How Fatherhood Changed Italian Architect Roberto Palomba's Design Approach
Like most fathers, thoughts about the future weigh heavily on the mind of Italian architect Roberto Palomba.
“When I became a father, I was no longer only thinking about my life,” says Palomba. “I was thinking of what I leave to this world; that changed my perception of responsibility.” This regard for the future extends to his design approach: “My generation grew up with the mistaken thinking that natural resources are unlimited and that is absolutely not true. Eco is not a trend, it is a necessity. We have to try to take this responsibility onto ourselves, as designers and companies.”
Together with his wife Ludovica, the co-founder of Ludovica+Roberto Palomba works on dozens of projects each year. Their most recent work includes sofas for Poltrona Frau, playfully named after the chart-topping hits by The Beatles; each collection presents the sofa as the social centre of the home.
What inspired the decision to start a studio with your wife?
Roberto Palomba (RP) People seem very surprised that I have worked with my wife for 25 years. But it’s absolutely normal. We talk, we share; sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, sometimes we agree, sometimes we don’t. We met in the university and we grew up together, always talking about our passion. Architecture and design are both a job and a passion, and that’s the best part; you’re involved not only as a designer but as a person. It’s quite normal that if your wife is an architect, too, you share your ideas and opinions.
Tell us more about your sofas for Poltrona Frau
RP It’s always the same idea; sharing is my ultimate target. To provide a place where people can meet, sit, and relax. I study the evolution of human behaviour: on one hand, we are isolating ourselves with mobile phones. On the other hand, we try to create the connection with family life. So I try to design a place where people can express this way of life to have the perfect tool to do it.
In the last three years we designed three very successful sofa collections for Poltrona Frau. Let It Be is dedicated to young people who want to lounge on it and have a relaxed talk with friends. The Come Together sofa is the opposite; it’s very short and comfortable, even for people who are not so young. For Get Back, we designed hugging arms that appear very light but at the same time, it’s very relaxing, with wonderful comfort and has a super contemporary appeal.
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How does eco-consciousness shape your design process?
RP When we talk about eco, it doesn’t have to have a shabby-chic aesthetic or smell bad. When I design for Poltrona Frau, I try my best to create something that is long-lasting. I don’t follow trends, I try to bring the nature of this brand into my design. I try to do disassemble-able products; if we have an injury on one part, we can restore and substitute just that part instead of substituting the entire sofa or the entire chair. I think it’s important that we now have this new consciousness in design.
(Related: Meet Robert Cheng, The Singapore-Based Architect Who Has Spent 19 Years Working On His Father's Home)