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Andrea Mancuso Q&A

Milan, Italy

Andrea Mancuso of Analogia Project’s work is a must see in Milan, with new furniture, an experiential culinary collaboration and imaginative interventions within the city’s luxury flagships. DA/UK caught up with him to talk about exploration, experimentation and one of his mantras: “I don’t accept the word impossible”

Sgraffito console

DESIGN ANTHOLOGY UK: How did Pentimenti, your pieces for your solo show at Nilufar Depot, come about?

Andrea Mancuso: It started during Covid, when paper and pencil was the only media I was using – I was doing rendering, visuals and technical drawings all by hand, the way I did at university 20 years ago. It felt lighter and freer. And in this case, I wanted the marks I was making to really stand out from the pieces themselves.

When we see objects, we only see the final result, and all the process behind it is completely hidden. But the process is the part that excites me the most. I want to express not only a story but the capability of materials to stand out, to talk, to really say something.

DA: So, Pentimenti is about making the process along the way more evident – so that your original drawings are more clearly translated into the finished object?

AM: The whole project is about movement and traces – overlapping shapes and ideas that take form across three different collections. It’s my personal vision, but it’s also a common memory that can be read and understood by the viewers. I love it when something is abstract, and people start getting their own impression of it – when it becomes something out of my control. It makes it more personal somehow.

Andrea Mancuso
Stria bench

DA: What materials have you used?

AM: For Stria I wanted to render the effect of a brushstroke; it’s made by cutting bars of glass and putting them in a kiln and losing control of them, so they overlap eachother.

Sgraffito is a very large Carrara marble dining table and console, alongside two lamps made from bronze and blown glass. The table is my favourite: it has thousands of marks that are etched into the marble, then filled with ink, using the same techniques of old momuments. It’s like a full tattoo across the table. I did them all myself: I originally visited the company that were making them and the person who was trying to do it had a sensibility that was quite different to what I had envisioned. I ended up staying five says to do it myself, and I think the hand [of the maker] is the personal part of it.

Strata is like a quick sketch of overlapping shapes, one on top of the other. I’ve tried to show that with an inlay of marble. I also did some bronze vessels for Strata, with layers of bronze, like four pieces into one.

DA: What’s your approach to materials?

AM: I work with a lot of materials – glass, metal, marble, wood – and the more you know a material, the more limits you give to yourself. The material I prefer to work with is the one I’ve never used before. You have the freedom of not knowing what the limits are. I don’t accept the word impossible – of course it can cost a lot of money, but nothing is impossible. I am also fortunate enough to work with some amazing artisans, and they follow me on some crazy journey.

Strata coffee table
Sgraffito console
Stria bench

DA: Tell us about your relationship with Nina Yashar of Nilufar.

AM: We opened a dialogue 10 years ago and it’s grown year after year. It’s a long-lasting working relationship, and also a friendship. I love Nina’s vision, and how she creates dialogue between objects. I don’t think not alone among designers in imagining my work in a white cube – but the reality is people’s homes aren’t white cubes. Nina shows how these pieces come to life.

DA: You’re also designing a bar as part of a collaborative project in Milan, Trattoria Altra Vista. What do you have planned?

AM: I am good friends with Marco and Tatiana from Anotherview, it’s their project. They started Anotherview a few years ago, filming places for 24 hours – whether New York, Venice or Jaipur – then creating ‘windows’ in other locations to show the films. They wanted to create a special trattoria in Milan, in the most incredible baroque palace and they commissioned me to work with Nature Squared, who make incredible materials including eggshell, so the bar will be completely covered in that. It’s quite a simple, classic trattoria bar shape, but there will be that dialogue with new materials. It’s ended up as quite an undefinable shape, age, time and material – that’s kind of what I was looking for.

When we see objects, we only see the final result, and all the process behind it is completely hidden. But the process is the part that excites me the most
'Disappearing' travertine arches inside Fendi's Palazzo della Civiltà
Ferragamo store, Milan

DA: You’ve worked a lot with Europe’s big luxury brands, from Fendi to Perrier-Jouët and most recently Ferragamo on its Milan store, designed by Vincent Van Duysen. How did that last project come about?

AM: They called Nina at Nilufar with an idea to develop something for the shop, and they loved Acquario [Mancuso’s 2022 collection of ceramic and glass furniture]. Every fashion brand I’ve every worked with have always said “the products have to come first” so I initially showed them some ceramics in perfect shades of brown and beige, but they didn’t want that – they wanted to create this contrast with the wider design of the shop, and the outside collaborators they had commissioned.

DA: As someone fully embedded in the creative life of Milan, where are you going to be heading during design week?

AM: Apart from Nilufar gallery, obviously, I’m close friends with Joseph Grima so I’ll certainly be going to Alcova. Wonderglass always does something incredible. But actually, the best advice I can give you is just to go to Bar Basso and ask people what they suggest…

Pentimenti is on from 15-21 April 2024 at Nilufar Depot, Viale Vincenzo Lancetti 34; Trattoria Altra Vista is on from 15-21 April at Palazzo Litta, Corso Magenta 24.