Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 12/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
Anyone who's been to Milan's Salone Internazionale del Mobile certainly knows Piero Lissoni. His CV could double as a guide to the furniture fair, so dense is the list with manufacturers for which he's designed products and exhibition stands. Artemide, Cappellini, Flos, Foscarini, Kartell, Living Divani, Matteograssi, Porro.
Not to mention Boffi, the client that first hired Studio Lissoni in 1986, the year that he and Nicoletta Canesi founded the graphics and architecture firm. Playing to Lissoni's many strengths, the high-end Italian kitchen and bath company charged him with total design: art direction, products, and showrooms.
From products and graphics to full-scale interiors and architecture, total design is what Lissoni does. "It's traditional in our culture," he says. "I'm Milanese." Growing up in the heyday of heroes Marco Zanuso, Ettore Sottsass, Achille Castiglioni, and Vico Magistretti, Lissoni followed in their footsteps—all over Italy.
Residential interiors in Parma and Como show his sharp-eyed minimalism, as does a Treviso villa that he and Tadao Ando built. In the hospitality arena, Lissoni's masterful renovation of Venice's Hotel Monaco & Grand Canal incorporated the 13th-century building's piano nobile, once La Serenissima's first public casino and later a theater. The grand reception hall now mixes 18th-century mosaics and Lissoni's bergères with pieces by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Eero Saarinen.
Back in Milan, Lissoni has designed offices and a showroom for Wella hair products, an office for Tecno, and showrooms for Allegri and Cappellini. Just try escaping a Lissoni storefront during the ritual passeggiata.
"We grow up and get our degrees in Italy," says Lissoni, who earned his at the Politecnico di Milano. "But I never planned to stay just there." In Paris, he designed the Boffi, Cassina, and Matteograssi showrooms. Near Zurich, Lissoni renovated the 1970's hotel Al Porto, collaborating with Cappellini on furniture for the public spaces and guest rooms. In Istanbul, his interiors for the Bentley Hotel merge minimalism, Italian-style, with Turkish exoticism.
Exploration of Asia began in 1991 with graphics for Takashimaya's shopping center in Kobe, Japan. In 2002, his Cassina IXC showroom opened in Tokyo—where this November saw the inauguration of his Mitsui Garden business hotel. In Shanghai, his Spazio Italia shop opened in 2002; a Lissoni-designed tower, including interiors, should break ground in 2006.
To address this growing volume and diversity of work, Lissoni formed two auxiliary Milan studios, Graph.x for graphics and Lissoni Associati for architecture. Home base for them is the artsy Brera district, in a 19th-century building that's one of the city's first in reinforced concrete.
Known collectively as Piero Lissoni, the affiliates are now handling houses in Moscow, Tel Aviv, Bangkok, and the Turks and Caicos. And Lissoni plans to open a New York satellite to track the progress of U.S. projects including a penthouse on Fifth Avenue, a house in Sagaponack, New York, and a possible hotel in Miami.
With all this travel, it's natural that he'd try his hand at transportation, albeit a rarified mode: He worked with Luca Brenta Yacht Design and his fellow Hall of Fame inductee Kitty Hawks to give Ghost, his first yacht, all the panache of an urban living environment. Now he's sailing solo with the design of a 170-foot vessel.
How does he do it all? "The jobs for me are a pleasure," he says. "The real difficulty is to convey this passion to others." That seems to be a challenge he's already mastered.