Book List of the Week

Lightness and Colors: Matteo Thun’s Book List

By Steve Kroeter May 21, 2013

Matteo Thun

Architect, interior and product/industrial designer Matteo Thun: Matteo Thun & Partners (Milan, Italy)

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Matteo Thun needed something that functions like “a phone book” * to show the varied work for which he has become known over the course of his career. That work includes co-founding (with Ettore Sottsass) Memphis—the industrial design collective that defined Italian design in the 1970s and 1980s—and also the hotels, private residences, housewares, lighting, and other products designed by his own firm, Matteo Thun & Partners. The solution was to create The Index Book, released this April by Hatje Cantz. The book features six different indices of the “who, what, when, where” kind, concluding with a project index that intermingles architecture and product design, personal photographs, and Thun’s delicate drawings and watercolors to reflect how the designer sees his work.

From Matteo Thun: The Index Book, 2013 (Hatje Cantz): Arba, lamp collection for Belux, 2009, photo: Belux (left); and Biomass Power Plant, Schwendi (DE), 2006-08, photo: Jens Weber, Munich (right)

An intermingling of ideas and disciplines can also be seen in the book list Thun sent to us. Among the titles is a book on the work of contemporary Japanese architect Shigeru Ban by the Cooper-Hewitt’s Matilda McQuaid, as well as interior designer Miles Redd’s Big Book of Chic. Another book choice, Julia Chaplin’s Gypset Travel—which explores the little-known lifestyles of bohemian jet-setters around the world, from the Aeolian Islands, Italy to North Goa, India—is “totally inspiring,” says Thun, “especially for colors.”

Matteo Thun: The Index Book, 2013 (Hatje Cantz)

Thun, who studied painting with Oskar Kokoschka, and who remarks in a conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist that appears in The Index Book, “I haven’t missed a Venice Biennial since I was six years old,” also includes the Pulitzer Prize-winning De Kooning: An American Master by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan. Thun calls it “simply essential.”

He is especially drawn to Italo Calvino’s Six Memos for a New Millennium (also on the book list of Alberto Alessi and three other Designers & Books contributors), a set of lectures Calvino intended to give at Harvard in 1985, devoted to what he deemed to be indispensable literary values—“lightness” being the first. (Calvino died before he was able to deliver the lectures.) Extending these ideas to design, Thun comments: “His ideas on lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, multiplicity, and consistency still inspire me every day.”

* Interview by J.J. Martin in Wallpaper,* Matteo Thun: The Index Book (January 14, 2013).


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