Catania, Italy – Tasmania, a seating ‘landscape’ designed by Swiss architect Leopold Banchini, is a multi-faceted piece of furniture. The more you see it, the more you see its incredible detailing, and the more it morphs into an enticing means by which to enjoy a nice sit.
Granted, when I saw it for the first time, I didn’t know exactly how one was supposed to sit on it. Giancarlo Leggio, creative director of DiSé – the Sicilian bespoke furniture company that built it – explained that it was designed to be almost a universe unto itself, a landscape on which you could spend an entire day. There was the triangle for leaning against, the platform to place your tea, a curved form to rest your head.
‘Ahh,’ I replied, ‘Now I get it.’ Then, I later realized, the initial ambiguity was the whole point. It wasn’t only a ‘celebration’ of sitting, as creative agency Moncada Rangel had tasked him with creating for the collection-cum-exhibition Domestic Monuments, but a call to action for the viewer to rethink such a natural activity.
Banchini was camping in Tasmania when he designed the piece. Function-wise, it arguably requires the widest stretch of imagination of the collection. But in form, the story is clear: while the architect named it after the wildly natural Australian island state he was so impressed with, Tasmania embodies the rich personality of another island, oceans away – Sicily.
What were your thoughts when you received the brief from Moncada Rangel?
LEOPOLD BANCHINI: I really saw this project as unique opportunity to test ideas and try something that I hadn’t done before. I was intrigued by rethinking the concept of domesticity and of seating. I found that really challenging. I never had a sofa in my house, for some reason. My friends always found it very weird, but I guess my parents just weren’t sofa-people.
We are prepared, usually, to always sit in the same kind of places. It’s nice to think, in a way, as a teenager would – they always sit in very strange places. They don’t care, they don’t need a sofa.
You have mentioned that you also thought a lot about the way people sit when they camp and how Eastern cultures view sitting.
I saw the process in layers. The first concept, for me, came from the image of sitting around a fire: the informality and people accommodating their bodies with what objects they can find.
My choice of objects came from the idea of creating a landscape. I felt it was important to have objects that were both symbolic of the natural and the built – each one of them represents something that, for me, is in between a model and reality.
I heard from DiSé that you hand selected the rock form from Mount Etna?
I had some ideas for forms beforehand, but they really developed with the specific landscape of Sicily and manufacturing knowledge of DiSé. When I saw how good they were with lacquer, for example I said, okay, let’s do a piece with it. It was a way to show their know-how – in the end, that was the purpose of the collection.
A piece like Tasmania is an expression of different people
In the first prototype, the surface was black. What made you choose the light wood in the end?
I had all of these ideas before coming here. In my imagination, it was more plastic-y, or had more pop – it was more playful. But then I came and saw DiSé’s incredible sensitivity to material. A piece like Tasmania is an expression of different people: the people who work on it also express themselves through it. So I wanted to leave a certain freedom. I never came up with the idea of using Sicilian chestnut, neither of using the stone from Etna. That was all them. Now, when you look at it, you feel the origin, that it comes from this ‘fire island’ where things burn.
How do you see Tasmania in the context of what the seven other designers created for Domestic Monuments?
When we all came together, I understood the vision of Mafalda [Rangel] and Francesco [Moncada]. The pieces – and characters – are all completely different, but they work together beautifully. It’s clear that this was their intention: they chose us because of how different we are.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Interested in seeing all of the pieces from the Domestic Monuments collection? See our full round-up here. If you're interested in Moncada Rangel's curatorial process, read our interview with the duo here.