Industrial designer Francesco Meda’s first collaboration with Molteni&c results in a remarkable addition to the Italian stalwart’s line of timeless pieces
Illuminating insights from Isabelle Miaja and Francesco Meda on the creative interplay of art and design
Francesco Meda’s career isn’t just borne out of passion for design, but is also a continuation of his father’s legacy. The son of engineer and architect Alberto Meda, Francesco, who graduated from the prestigious Istituto Europeo di Design, first honed his skills working for Sebastian Bergne and Ross Lovegrove in London. Upon his return to Italy in 2008, Meda worked with his father while concurrently pursuing art and design projects, which allowed him to exhibit his work at venerated venues such as Nilufar Gallery and Rossana Orlandi in Milan. While his earlier pieces are conceptual in nature, his recent work showcases more of his industrial design discipline with pieces that are intended to be manufactured in a larger scale. His first collaboration with Molteni&c marries his technical prowess with his artistic side resulting in the Woody—a seemingly simple chair that belies its intelligent construction. Free of any joinery, the streamlined, screw-free wooden chair looks and feels light. Continuing in the tradition of Molteni&c, this creation has a timeless quality, and with its organic lines and neutral finishes, it can easily blend into any interior style. Francesco shares his approach to design and what went into the making of his first project with Molteni&c.
Tell us about your fascination for marrying art and design.
I like working with companies but I also like doing personal research and artistic projects. I prefer being in two worlds because it offers different perspectives. In the past, my creations for galleries took me as far as Hong Kong; I returned there last year to speak at the Business of Design Week (BODW) with my father on the topic of “Two Designers’ Generations”.
How has being in Milan shaped you as a young designer?
Design is everywhere but here in Italy, there is a special relationship between designers and craftsmen. For example, this collaboration with Molteni&c took only six months because we are very close to all of the experts that we need. Every part of Italy has an artisan tradition— from leather crafting in Florence to glassmaking in Venice and so on. Other countries have a lot of designers, but many of them still work with Italian companies and manufacturers because of our links with the creators themselves.
How did the collaboration with Molteni&c begin?
Milan is a small world. There are only a handful of young designers living and working here. Last year, my father and I created a lamp for Kartell, and afterwards I received a call from Molteni&c. I was delighted because I love everything about the brand, especially its quality and strong identity. When you see a Molteni&c piece, you know it’s from them. It was a pleasure to work with them and this is a treasured opportunity.
What was the impetus to create the Woody chair?
Wooden chairs are usually rigid, so my goal was to create an ergonomic chair that was also light—visually and physically. We adopted a new production technique by using a five-axis machine that allowed us to bring together different, smaller pieces of wood. When you look at the Woody chair, it seems as if it’s crafted from a single piece of wood, but it’s actually different pieces
“IN ITALY, THERE IS A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN DESIGNERS AND CRAFTSMEN … EVERY PART OF ITALY HAS AN ARTISAN TRADITION”
put together like a puzzle. This way, you don’t waste material because you don’t start with a block of wood but with smaller pieces that are later assembled without screws. So, it’s easier to manufacture, deliver and just more interesting to make.
What was your favourite part of the process?
More than research or drawing, I enjoyed very much working directly with the craftsman the old-school way. A lot of people think that designing starts with a sketch that suddenly goes into production. With Molteni&c, it was a back and forth process with a maker. From building the first prototype to refining the piece, it was amazing to see the evolution and to share and learn from those who know the material intimately. For every product, many hands go into the its creation and not just the designer’s.
Why is sustainability important to you?
We already have a world full of chairs. When you make a new product, you’re adding to the world so it has to be better, more evolved than the past. So for a designer, it’s really important to keep in mind not to add to our oceans that are full of plastic or destroy nature’s inherent balance.
OPPOSITE PAGE The Woody chair collection, a screw-free chair presented by Molteni&c at Milan Design Week 2018; the Woody chairs by Meda, styled with the Filigree table designed by Rodolfo Dordoni
THIS PAGE Italian industrial designer Francesco Meda