Marco Romanelli

Critic; Curator; Writer; Editor; Lecturer / Architecture; Product Design / Italy / Laudani & Romanelli

Marco Romanelli’s Book List

I belong to a generation for which books were daily bread. In the years before university they were a secret refuge where I could learn something about the world outside, about myself, and about the future (many more things are experienced in books than in reality!). Later, books (and art) became the main tool for building my own place in the world of design. Especially during the height of postmodernism, the only relief from the madness and pastiche that was supposedly a liberation from modernism—but was in reality the application of another kind of strict formalistic dogma—came from well-chosen written words.

Now that I write books myself I always consider them as simple, humble messages in a bottle. Will someone find them? Will someone understand? If even one person finds them, it is enough, for me.

9 books
Roland Barthes

Sometimes a book is a key: Empire of Signs was my key to Japan. I read it as a university student, but I never forgot concepts like what it means to wrap a present or the discovery of haiku poetry (so similar to the expression of a well-designed object). 

Gio Ponti

Written in 1957 in Italian under the title Amate l’architettura (“Love Architecture”), this book was dedicated “not to architects, but to people falling in love with architecture.” During his long life, Gio Ponti never wavered in his conviction that people can learn to read and love architecture. This is not a book that you have to read from first to last page—just open it and read one sentence every night before falling asleep.

Jun’ichiro Tanizaki

The silence, the shadow, the lacquer, the beauty, the water, the garden, and the lesson that one flower is often enough.

The exhibition “Italy: The New Domestic Landscape,” held at MoMA in 1972—for which this book is the catalogue—marked the beginning of prominence for Italian design worldwide, but it also signaled the beginning of a very deep unconscious change in the minds of Italian designers. In some sense the period of “il bel disegno italiano” ended then: addressing Italy’s growing social and political problems could no longer be put off. Another lesson from this exhibition is that furniture design must retain a direct relationship with interior architecture, and not become specialized and separate. It is only in this way that furniture design can be humanized (and tested) as it originates.

Florian Bohm Editor

If I had to choose the best contemporary designer and colleague, it would be Konstantin Grcic—first, for his personal qualities of understatement and kindness (I am a little bit bored by the vainglory of many other designers, so impressed with themselves); and then for his trying to design only when he is certain he has something new (and perhaps almost necessary) to say in the world of form. His list of works is an amazing collection of masterpieces.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

A book I have read almost three times, or rather, at three different times of my life—as a child, as a young father with a child by the hand, and as a professional designer. The last reading has been the most intense: where else you can find a more accurate definition of the why and when of design? The Little Prince is a design book. It should be compulsory in every design school.

Umberto Eco

What is an “open work”? It is work that can be different for each of us, since we are individuals, but the object is always the same. Isn’t this the best result for an industrially produced piece? It is one work, but it can be interpreted in one million different ways!

Ettore Sottsass

I didn’t love Ettore Sottsass when I met him in the beginning of his postmodern period. He was my furniture design professor in my master’s in design program and he never considered the possibility of a student designing in “another way.” But I have always thought that his way of writing about life in design was exceptional. Here is the secret: there is no difference between life and design for a real designer!

Italo Calvino

Lightness, Quickness, Exactitude, Visibility, Multiplicity, and Consistency were, according to Calvino, the qualities required for a work of literature. Why not use these same criteria for a work of design?

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