Alessandro Guerriero


In 1976, “non-architect”, designer and artist Alessandro Guerriero founded the group Alchimia. In ’82, he received the Compasso d’Oro award for design research. From 1983-1986, he was the art director for Mendini di Zabro, a research and experimental production project for Zanotta, which led to the creation of Nuovo Alchimia, Animali Domestici and Progetti d’artista. He teaches at the Politecnico in Milan and is the president and artistic manager of NABA (New Academy of Fine Arts).

Q. There are periods in which art and design (but also architecture and fashion) are mixed and generate poetic and extravagant products. How often are they involved in these phenomena? 
A. I believe everything relates to the word “eclecticism”. The world in itself is eclectic. As is nature, for which “biological diversity” is talked about. There are natural substances that are composite on their own and others that are “eclectically” combined to obtain improved resistance, performance and quality results. It is a good thing if designed objects also respond to said eclecticism pertaining to matter by using natural and synthetic materials together and researching different combinations each time. The world is also eclectic from a time or chronological perspective. There are ancient materials and other new ones; production systems combine archaic and forefront techniques and very old or new ways of processing and transforming materials. Wood, stone, earth: natural and archaic elements. Steels, plastics, resins: synthetic elements and young substances.

Q. With its Zabro collection created by you and Mendini, Zanotta has had a good season of creativity, which left its mark in Edizioni. What do you remember of that time? Which audience were you targeting?  
A. Firstly, the name I invented was of an insect… but when Aurelio read it, he said: “Nice to combine Zanotta-Brothers in a single word!” Apart from that, I don’t believe we ever thought of targeting an audience intended as generated or thought of by marketing. After the typical exasperated functionalism of pioneering technological moments, the project faced creation and the production of objects favouring private use, individual reasons and even intimate evocations… advanced contemporary design must still recover and develop the ancient anthropological roots that cause objects to be used based on ritual behaviour as occurred with Zabro.

Q. Work coordinated with techniques and materials belonging to the great artisan tradition is fundamental for Zabro and Edizioni. Has the progressive disappearance of the old artisans coincided with the evolution of modern technology such as laser cutting, numerically calculated decorations? How can planning poetics be expressed in this new production fabric? 
A. I believe that as long as “the touch” exists, craftwork will exist. And I also think that we are living in that unique and complex territory located between the freedom of pure art and the constraints of functional design. This is a gigantic area. This is where new expressive opportunities are created that hold together precisely the preview of art and conservation generated by design. Speaking of this, during the same period, we put together a true manifesto titled “New Craftwork” to specify its eternal liveliness.

Q. As the director of a design, graphics and art academy, how much would you dedicate to the development of contemporary neo-craftwork? 
A. It is more interesting to design a different chair for each person rather than the same one for the entire world. This is the only way to carry out very personal projects, because in this case and only in this case, we are obligated to understand the person in front of us. His/her habits, thoughts, fears and dreams… in a nutshell, his/her psychology. The current universe has dissolved all diversity, plurality, differences and ambivalence that once nourished primitive language and today psychological language. I prefer the dreamworld because it is disrespectful of these 2 principles as is the world of childhood and madness, where something is both itself and something else and where things do not always follow on, but at times occur together. I say that all these things would obligate us to reason differently from a design perspective and laterally from wood, bolts, plastic… and only in this case could each student have his/her own and personal philosophy that NABA encourages them to best express.

(interview with Alessandro Guerriero for the online magazine Zanotta Happenings, 2008)