The Jury

Michele de Lucchi,
architect, president of the Jury
Chantal Hamaide,
director, Intramuros magazine
Pascale Mussard,
vice-president of the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès and artistic director, ‘petit h’, Hermès
Penny Sparke,
professor of the History of Design, University of Kingston
(United Kingdom)
Pierre-Alexis Dumas,
president, Fondation d’entreprise Hermès and General Artistic Director, Hermès
Oki Sato,

Interview Michele De Lucchi

Michele De Lucchi, president of the Jury Prix Émile Hermès 2014

He was both a disciple and trusted colleague of Ettore Sottsass, with whom he co-founded the legendary Memphis movement in the 1980s. Now 63, Michele de Lucchi retains all the optimism of that frenetically creative era, dedicated now as then to a vision of design as the central component of a holistic approach to the human environment. A trained architect, De Lucchi focuses on designs for public and private buildings, as well as everyday objects – each reflecting his fascination for the simplest things and their uses.

What does ‘Time to yourself’ mean to you?

It’s a fundamental theme which I find particularly attractive because design is a profession that depends so much on engaging with and listening to others. At my Milan agency I spend every day exchanging ideas with my colleagues, architects and designers. And then I feel a vital need to be alone at home in my own environment, surrounded by the things I love – things that hold a special meaning for me. I believe that in order to connect effectively with others, we must know how to reconnect with ourselves.

What makes the issue of ‘Time to yourself’ so pertinent for designers today?

New developments in technology, and the rise of social media networks, mean that more than ever before, we feel the need to be informed of our own existence. Being a designer means not only knowing how to conceive and design objects, but also finding ways for each one of us to create the setting for the story of our lives. It’s a difficult question, because it’s so all-embracing. It means getting to grips with reality – there’s no ready-made answer.

Tell us about your response to the entries ?

There were some very interesting, wide-ranging ideas. One designer had even created a digital app: the first time I've come across a project of that type in a design competition - I was highly impressed. This is a unique prize in its field: it's a terrific opportunity for young designers to explore new territories, thanks to the Fondation d'entreprise Hermès. The finalists get a chance to take their project beyond the idea stage and tackle the making of a full-sized prototype. And all without the commercial constraints which might otherwise limit their room for manoeuvre. They are free to devote themselves to the question of human beings in their everyday environment, and to invent new, enhanced lifestyle solutions. It's what being a designer is all about.

What would you have submitted, as an entrant for this year’s Prix Émile Hermès?

As a child, I loved taking a few moments to myself, stretched out under my bed. That was my very own space, a sort of private house where I felt very much at ease. Even now, I’d love to a have a secret place like that.

You are an industrial designer, and a creator of limited-edition objects, but you also work on large-scale architectural projects. How do you manage these radical shifts of creative environment and scale?

The end products and the time-scales involved are certainly very different, but to my mind, they are essentially the same thing. In each case I’m focusing on mankind in his (or her) everyday environment – the outdoor environment for architecture, and the indoor world for design. My experimental, self-produced collection Produzione Privata gives me an insight into life as an entrepreneur. I now have a much better understanding of the constraints my distributors are dealing with all the time.

The design profession has undergone tremendous change since the beginning of your career. What do you believe has changed most?

Technology, of course, but in a positive way. Also, designers have become increasingly aware of the need to study our evolving lifestyles. Nowadays, we see the home as a collection of disparate objects, and we have greater freedom than before to create, innovate, even influence new behaviours.

What was the best piece of advice you received as a fledgling designer?

When I was Ettore Sottsass’s pupil, my ‘master’ told me that if I wanted to understand the world and take it forward, I would have to explore it myself, get out and about, and get to know it. And so I went to India, Japan and United States – foundational journeys that forced me to confront and break away from my somewhat over-solitary nature. He was right in so many ways.

What advice would you give to the rising generation of designers today?

Love the contemporary world. Don’t be critical, be positive about the world, and try to understand what works. That’s the only way to move forward and be creative. I have always believed that the world is built of happy things.