Dispatch from Milan Salone del Mobile 2014: Where Architects Live
Architectural Record: Can you explain why the Salone is important not just for product designers, but for architects like yourself?
Mario Bellini: The Salone del Mobile has made Milan the center of the world when talking about and reflecting on design, architecture, art, and fashion because it is not only where the big fair is exhibiting design products, but where all the city itself—the streets, shops, restaurants, and museums—become part of the interface of communication. Critics, writers, photographers, architects, designers, and entrepreneurs come from all over the world. That is unique, it only happens in Milan once a year.
This exhibit for instance, includes some of the greatest architects in the world. Why do you think the Salone organized it?
They started last year doing something similar, but centered on the office environment. So to follow that, this year they wanted to do something that focuses on where and how architects live.
Tell us about where you live.
You can get a glimpse of the house in this exhibit—no one really opened their house to everyone—but we tried to show something about our relationship with our houses. I live in a very old building, from exactly what date we don’t know, in the Brera district. It was restored by Piero Portaluppi, a Milan architect from the early 20th century. He gave it a classical style, but in a way that you recognize it is of the 1930s. When I got the house 40 years ago, I renovated it again. My part of the building is an important part facing the garden. I respected the strong signs left by Portaluppi, and I introduced a library stair that connects the ground floor with the upper level, through which you move in a very active way because as you walk you see books, photos, objects, and records. It is a little trip through your life and your memories.
Books—and spaces for them—seem to be very important to you, both in this exhibit, and in your home.
Oh yes, books and music. For example, I got the full collection of Mozart’s letters—not originals, but reprinted and translated from German to Italian, and I read all of them very fast, in a day almost. We also have a grand piano and we invite performers on the violin, cello, piano. It is a counterpart to my design work.
If you had one word to describe your home what would it be?
It’s my home, it’s me.