Beltá Frajumar: How did you know you wanted to be a designer?
D.E. Gagliardini: I certainly didn’t start by planning my professional life, it was all step by step. Before becoming an architect I graduated as a quantity surveyor and then I entered the Polytechnic University of Milan.
I graduated as an architect in 1974 and after the corresponding qualification exam in 1975 I joined the Milan Architects’ Association. All this led me on an almost obligatory path, so I teamed up with a fellow student to form an engineering office.
Entre los diversos trabajos, realizamos una ampliación de una industria fabricante de muebles de exterior en ratán. Among the various jobs, we carried out an extension of a rattan outdoor furniture manufacturer.
The owner asked us to design some products.
In the meantime we met a technical engineer who, in addition to collaborating with our client’s industry, was also collaborating with other industries, including a Spanish company that produced wicker outdoor furniture. Knowing about my time in Madrid, he offered me a trip to Girona to introduce myself to them with the intention of starting a possible collaboration.
It was 1982 and it marked the beginning of my collaborations with various Spanish companies operating in different fields and so my debut as a designer was marked.
My passion for Spain was too strong for me not to dedicate myself to the travels that gave me the opportunity to live my passion. So I left architecture, which at that time was contaminated by “tangentopoli”, to dedicate myself to design.
BF: What can you tell us about your experience collaborating with architecture and design magazines such as Ottagono, ddn, Riabita, published by Rima Editrice and Style and Places magazines, published by Fiera Milano Editore?
D.E. Gagliardini: It would take too long to answer in detail for each of these magazines, but the question leads me to reflections that unite them: the concept of “flashback” to explain the narrative seemed abstract to me.
I didn’t realise that flashback can also be declined over subjective as well as objective reality.
In other words, to describe my path, I find it really essential to “interrupt the chronological order of events”.
I am first a journalist or first an architect. I deal with projects and for some time now I have been using language and the “social” amplifier to make “our” content travel.
I say “our” because if there were no projects and designers I would lack plots and protagonists for my narrative. In these years of work I have moved from the typewriter to the beginnings of the internet and social media platforms.
In these changes I orient myself in a completely instinctive way. Improvisation suits me well, it has accompanied me in my various collaborations with the so-called “small magazines”, those produced outside the big publishing circuits, the so-called sector magazines.
These were models of magazines in which architects discussed the theory and criticism of architecture and design, a typically European phenomenon in contrast to the world of advertising-supported magazines. They changed the way of thinking about architecture, refocusing on research rather than the profession.
Their privileged audience was the university and design world, from which their editors, almost all of them professors, came.
A narrative reading that I try to recover through my articles published by Diseño Interior, trying to recreate a corner of what used to be “listening” magazines, giving voice to memory, to delve into the past what they now call modernity.
BF: Your pieces tend to be classicist and quite timeless. Is it an aesthetic or a pragmatic choice?
D.E. Gagliardini: I don’t think it’s one or the other, it’s just my way of being in order to respond to the needs of companies.
I think it’s important for the designer to create objects that have a function, that respond to a need and that are not just for the contemplation of beauty. Therefore, the beauty of an object should be a function of its purpose, it should not be detached from its function.
In modern design, however, there are some exceptions, in fact in some cases the function fades into the background and the communicative part is more important, as in the Juicy Salif juicer by Philippe Starck (1990), uncomfortable and unusable for its function (the juice drips everywhere because there is no container and the seeds do not separate), but of a particular beauty and with a great communicative side.
On the other hand, at every moment in history, man needs not only contents but also “forms”.
We are living a moment of rethinking design culture, maybe that’s why there are many re-editions. My interest is directed towards sedimented models and typologies, reinterpreted and reduced to their essence and with greater formal rigour: an index of design culture The recovery of tradition is configured as a nostalgic artistic expression rather than as rhetoric.
My design wants to be an individual characterisation that identifies a reference model of good design where harmony, simplicity, utility and beauty are expressions of an ethic of life.
Typologies that have their roots in the past, that are eternal because of their aesthetics built with so much balance and harmony. I have never felt the weight of responsibility, I have never been anxious, I have never sought confrontation.
It was clear to me right away, when, still a student, I looked for references in the things I planned. This was my way of designing: first have an idea, a concept, then look for an emotion. A stylistically unitary interplay of relationships, involving everything, volume, surfaces, details. It is precisely in this design practice that the “modernity” of my, timeless?, classic?, designs lies.
BF: What do you think is the best thing about working with Beltá Frajumar?
D.E. Gagliardini: I think I started collaborating with BF certainly without planning.
Once again, chance marked my path: a friend, knowing my professional career, suggested me to introduce me to a sofa manufacturer, who had plans to expand the market range with new models, etc.
We agreed that on my first business trip to Barcelona he would accompany me to Yecla to make the first contacts. And so it happened. I introduced myself to what was then Frajumar and they asked me my opinion on the new Beltá line, I liked it immediately and in Italian it means “beauty”.
Who could be against so much beauty?
I presented models, some of them accepted them and others didn’t understand them.
Then, little by little, the collaboration became stronger and stronger, they found my experience useful, which links the project-production-communication chain, but the most important thing was that the professional relationship generated the human relationship, I found respect and friendship.
This is what I find positive about working with Beltá Frajumar: the relationship that involves you as a person, feeling responsible not only professionally, but also as a person deserving of friendship.
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