-metre apartment inMilan, the residence of the future. He chats at the table, sleeps in the alcove bedroom and eats in boatsized kitchen. «If I need anything else, there’s a whole city waiting to welcome me»
When you arrange to meet Aldo Cibic - who in 1979 was a young fellow from Schio who began working with Ettore Sottsass, the giant without equal, and who already became his partner a year later - the only thing of which you can be sure is that you can’t be sure of anything. Like Sottsass, who of all the great maestros of total design was the one who most resembled Leonardo da Vinci, Cibic too lives on the basis of sudden fallings in love dictated by his oblique, sincere way of seeing the world: the world of architecture, design, and grand international exhibitions, where he has been a protagonist in such important episodes as designing the installation for the 2006 Venice Architecture Biennale, where the urban experiences of 16 great cities were displayed comparatively. But it’s also the world in its anthropological and physical dimension: from California, where he spent a long time travelling so that he could understand the secrets of an Eldorado 4.0 mountain bike, to China, where he’s now teaching at Tongji University in Shanghai. With the same lightness with which he talks about himself, Cibic also talks about the projects and research that concern us here from very close up, in Italy. You might meet him at the Rinascente department store in Milan, where in 2007 he interviewed hundreds of experts in the store window (as though in a YouTube video) by asking them all a single (and ferocious) question: ‘Design. Why?’. Or at the tables of the Caffè Florian in Venice, where over these past months he has been presenting (IN)Complete (www.incomplete. design): «an investigation of life and design in order to collect data on what is really relevant for designing our future». He might turn up at the Galleria Jannone in Milan - democratic design at its most extreme - or in the courtyard of his long-time friend Paola C., for whom he has designed beautiful glassware and ceramics as well as a collection of small wooden objects, Woodwork, with Indian architect Bijoy Jain. On this particular occasion we are welcomed into his new home in Milan: the kind of house that most people would call a pied-à-terre, whereas if it’s Cibic who’s talking about it, it becomes something that has to do with us all: a prototype. «A house in miniature, like most of the houses that will come to populate cities that are more and more densely inhabited and where already now, apartments are responding to new habits or are forcing us to adopt those habits, whilst the sharing of common spaces is becoming more and more neurotic. Houses like hotels, where we work and where we meet each other in the lobbies. In my particular case, here in these few 40 square metres, there’s a room where I can have tranquil conversations, a table of significantly large dimensions, an alcove-bedroom, and a kitchen that’s no bigger than the galley of a boat. If I need anything else, there’s a whole city waiting to welcome me». Cibic is not new to these experiences. One of his most potent works is Microrealities. «A project about places and people», as he sums it up today. «It was an opportunity to produce an identity and a sense of belonging in the outskirts of cities. That was back in 2006, when already in China a multitude of people were being moved out of the old residential areas of the centre, which were being demolished, to live in big condominiums far out in the peripheries. It increased their personal space and comfort, but a universe of values and relationships was lost forever. From that came my idea that the lines of the metro system, with their stations, could become an incredible opportunity to create, each time, the centre of a new community with which they could identify». As a self-taught architect and designer, Cibic is a descendant of the 1989 Boxing Ring Bed photograph by Ettore Sottsass (the famous bed scene that portrays the whole dream team of Memphis, from Michele De Lucchi to Matteo Thun), after which he began working on his own by setting up Cibic& Partners. How would you sum up the past few months? «I’ve just finished a small settlement of stone buildings, in the woods above the bay of Fethiye in Turkey. Three dwellings, one big kitchen, and a shared living room. The complex also includes an atelier, a vegetable garden, a swimming pool, and a pool for fish». Naturally, there’s no room for any of that in Cibic’s own home in Milan. But it doesn’t feel poky. That’s because there’s a breeze blowing - blowing towards the future.