Matteo Thun: “We are all designers.”

Who: Matteo Thun, Architect & Designer
Where: Milan, Italy

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Star architect Matteo Thun and I at the design fair Salone del Mobile in Milan

His designs are well known, you’ve experienced them already – of that I’m sure – because you’ve either sat or slept on them: Designer Matteo Thun and his designs are global and award wining: Hotels like the Side-Hotel in Hamburg and the Marriot in Venice, china for Rosenthal and Alessi, watches for Bulgari and Swatch. Thun was a student of Oskar Kokoschka, is graduated doctor of architecture, has been a founder of Sottsass Associati in 1981 and also of the legendary design-group Memphis. In 1984 he has started his company Thun & Partner for architectural-, design-, and communication-projects. Matteo Thun lives in Milano, where I have met with him, in the course of the design fair Salone del Mobile, for an interview.

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Matteo Thun defines himself in his work by eco non ego – eco instead of ego

MyStylery: At the Salone del Mobile 2016 the apparent trend was wood namely in all living areas, from the kitchen to the bathroom. How do you explain the revival of the material?
Matteo Thun: Wood is a reaction to the inanimated period of the 90s, where minimalistic design got colder and colder and emotions vanished from the surface. Now we have a change of paradigm: During the last century concrete and cement were dominating. Now we have the century of wood. I am an architect and I believe me, it is much easier constructing things with wood than with cement.

Icon design Matteo Thun e Antonio Rodriguez (5)

Walnut table ‘Icon’ from Riva1920. Design by Matteo Thun

MS: You have just designed the wooden table ‘Icon’ for the the Italian furniture brand Riva 1920. Where did the collaboration result from?
MT: I’ve worked with wood and also with Riva for a long time now, because it’s the only company nearby Milan that works with solid wood and not laminated wood. That complies with my credo: The truth and not the lie.
MS: What is the most important project you’re working on right now?
MT: The system “Welcome Homes” refugee centers that are being deployed Germany-wide. We have deliberately opted for wood. There is no alternative if you want to build fast and inexpensively. In this case emotions didn’t play a part, it’s just plainly and simply the factor time.

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“I am an architect and I believe me, it is much easier constructing things with wood than with cement.”

MS: Which design collaboration would you reject?
MT: Everything around the car and everything that has to do with garments – that’s nothing for me.
MS: Is there something you haven’t conceptualized yet but would like to build?
MT: I would like to build a church without a roof for Pope Frances, as a gift for a man, who has changed Rome and therefore hopefully our beautiful country and our society.
MS: Where will the church be?
MT: Wherever he wants.
MS: Is he already aware of it?
MT (laughs): No, not yet.

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“The ‘Welcome Homes’ is a system for refugee centers”, Matteo Thun explains to me. “We build new houses for new arrivals. They can also be used for social housing.”

MS: What is your current project?
MT: We’re 80 employees solely in Milano and just as much at the construction sites and we have many of them (laughs). The best project currently however is our digital platform ‘Matteo Thun Atelier’. I would like to invite you to visit this platform and you will realize that you’re a designer. You can create everything your house needs by yourself. It doesn’t matter if it’s a table or a chair. You don’t need a designer. I am convinced that the future belongs to Losgröße* eins (lot size one) …
MS: What does that mean?
MT: That means that you can put together the chair you want yourself.
MS: Without any previous knowledge?
MT: Without any previous knowledge. We are all designers. Democracy has won. Take the Nike shoe as an example. You can create the shoe you want. That is unique and not even more expensive. And that’s exactly what we are trying to do with this platform, especially for our hotels. Every interior designer can create whatever they need for their project, with our specification. We have finally made design accessible for everyone.
MS: But didn’t you exclude yourself with this process?
MT (laughs): I am already excluded. Since the 90s I don’t sign any of my projects with my name anymore. From time to time it may leak through that I am responsible for it but I don’t emphasize on generating value with my name. The value stands for itself. It is your vision and something you want. BvH

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“With ‘Matteo Thun Atelier’ we have actually carried design to the grave.”


*With a lot size you denote the quantity of products of a production order

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There are 2 comments for this article
  1. Robert
    at 11:58

    Love your blogs Birgit ,especially this one with Matteo Thun ,well done ,I for sure do read your blogs !!
    Much love and regard

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