Carlotta de Bevilacqua

Carlotta de Bevilacqua is one of few women major players in the world of contemporary design; she is in charge of her architectural and design office, designing innovative spaces and buildings with reduced environmental impact and reinterpreting the relationship among man, architecture, nature and light, aspects of which she investigates in relation to physiological and psychological well-being.

Graduated in 1983 in Architecture at the Politecnico di Milano; worked as Designer and Art Director of Memphis and Alias from 1989 to 1993 where she expounded important research on lighting design. She is currently Vice President and General Manager of Artemide for Brand Strategy and Product Innovation with reponsibilities in Marketing, Communication and Vision & Strategic Futures. In 2000 she acquired Danese, the leader company in Italian design during 60’/70’s, which she revived in a very short time, gaining new market shares and a new leadership.

For these two companies Carlotta de Bevilacqua has developed many new generation LED products, recognized with several patents (Algoritmo dark, Pad, Cata for Artemide and Una Pro for Danese), introducing in lighting contest new technological scenarios in terms of performance, environmental impact and sensitive experience. Since 2001 she is a fully established university lecturer for the lighting design project lab, for Design Faculty of Politecnico in Milan, where she also teaches in Light Product Design Master, having served as Project leader of innovative products within the Strategic Design Master (Mip) Program two years prior. From 2001 to 2004, she was a lecturer in the Design Master Program at Domus Academy in Milan. Additionally, she frequently lectures at Bocconi University. In 2013 she became member of the Board of Direction of Fondazione La Triennale di Milano.

Carlotta de Bevilacqua’s presence is very much appreciated at conventions and seminars all over the world.


You started as an architect and through a cross-field journey you have become the President and Managing Director of Danese. Was this something included in your original career vision?

Danese is part of my childhood memories. My mother was an architect, and often took me in the first shop-laboratory opened by Bruno Danese. I have always admired the spirit of research and experimentation that characterized this reality so unique for the transversality of its collection and the ability to mix crafts, art and industry. When I learned that the company was for sale I could not resist and I embarked on this new experience.


Apart from your extensive and successful work for Artemide, you also lecture about lighting design and products in Milan Polytechnic. How did your fascination with light begin?

Light has always fascinated me, since my architecture studies. Light is the material of space constructions and more than others can give shape and identity to the environments by establishing a relationship that involves humans in several respects: perceptive, communicative, emotional, psychological and even physiological. But above all the light is like air and water, man and nature cannot live without it. At the same time, however, design light means taking care not only of matter but also energy and therefore pay great attention to its use to meet the limited resources of the planet. Also we are in the field of light at a time of great technological transition thanks to the revolution introduced by the evolution of the LED, for this Light project capacity embraces many important issues and values.


You have stated that you are often invited to give lectures because you manage to grasp changes in contemporary society and international markets; do these changes influence your personal design, and how?

Certainly, in my path to project the social aspects are a key point to understand the new needs that light can help to satisfy. The research on technological innovation should always be combined with a more humanistic reflection and confront with the market to make it as accessible as possible to all a good light(ing).


Unlike other innovative designers, there is particular warmth characterizing your design style; just when it is about to become austere, a playful element emerges. Is that intentional?

I believe it is the feminine touch that emerges but I do not like to talk about style, it is a concept too often tied to formal aspects only. In my project the shape is only the synthesis, the result of the convergence of continuous technological innovation with an anthropological approach. The will to create always a close relationship between man and his light spaces certainly contributes to ensure that my products have a warm appearance. Make man the author of his own light with products that invite you to contact and active management is definitely among the goals of many of my projects. This because the man has the right to have spaces that transmit wellness but also has the duty to dose with awareness the use of light and therefore energy.


Your products are sensational while minimalistic, they seem like smooth machines. Could you tell us about your explorations with form and technology?

For me, the shape is the expression of limitations and technological opportunities, is not an element for its own sake. In my projects often the luminous, thermal and optical machine necessary to ensure the operation of the LED is left bare, matter is reduced to a minimum to ensure optimum performance with minimum waste and maximum sustainability. Working with the LED imposes in my opinion a true paradigm shift; LED opens new possibilities and its design calls into question the way we design for use with traditional sources. LED as light source allow minimizing and dematerializing but at the same time is a heat source that requires material and formal measures to ensure proper dissipation. Also from the optical point of view called a planning with lenses and reflectors still largely to explore.


As someone who has worked around the globe, have you experienced any differences in design process and decision-making, regarding innovation techniques, between Western and Eastern producers and markets?

Innovation and research can be universal, ideas and information as “bit” can be quickly moved from end to end of the world. The technical capacity instead is closely related to the “matter” and therefore has more local reasons, often related to manufacturing and craft traditions, is an element most often attributable to specific geographic areas.


Would you say that it is easier to design for an abstract material as is light, compared to concrete, or suchlike? Bearing in mind the work of certain architects in the field of ‘architecture with sound’ for example, does lack of materiality allow you to formulate your own path or does it pose more problems?

Certainly I have repeatedly stated that the light is the material with which I prefer to work as an architect and designer, to create spaces and give shape to the products. Certainly is for me the most fascinating but not the easiest. Working with light requires especially today a great technological competence and a constant work of update and research that calls the ability to open up to share the project with specialized figures and skills. Dematerialization in architecture can help to leave space to light to express themselves to redefine the spaces but the most comprehensive and valuable results certainly you have when the light project integrates from the beginning with the architecture, not when it is seen as a final add.


Maria Kalapanida, architect MA AADipl

About the text:

The interview took place within the éso framework organised by Vasilis Bartzokas & e-magazine in collaboration with +Design magazine.

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