Catania, Italy – Monuments are erected for the extraordinary, the larger-than-life, that ‘worth’ remembering. But that serves only to capture the fleeting moments of being: Can everyday life be monumental, too?
Italian bespoke furniture-making company DiSé, creative agency Moncada Rangel and eight renowned creatives from all over Europe responded positively to that question with Domestic Monuments, a furniture collection revolving around the idea of building homages to the intimate, timeless activities one repeats day in and day out.
Curators Mafalda Rangel and Francesco Moncada assigned eight of these domestic rituals – like getting dressed and sharing a meal – to the designers. Then, they and DiSé gave free reign to the blended team in rendering ‘monuments’ to that activity as they wished.
This spring, the fruits of those partnerships, two years in the making, were revealed at Palazzo Biscari, an 18th-century Baroque palace in the Sicilian city of Catania. All of the pieces were built by DiSé’s skilled craftsmen in nearby Grammichele, where the company’s atelier has been situated for over 50 years. Though they also have an office in London, Domestic Monuments is the grandest show of multicultural collaboration in its history.
The decision to keep the exhibition at home rather than to show it for the first time in continental Europe reflects DiSé and Moncada Rangel’s opinion that the Sicilian territory can become more preeminent in the design world, with its abundance of resources and local manufacturing know-how. When you match all of that with European design’s best-in-class? There’s no limit to the potential – this collection is evidence of that.
WHO: Guillermo Santomà
WHAT: Monument Number One, representing ‘Dress’
Inspiration for Monument Number One came from the film world – Catalonian architect-designer Santomà referenced visuals from the Disney movie Cars (one of his young son’s favourite movies) and The Fast and the Furious. Crafted from timber-fibreglass finished with polished lacquer and coloured glass, the boldly-coloured piece is intended to transcend utility and serve as a fluidly functional ‘statue.’
WHO: Germans Ermičs
WHAT: A Slant of Light, representing ‘Illuminate’
Latvian designer Germans Ermičs’ most-used material is glass. After receiving the brief for Domestic Monuments, though, he decided that he wanted to push the boundaries of a new material. The result is a polished metal spiral that both reflects the space and divides it with a slant of light. ‘Often, when you think about light, you think about the shell that covers it,’ said Ermičs. ‘I wanted to create an object that was almost physically not there, to focus on the light itself.’
WHO: Francesco Librizzi
WHAT: Il Cielo, representing ‘Hearth’
Francesco Librizzi’s Il Cielo gives the person standing beneath a vibrantly blue ‘private sky.’ A filter supported by columns, it serves as a celestial frame which can define a threshold of any area it lives in. The Sicilian designer-architect mused: ‘From symbols of the ancestral forest to the temple, I used the materials [such as Carrara marble and wild chestnut sourced from Mount Etna] of the columns to hook memory and sensation in people.’
WHO: Michael Schoner
WHAT: Numen, representing ‘Share’
Numen is a rethink of the traditional roundtable format for sharing conversations, be they intimate or business-oriented. In addition to designating a place for congregation, the table is an equaliser: there are no starts-or-ends to the flowing benches, so each person sitting at the table is physically connected. Rotterdam-based designer Michael Schoner explained that ‘[Numen] looks like a burner on a gas stove – it’s a place for cooking food for thought.’
WHO: OS ∆ OOS
WHAT: Groom, representing ‘Groom’
Groom is the most transformative piece of Domestic Monuments, in that it literally shifts shape. Designed by Sophie Mensen and Oskar Peet of OS ∆ OOS, their studio in Eindhoven, the cabinet is a fully-functional installation. Individual louvers that comprise its façade can be rotated to reveal or hide the contents stored behind, in front of a mirrored surface that becomes invisible when the piece is fully closed.
WHO: Arquitectura G
WHAT: Delos, representing ‘Rest’
Barcelona-based practice Arquitectura G wanted to get down to the essence of what a bed is with Delos, taking cues from the ruins of Greco-Roman architecture to bring it to life. Rather than having the bed exist simply as a piece of furniture, the studio instead wanted to think of Delos as set design in itself: A transparent plane is held up by randomly arranged, cleanly geometrical structures that can also work as accessories like bedside tables, valet stands and drawer cabinets.
WHO: Point Supreme
WHAT: Cabinet, representing ‘Store’
Cabinet was designed to seamlessly merge with the objects that would come to populate it, blending the built and the curated. Athens-based practice Point Supreme likens the cabinet to a ‘small piece of architecture in four parts: base, torso, penthouse and veranda.’ The exterior, sleek and polished with reliefs and shiny tiles, is juxtaposed by the interior, rich in material texture and detailing: if you look closely, a bust makes itself seen in the grain of the wood like a ghost.
WHO: Leopold Banchini
WHAT: Tasmania, representing ‘Seat’
At first glance, Tasmania appears to simply be an installation, a set of shapes freely arranged on a circular base. The piece, instead, is a temporary gathering space – an insular landscape not unlike a campfire. Inspired by local Sicilian myths and crafts, Swiss architect Leopold Banchini used Sicilian chestnut, Etna lava stone, bituminous pitchstone, glazed clay, chromed steel and oxidised brass to serve and symbolize different forms of sitting, whether to read, nap or enjoy tea.