Andrea Branzi

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Integrating design, art and research is the focal point of Andrea Branzi’s work, especially in the sense of moving knowledge and critical reflexion “forwards”. This is the basis for his constant commitment during the first “radical design” movements in the 70’s.
It included the adventure with Alessandro Mendini and Alessandro Guerriero, who in those years were setting a new trend for Zanotta in the world of industrial design and master craftsmanship: the Zabro collection was created and, on the idea of Branzi, so was Animali Domestici. Zanotta Edizioni was the result of this combination of projects, experiments and visions. A great organizer of exhibitions on design, Made in Italy and the most current living trends, Andrea Branzi has been awarded many prizes including the Compasso d’Oro Career Award in 1987.

Q. Your work always involves a tight correlation between project and research. How are you experiencing the current state-of-the-art with respect to the first “radical” movement (from Archizoom to Superstudio, to Alchimia)? Do you still believe it is possible for current design to be innovative? 
A. During the 70’s, there was still a precise difference between the work by cutting-edge groups and “normal” design, that is between production intended for the mass market and a type of research that began using new niche markets or trends as a reference. The “New Italian Design” was the first in Europe to head in this direction, first through radical design and then with experimental laboratories such as Alchymia and Memphis. Now, this transformation has been implemented and I feel that all design is “trendy” and offers innovation and research. The large mass markets have disappeared and young design is based on research and experiments. It is no longer called “forefront” because “looking back” no longer exists…

Q. After Animali Domestici, you designed various pieces of furniture for Zanotta. They were almost all somewhere in the middle between industrial production and a small series. Is there still room for this type of object? 
A. I believe the difference between industrial and handcrafted production has all but disappeared, and even the large brands are opting for the small series (or even the numbered series).

Q. Architecture, fashion or art: what influences contemporary design the most? 
A. I believe design is currently influencing architecture, fashion and art and not vice versa. Ours has become a product civilization (and not technological) and therefore objects – whether or not a series – shape the reference scenario and the most invasive iconology.

Q. What are the most interesting materials used in the furniture industry today?
A. I have always used every type of natural and artificial material. I don’t believe there are materials currently able to influence the culture of the project because it is the design that shapes the materials useful for the project, both from a technical and expressive point of view.

Q. Today’s complexity leads the designer to consider many aspects ranging from biology to domotics, chemistry and energy certification… In this very stimulating panorama, what is your advice for young people entering the world of design? 
A. I believe the role of the designer is to create a hospitable environment with a quality appearance and anthropological sensitivity. All the other technical or scientific cultures can be useful in achieving this goal.

Q. You have organized some important exhibitions on Italian design and living that have made history. What exhibition would you invent today? 
A. Perhaps an exhibition able to explain to the audience how culture, industrial organization, mass entrepreneurship and international competition have changed in this era of globalization. Far too often we refer to production categories and industrial organizations that no longer exist but ignore the true operating methods of an industrial system that must continuously produce innovation and research in order to stay in the market.
   

(interview with Andrea Branzi for the online magazine Zanotta Happenings, 2008) 


(note: the products Animali Domestici mentioned in this article have been discontinued)