From ARTNews to Wallpaper*, Antonio Pio Saracino consistently holds a place on the “top” and “best” lists of respected magazines. Just what Saracino is the “top” of and the “best” at ranges from sustainable design to trendsetting to future furniture. Combine this artistic and technical breadth with a list of international exhibits that include shows it Germany, Australia, Russia and Brasil and it’s clear why Saracino has become, in the words of respected design critic Mario Pisani “an emblematic example of progressive Italian creativity in these years of nomadic identity.”
After being tapped by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to represent his country at the Italians in the World Pavilion for the 2011 Venice Biennale, Saracino, who lives between New York City and Rome, seems to be developing into the go-to ambassador for a contemporary and dynamic breed of creativity.
Saracino spoke with me recently to offer some insight into the passion and interests that have made him a protagonist of the contemporary design world and a top international trendsetter.
My father introduced me to visual art and design; he used to always find a reason to give me many art books as gifts. My grandfather was a developer; I used to help him to create architectural models in paper. I guess these early experiences determined my passion for design and my path to study architecture.
While Saracino’s career is international, it is fed by a fascination with nature that developed on a smaller, more local scale.
I grew up in a small town in southern Italy surrounded by nature. Since childhood I have been fascinated by the mystery and complexity of nature. In my present work this fascination with the natural world is an important source of influence. I am not looking to replicate nature in my designs; with my work I am interested in creating the feeling that nature creates within me.
From the Cervo Chair to the Diver’s House (the conceptual project he would be most happy to realize) Antonio’s projects respond to the rapid pace of cultural change by integrating a geometric awareness with sensual curves.
We do not build architecture and design just to respond only to our physical needs. Most importantly we closely identify our evolution as humans with design because design ultimately responds to our bodies as they are projected outside their physical limits: the ecstatic body - Ecstasy, (or ekstasis) from the Ancient Greek, expresses the inborn ability of humans to stand outside themselves; as result we not only design a world for our physical needs, but also for our desires, dreams and aspirations.
Combine this ecstatic philosophy of design with the natural curiosity he developed as a child as well as his later academic mastery of individual disciplines – art, architecture, design – and it’s no surprise that Saracino mentions the historical baroque as an influence on his approach to design.
Certainly my Italian heritage is an important part of my design vision. The historic Italian baroque expressed the tension between natural forces and architectural artifice. I believe that in our age the confluence and the blurring of the technological and natural worlds clearly lead to a new expression in design.
More and more the man-made world tends to mimic the natural world. The natural world tends to be programmed as the artificial world.
As he cuts across disciplines and crosses the globe Antonio creates new and visually poetic forms that stimulate a critical dialogue on the role of technology in our lived environment. So how does he, personally, relate to technology?
Technology is like a second ‘skin’ that we wear on to extend our bodies in order to re-imagine new behaviors and to enhance our memory and senses. It is increasingly central to human civilization and in my profession technology is an advanced tool used to re-imagine design and the world we live in. In my everyday life, I believe you have to know when to turn technology on and wear it and when to turn it off.
My last question for Antonio might not seem to be immediately related to design, but in the end I think it reveals the human-centered impulse that links all of Antonio’s projects. – No matter what continent you are on, what is most likely to make you feel at home?
…the smile on people faces.