EMILIO GENOVESI: INCREASINGLY INTELLIGENT MATERIALS
Breathing fabrics, air-purifying paints, tiles that kill bacteria, recyclable polymers, glass that repairs itself, bikinis that clean the sea, energy-generating tires, fabrics that light up and others that regulate body temperature , “circular” ecoplastics derived from orange or tomato peels… the endless search for new materials with unthinkable performances seems to be the key to every innovation. To the point that, through a direct line with operators, the international Material ConneXion network was born in America in 1997 with its very rich library. Just arrived in Italy it also created a “Materials Village” during the Milan Design Week for the last five editions at Superstudio. Emilio Genovesi, CEO of Materially and, first, of Material ConneXion Italia, tells us about it.
Material ConneXion, with its library of materials, with its presentations first at the Triennale and then at Superstudio, also represented in Italy an important step in the knowledge and enhancement of materials for architecture and design. How did it become part of the Salone and Fuorisalone circuit?
Traditionally, Material ConneXion's mission has always been to suggest new and original material solutions to product manufacturers or architectural designers. Obviously doing this has always led to a close relationship with materials manufacturers, especially those who bring innovative solutions.
A few years ago, therefore, we thought of organizing something for the latter too, which could help them to make their products known in addition to the help that the library was already developing in this sense. This was the starting point for the idea of an initiative dedicated to them during the Milan Design Week.
Why are innovative materials so important today? What should they give us more?
Materials have always been important for all human activities and for the world of design. We are made of matter as well as of thought and some may say of soul. The "solid side" of our life will always be important and it is no coincidence that those who invented Material ConneXion in the USA during the 90s did so while the first Wall Street bubble was growing due to the discovery of "virtual" markets. Technological innovation did the rest, allowing us not to use only what nature put at our fingertips, but to produce and invent a new world of material solutions to our performance, aesthetic and sensorial problems. Today perhaps even too vast given the theme of plastics.
Traditional production and staining techniques could also be harmful to health. Today we look at the wellness of the person and the environment asking for help from the materials themselves. Any examples of particular performances in this sense?
In our time in the field of materials, the concept of innovation exists only if combined with those of sustainability, safety and health. Just think today in times of pandemics of all the antibacterial and antiseptic materials or the surfaces that purify the air by retaining particulates etc.
How to stay up to date in the ocean of global production?
Keeping updated today is a job. In fact, there are materials experts and in a while even those who are experts only in certain material sectors. Companies like ours help a lot those who work in innovation. A few years ago our consultancy was considered an expensive luxury today an important activity which is difficult to ignore.
In addition to innovation in general, the focus on sustainability has gradually been reinforced...
Nowadays, when we talk about sustainability in the world of materials, we talk a lot about circular economy. That is, the fact that we must realise that the matter at our disposal is over, economic growth as well and the ability to reuse matter in innovative processes will be the great revolution of the future. Technology will be very helpful for us. Already today almost everything could not be waste and nothing end up in landfills. It would be enough to want it.
Material ConneXion presentations during Design Week, rather than being in traditional form in pre-arranged venues, aimed at a “Village” in the green with the famous white houses. Why this choice?
When the event was born we decided to hold the first edition at the Triennale. In fact, we had been managing an exhibition space at Triennale for years. However at our request for a larger exhibition space, Triennale gave us availability only in the garden. And in the garden a set-up of little houses worked. Thus the idea of the Village was born partly out of necessity and partly by chance. Then, since it was successful, we grew fond of and fortunately our customers with us.
What has changed since the transition from Triennale to Superstudio Più?
Triennale edition had many visitors, most of whom, however, were simply curious or students. Our partners instead participated to find new markets and new business opportunities, from this point of view the presence at Superstudio has opened new horizons for us. In five editions we never had any complaints about the quality of visitors.
In addition to materials companies, an important event was the one with special guests, focusing on big names such as with the site-specific installations by Matteo Thun, Stefano Boeri, Yona Friedmann, Patricia Urquiola and others... Was there a fil rouge to connect these choices?
The fil rouge has always been to link an event that however has never lost the goal of helping our partners to create new business with the need to be original and interesting for all visitors. In this the incentive of Gisella Borioli and all the Superstudio staff has always been incessant.
The meeting with 3M Design International, which for many editions has chosen us as a location, and that has designed many installations with top designers with us has certainly helped. We are very grateful to 3M for this.
You had an experience of consulting the Government on the coordination of design world during the previous parliamentary term. How was this governmental approach. Will anything remain?
In five months of working with the committee I chaired, appointed by Minister Bonisoli, we have produced a very important guideline document. This was also approved by the Cultural Minister of the subsequent government, Franceschini, with whom I had a very positive meeting and we had promised ourselves to continue. Immediately after, the Covid-19 pandemic exploded and others were the priorities. I would like some of our suggestions to be taken up now, that with European aid finding funds should be easier and innovative projects are needed.
After the sudden death of President Rodrigo Rodriguez, what are the next horizons?
President Rodriquez was decisive for all our activities, with his enthusiasm and his passion for all that was new. We had also recently changed the company name and name of our business with him, founding Materially. Successfully facing a future full of unknowns for the crisis that will follow the pandemic will certainly not be easy. But we will also do it to respect his memory and his teachings.