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A leading figure in Italian and international architecture, Piero Lissoni has forged a remarkable career, inspiring many architects through his love of contemporary design and his taste for a certain imperfection.


A leading figure in Italian and international architecture, Piero Lissoni has forged a remarkable career, inspiring many architects through his love of contemporary design and his taste for a certain imperfection.

Catégorie : Europe - Italie - Interviews - - Interviews
Interview réalisé par Christopher Buet le 08-12-2023

Portrait Piero Lissoni

Often presented as an apostle of minimalism, Piero Lissoni is, at 67, a leading figure in Italian architecture.
Crédit photo © Veronica Gaido

His eyes are as sharp and mischievous as his interiors are chiseled. Behind his glasses, the man eagerly observes his surroundings, capturing every nuance and drawing inspiration from them. As an interior designer, Piero Lissoni never misses an opportunity to find inspiration, always on the lookout, senses alert and mind racing.

At 67 years old, Lissoni is one of the leading figures in Italian architecture, a symbol, albeit to his own detriment, of the minimalism with which he has nourished his interiors, in a perpetual quest for purity and rigor against a backdrop of utilitarianism and elegance. There's no showboating for this aesthete, where everything must have a purpose, even if it means breaking the overall uniqueness. All he allows himself is a few "mistakes", which he transforms into the cornerstones of his projects, as if to remind us of the imperfection of our lives, and that the alchemy between all things passes through a certain imperfection.

Born in 1956 in Seregno, just outside Milan, he made the Lombardy capital his fiefdom and refuge, establishing his first architectural practice there thirty years later, in partnership with Nicoletta Canesi. The meticulous Italian began his career as artistic director at Boffi, a high-end Italian kitchen and bathroom brand, before developing his talents and broadening his palette to include object design and more ambitious projects such as Jerusalem's Mamilla Hotel, which won him the Prix Villégiature award for best hotel in the Middle East in 2016, or more recently the Shangri-La Shougang Park, a UFO created from scratch for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, a sort of fusion between a disused factory and a luxury hotel, whose light-filled lobby is traversed by an imposing circular red staircase.

Between Australia and the United States, Piero Lissoni was kind enough to grant Le Journal des Palaces a few moments to talk about his career, his creative process and his vision of the hotel industry.

Journal des Palaces : Could you describe your background?

Piero Lissoni : I trained first at the Milan Politecnico and then at the various studios where I worked after graduating.

How did your passion for your profession come about?

Architecture has always been a passion of mine. Ever since I was a child, I have always felt drawn to this world. And just like any child I experimented with building so many things, and at the same time I really loved to draw. I wanted to be an architect!

What is your vision of luxury?

I think the word luxury is rather outdated and a little hackneyed. I have never really liked it, but if I have to find my personal definition, luxury is the combination of good taste, elegance and the capacity to make the best possible choices. If I have to say what meaning it has for me, I’d say space and light.

Recently, you designed the interior of the Oberoi Beach Resort in the United Arab Emirates. How did this project differ from the ones you have done before?

We didn’t design only the interior, but we also worked on the masterplan, the architecture, the interiors and the graphic design. It is an integrated project.

One challenge was certainly the extreme temperatures that are so endemic to the region and which have a profound influence on the local architecture that must be capable of providing the inhabitants with protection and ensuring their wellbeing. Consequently, we worked to limit the density of the built space, seeking to keep the volumes low and of just one level when appropriate. Integral to this approach was the active integration of the surrounding landscape to provide calming and restorative pathways through the trees and greenery.
Although part of a large development of the region, our resort was the first in the area, so at the time there was no infrastructure and very few points of reference.

You blend into any world from the Dorothea Hotel in Budapest to the MarePineta, from luxury hotels to private villas, museums like the Ferrari Museum or stores. What do all your projects have in common?

Each project is approached from the perspective of the architecture. I treat the places as three dimensional spaces, thinking about the interiors also by looking in from the outside because the interior and the exterior are inextricably linked: the matrix is always the same, both in the public and the private sphere. I work to form combinations, connections, inserting “errors” here and there, the secret in the endeavor of pursuing elegance. Connections between different worlds held together by a certain “rawness”.

What is Piero Lissoni's signature?

Journalists have labelled me as part of the minimalist trend, but in general I see myself more in the guise of someone who seeks a minimum of decoration and who possesses a code of elegance that can sometimes prove problematic, as it is the result of a search for innovative combinations and proportions that then become new codes. From time to time, I like to introduce errors into this model of consistency in order to generate a slightly more elegant language.

What do you draw inspiration from when you create?

Every project is a process and the creativity or inspiration come from everyday life. There is no classic model of reference as far as I’m concerned. I’m inspired by what we could call life in general, which itself contains so much: literature, poetry, photography, cinema, food, travel, smells, clothes… For me it’s impossible to choose a particular series of references when I’m working on a project.

What do you bring to the hotels that request your services?

We start with the place where the project is situated. We take full account of the genius loci and for this reason all our projects are bespoke and very different from each other. I think this is what we bring to every hotel.

What are the requirements of the luxury hotels you work with?

We are essentially moving towards different worlds: hotels that concentrate principally on service, from luxurious five-star hotels with ever more curated and personalised services to smaller “design hotels” that also offer services of the highest calibre and “club hotels” that replicate a home from home concept with outstanding services in different locations around the world.

What projects are you currently working on?

We are presently working on many projects all over the world, from the United States to Mexico as well as in Europe and the Far East: residential buildings, hotels, yachts, an arts foundation in Venice… We have also just won a project for the urban redevelopment of part of the Lake Maggiore shoreline, in Italy. We are also working on new products that we will be presenting at the next Salone del Mobile.

Could you name a few professional encounters that have marked your career?

My encounters with all the industrialists who have been pivotal in my professional life, such as Roberto Gavazzi, Lorenzo Porro, Renata and Luigi Bestetti, Angelo Meroni, Piero Gandini, Claudio Luti, Piero Busnelli, Franco Cassina, to name but a few.

Piero Lissoni

"I think the word 'luxury' is a bit old-fashioned and hackneyed. I've never really liked it, but if I have to find my personal definition, luxury is the combination of good taste, elegance and the ability to make the best possible choices."
Crédit photo © Veronica Gaido

A propos de l'auteur

A journalist with many skills and an ever curious traveller, Christopher has a great attraction for carefully refined hotels, where characterful gastronomy, impeccable service and sincere elegance go hand in hand. A discreet and gourmet pen at the service of a certain idea of luxury.

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