An Afternoon with Giancarlo Piretti

by Jon Otis on July 30, 2014

I recently spent a lovely afternoon in Bologna with master designer Giancarlo Piretti.

Our time together included a tour of the impressive Piretti studio followed by a delicious lunch, over which we discussed design, life in Bologna, and people in common — including my maestro Ettore Sottsass.

Bologna is both charming and profound — not unlike many Italian cities of a certain era — with qualities we adore such as the covered arcades and narrow cobblestone streets lined with shops and food purveyors that seem to not have changed since the Renaissance. And Bologna is in the center of what is considered the home and the heart of Italian cuisine, and certainly the people of Bologna take that reputation quite seriously.


But it is usually the nuances that move us, and those can be found in the experiences of walking, observing, listening, touching and feeling. The sense of history, the sense of place, the genius loci embraces us and surrounds us with something that is likely taken in stride by the Bolognese, yet for an American, arriving from a country so young, with no real imbedded culture and seemingly disparate regional proclivities, it creates a profoundly deep experience that resonates in the memory and emotions.

More inspiration came when I visited the Museo Morandi presently temporarily housed in the MAMbo, or Museo d’Arte Modena di Bologna. To be in a gallery with an entire museum’s contents of Morandi ‘natura morta’ series of paintings was inspiring. For me, the discipline and rigor plus the color palette of simple still life paintings were incredibly compelling. They resonate as much as ‘organized objects’, carefully arranged, through scale and composition, color and materiality, so that they in fact might seem random if not for the studious attention to the negative space and table surface that frames them.

Morandi "Natura Morta"
Morandi Studio


These are lessons that as a designer, can be taken to heart. Since I am most always drawn to the abstract, these figurative pictures represent another way of seducing my imagination and discovering how it can inspire my own creativity.


Giancarlo Piretti is creator of the Nima Chair for Object Agency client American Seating. View our video at

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