He is considered part of that group of people “who are shaping our world”. Indeed, Martino Gamper, worldwide known Italian designer based in London, proved once again, during his conversation at Arkitektura in San Francisco, how his work crosses multiple personalities, engaging a variety of projects, from exhibition design to interior design, to shop windows. Before surprising everybody with his own definition for design, Martino took some time to talk with us about both his personal and professional life.

First of all, you were professionally ‘born’ in Italy but you moved abroad soon. What was behind this choice?

I did an unusual experience as apprentice in a furniture maker when I was only 14. Later on, at the age of 19, I had to decide whether to stay or go and discover the world. For two years, I travelled worldwide and understood I really wanted to do something more artistic and creative. Since I did not get high education, I had to take some exams before going to university. I first joined Bologna University, but I immediately quit. One day after, I was on the first train to Vienna, and ended up meeting with Michelangelo Pistoletto. When I showed him my portfolio, he was surprised…And, to be honest, I was even more surprised because he liked it! Then, I had to make a choice between design and sculpture and I chose the first one.

Do you believe working in Italy was something that helped you?

I think that whatever I learnt during my apprenticeship was very useful in my career. I believe being creative and using my creativity in whatever I do made a difference. I still work in Italy and I love it.

Which cultural differences you appreciated or found difficult to adapt to?

By being born at the border (e.n. Martino was born in Meran, Trentino Alto-Adige in 1971), I could choose the best of both sides. I think that, regarding the Italian side, I learnt the improvisation skill of Mediterranean culture. The idea of thinking and trying a new way to do things, being always very opened. Knowing traditions helped too, they are crucial for what they bring and the way they influenced me.

What most influences you in the creative process?

I like to wonder, observe behaviours, details, beauty, ugliness, and eventually understand more. Until a few years ago, the internet was not available and things used to be singular. Now we can be influenced by global trends. But in my case, I can still get inspiration from old fashioned books.

Can you tell more about the installation called “Corners” for Prada. How did you create something which could fit all stores worldwide, each with a slightly different spin on the idea?

My collaboration with Prada came from nowhere: I’ve known Prada through a mutual friend at a gallery in Milan. One day, I received an email and got invited to Paris, let’s say last minute. After working over night and introduced my project the day after, they contacted me again. The concept for Prada shop windows was almost an experiment, I worked on some prototypes in summer and sent them in September. A week later, the collaboration officially started. The idea was to use the ‘humble corner’ and take it on stage. Perspective was important because we could play with it and make the animation flexible, but keeping the full point, which was: creating a space within a space and a room which reveals the different seasons.

Which is the project you loved the most?

“100 chairs in 100 days and its 100 ways” was a big project and gave me a lot of feedbacks which I used for myself. It took a long time because the main idea was to collect one chair per day on the streets in London. While some projects don’t give you love back, this one treated me differently. I keep feeling it back, probably because it’s a complete project, which took 3 years and a half to develop. It gave me freedom, helped reinterpretate the chairs and understand how little details and single elements are important. In the end, it was important to start trusting my own creativity.

Is there a particular space you’d love to see your designs in one day?

Well, there is a nice restaurant in New York, at the Four Seasons. I would not mind to take my furnitures in there. It is always nice to make things and see how people, after twenty years, can still use them.

While during the talk Martino gave as many details as could about the project “100 Chairs in 100 days”, the enthusiastic crowd, mainly eager to know his eclectic world, left with a special quote, feasible for everybody: “Design is a state of mind, it is something you can always walk away with”.

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