In the world of interior design, traditional fine craftsmanship has enormous potential to shape and inspire. An imaginative designer can harness traditional artisanal skills to create thoroughly contemporary interiors relevant to modern living. For example:
• Intricate rattan marquetry made by one of the last master artisans to work this technique inspires an abstract of a winter garden that pays homage to painter Henri Rousseau.
• Exquisite handmade embroidery graces the walls of a contemporary living space.
• Precious upholstery so complex it can only be made by hand is used to create bold flourishes of colour evoking the Venice lagoon.
Two inspired spaces representing a coming together of fine craftsmanship, know-how and imaginative contemporary design will delight and surprise visitors to the exhibit Imaginary Architecture at Homo Faber in Venice this September.
India Mahdavi, the renowned Paris-based architect and designer, has devised two contemporary ‘follies’ to show what can be achieved when the finest European craftsmanship is put in the service of imagination. Using fine craftsmanship as her base material, and knowledge as her alphabet, Mahdavi applies her vivid imagination to tell a personal story of her relationship with the worlds of master artisans. The result is two highly inventive spaces that encompass the passion and excellence of artisans and the imagination of a visionary designer. Together, they show that traditional fine craftsmanship does have a place in the modern world, and that traditional artisanal techniques can be used to create exciting new spaces for contemporary life.
The first of the two follies, called Henri Rousseau Forever, is Mahdavi’s homage to the post-impressionist French painter known for his forest scenes. Mahdavi evokes an abstract winter garden through her use of rattan, and shows how the material she loves and has used throughout her career can be transformed in sophisticated ways. The second folly, Merry-Go-Round, is a contemporary upholstered living space that draws on Mahdavi’s characteristic use of bold colour and her long history of working with master upholsterers. In the shape of a rotunda, the room has a colour scheme evoking the sea and uses fabrics including Italian velvet and satin, inspired by the exhibit’s beautiful setting in Venice.
Both follies feature the work of European artisanal companies with whom Mahdavi has worked throughout her career. They include Valencia-based Rattan Deco, one of the few remaining rattan workshops in Europe, which makes beautiful marquetry creations out of natural, fast-growing cane liana; de Gournay, an international design house creating bespoke wallpapers, fabrics and tablewear for antique interiors; Dedar, a family-run fabric house near Como, Italy, which combines artisanal know-how with innovation and research to create cutting-edge contemporary collections; and Vimas, an atelier specialising in upholstery founded by Pietro Virzi, who was awarded MAM – Master of Arts and Crafts in 2018. Staged in the Sala Carnelutti at the Fondazione San Giorgio Cini, the two follies will be dramatically lit from above and set within a black exterior, allowing visitors to completely immerse themselves in the spaces.
Staged in the Sala Carnelutti at the Fondazione San Giorgio Cini, the two follies will be dramatically lit from above and set within a black exterior, allowing visitors to completely immerse themselves in the spaces.
“The know-how of craftsmanship is at its best when serving the imaginary. When the might of the hand is combined with the might of the mind, the magic is revealed. Beauty only results from this encounter.” – India Mahdavi, curator
Imaginary Architecture is one of 16 exhibits that make up Homo Faber, a major new exhibition celebrating European craftsmanship, organised by the Michelangelo Foundation.
Notes for editors
Crafting a more human future
Fondazione Giorgio Cini, San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice
Free entry upon registration at homofaberevent.com
Homo Faber is the first major cultural exhibition dedicated to the very best in European craftsmanship. Organised by the Michelangelo Foundation, it aims to put fine craftsmanship on the global map and increase recognition and visibility for master artisans. The exhibition will bring together a vast range of materials and disciplines, from jewellery to bespoke bicycles, from the rarest artisanal techniques to some of the most iconic examples of the finest European workmanship. Created by a hand-picked team of world-class designers, curators and architects, the exhibition stretches over a number of magnificent spaces throughout the Fondazione Giorgio Cini. homofaberevent.com
The Michelangelo Foundation for Creativity and Craftsmanship is an international, nonprofit institution based in Geneva, Switzerland, which celebrates and preserves master craftsmanship and strengthens its connection to the world of design. Rooted in a tradition of culture and excellence and in the realities and challenges of today’s global economy, the Foundation seeks to support men and women who dedicate themselves to the pursuit of master craftsmanship and to foster a new cultural movement built around the values that are essential for their work. The Foundation focuses on Europe as a starting point for its activities, in recognition that craftsmanship has been a vital part of the economic and cultural fabric of the region for centuries. michelangelofoundation.org
Architect and designer India Mahdavi studied architecture in France and industrial, graphic and furniture design in the US before returning to Paris to open her own studio in 1999. The studio is known for the diversity of its international projects which explore the fields of architecture, interior design, scenography, furniture and object design. Among her many projects, she has most recently created interiors for Ladurée in Geneva, Tokyo and Los Angeles, The Gallery at Sketch in London and I Love Paris by Guy Martin at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport. She has received numerous awards and is frequently invited to speak at conferences and sit on juries around the world.
With special thanks to Dedar and Vimas
Henri Rousseau Forever
Rattan Deco (Spain) – rattan chairs and structure
Scuola per Mosaicisti di Spilimbergo (Italy) – mosaic floor
AAV BARBINI SRL (Barbini Specchi veneziani) (Italy) – mirrors
François Passolunghi (France)- rattan masks
Iguzzini (Italie / Italy) – lighting
Vimas (Italy) – bench
Edition Bougainville (France) – carpet
Dedar (Italy) – fabric
De Gournay (England) – embroidery
Decastelli (Italy)– brass windows
Iguzzini (Italie / Italy) – lighting