Curator, architect, designer, Luisa Bocchietto stands out for her particular sensitivity to creative women, as reflected in her 2008 exhibition DcomeDesign, in which she cast light on women's design, in her own particular way. Luisa Bocchietto has been President of ADI, the Association for Industrial Design, of the World Design Organization, and a member of the Italian Council for Design of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage. Through the artistic contributions of women in the fields of architecture and design, Superstudio is back in 2022 to promote women’s talent once again. Luisa Bocchietto, one of the contemporary protagonists of Italian design, discussed with us the current state of Italian women design.
Why do we have such an incredibly high number of brilliant women designers and architects but so few get to the top? What kind of resistance do they meet in the course of their careers?
The cause of this may be social barriers. As women, we still struggle to the top as we are also tied to our family roles – we have to look after our children first, and then our parents too. Our experience with the pandemic has shown us that women still occupy their old-fashioned role of taking care of others, therefore being prevented from fully focusing on their careers. The situation of men is different instead. Basically, it's about social pressure: men have to follow their working path until they reach their goals, while women are expected to make sacrifices for their families. Currently, we are still far from gender equality. Even if a lot has changed over the years, being a woman, a mother, and a worker today is still a radical choice for many. This is often an either/or situation rather than an and/and. The role of cultural prejudices is also relevant, and for a woman to be professionally and culturally successful, it often means she has to give up her femininity in favour of assuming a can-do attitude.
More and more companies seem to invest in products made by men rather than on female ones. How do you explain this situation?
On the one hand, I believe the long-term reliability and dependability of the designer to participate in the market activity establishes their worth in the long run and on the other hand, for the reason I've already stated, there is an overrepresentation of male designers in the field. In general, purchasing power heavily influences market choices.
What are the differences between an object designed and conceived by a man and one conceived and designed by a woman?
Several years ago, the exhibition DcomeDesign arose from the idea of discovering if women's design existed or not, specifically intended to be a different expression from men's. By doing so, I was also able to promote the work of so many women professionals. At the end of the project, I came to the realization that good design is the ultimate criteria, beyond gender issues. I refer to design as the approach to reading what surrounds us and finding innovative solutions to common problems. It’s the expression of creativity and intelligence, which are undoubtedly inherent in each person. In the end, what matters is the chance we have to prove ourselves, which leads to unlimited knowledge and experiences. Working opportunities teach us how to express ourselves and how to leave our mark on others.
There is a persistent belief that women are better at designing small objects, whereas big products, like architecture, pertain to their partners/husbands/fathers/colleagues. How do you explain this? Is it about ego?
I am an architect. My vision stems from architecture and design. The approach is the same, to quote Rogers “from the spoon to the city”. I believe that everything depends on the opportunities that are often denied to women due to the very social factors we have just discussed. Although I think that women don’t come forward enough, I strongly believe in a different future to come.
It is common to find partnerships where the man is the leading figure. It creates a visual imbalance, not to mention a professional and ethical one. Where does it come from? And how can we respond differently?
We live in a largely male-dominated world and, like any other field, architecture and design reflect this reality. Today's situation is certainly better than a century ago, but the process of equality for women is still slow and complex. I was the second female Italian President of ADI (Association for Industrial Design) and the second female President of ICSID/WDO, the World Design Organisation. The second in 60 years. The other women were elected during the 1960s, a time of social revolution that faded too soon away in the face of incoming practical difficulties. Ultimately, I believe the business, political and professional world today needs the contribution and ambition of women.