By Catherine Belbin

Prolific Italian architect Massimo Iosa Ghini will be sharing his rich experience as one of the headline speakers at the Downtown Design fair Talk series in November. As an ambassador of Italian design, Iosa Ghini will talk about why he believes there is now a need for 'emotional sustainability’ as we move towards a more environmentally aware future.

The multi-award-winning architect will also reveal how his 'sustainable but beautiful’ theory relates to the ‘Beauty connects people’ theme of the Italian Pavilion at Expo 2020.

Massimo Iosa Ghini photo by Mattia Aquila

The focal point of his talk will be based on his book Sustainable but Beautiful, which he wrote over a decade ago with contributions from numerous designers, including Fabio Novembre and Matteo Thun. "I want to emphasise how sustainability is not a wonderful arcadia but an inevitable and compulsory path that we have to face,” he says.

Iosa Ghini explains: "When designing, it’s essential and challenging to insert beautiful elements, not just for embellishment. The sustainability process is not just a matter of mechanics and techniques; it also creates emotional sustainability that is rich in pathos.”

Sustainable design remains integral to his work, and his studio recently completed ‘Marconi Express’, a pioneering public transport network in his native Bologna. “It proves that even infrastructural projects can be in harmony with the landscape,” he states.

Iosa Ghini’s studio is currently involved in a regeneration project for Starhotels in his native Bologna, as well as a new Green Residential community and the 66-floor Brickell Flatiron tower in Miami.

Brickell Flatiron, Miami, CMC Group

"The space that we live in gives meaning to our existence, and we must make it liveable and stimulating. For this to happen, it must also be beautiful, culturally rich and lead to improvement," Iosa Ghini notes.

In recognition of his pioneering role in adopting sustainable design practices, the prestigious Triennale di Milano dedicated a solo exhibition to his work, titled ‘From the beginnings to the sustainable present’.

Iosa Ghini has always been at the forefront of design in Italy and is one of the few designers to have created his own movement, 'Bolidism'. “In 1985 Bolidism theorised the arrival of a hyper-speed interconnected world. I believe this is what we are experiencing today,” he says.

Iosa Ghini was also part of the highly influential Memphis (Milano) Group, headed by Ettore Sottsass, Aldo Cibic and Michele De Lucchi. The group’s unique style was characterised by ephemeral features and abstract and asymmetrical-shaped brightly coloured postmodern furniture and fixtures.

Betrand, Cocktail cabinet by Memphis, 1987

“Memphis Milano was an extraordinary phenomenon that revolutionised the way of approaching design, [moving] from 'shape follows function' to 'shape follows soul'. In my opinion, the basic idea was the consideration of the object as the result of the human being's way of feeling and living,” he says.

Over the decades, Iosa Ghini has developed award-winning product designs for Italy's leading companies, including iGuzzini, Moroso, Snaidero, Natuzzi, Smania, Colombini Casa and Devon&Devon, to name but a handful. He is a recipient of the prestigious Marconi Award for Creativity and has many Red Dot and iF awards to his name. Additionally, he has received the International Architectural Award from the Chicago Athenaeum.

In the Gulf, he is best recognised for the inviting interiors he has created for the sleek, racy red Ferrari Store experience and merchandising boutiques in the Ferrari World Abu Dhabi theme park, The Dubai Mall and Dubai Festival City Mall.

Ferrari Factory Store

His association with the Italian sports car brand has spanned several decades. When asked about the challenge of designing for such an iconic marque, he says, “The brand has such evocative power that you have to feel it from the inside and share. It cannot be expressed by only interpreting it.”

Iosa Ghini, now in his early 60s, started his career as a cartoonist with a talent for drawing. He remains passionate about his work and is entirely supportive of incorporating new technologies into all phases of the creative and building stages.

Heritage Kitchen, Snaidero

As a respected authority of Italian design and architecture, Iosa Ghini believes that Italians have a unique way of approaching design. "Italian architects consider a project in its entirety and not just as a piece," he says, reflecting on the teachings of Leonardo da Vinci.“ We have a unique 'saper fare', or the art of knowing how to do something," he says with pride.

Iosa Ghini will share his intriguing insights and passion for design during the Downtown Design 2021 Talk series (November 9-12, 2021).