Both classical and contemporary, playful and serious, Franchesini's work is a balancing act of influences.
ITALIAN DESIGNERS ARE often faced with balancing Italy’s rich cultural heritage with the quest for the new. Up-and-coming Florentine designer Pietro Franceschini is no exception. An architect by training, and having grown up in Florence, Franceschini appreciates and values the traditions of Renaissance and Baroque periods – but he also is drawn to the purity and complexity of Italy’s Modern designers such as Giuseppi Terragni and Carlo Scarpa.
“In Italy there’s so much background of history, beauty and culture, that often we see designers and architects just trying to replicate what they have seen, and the work becomes too referential. Intellectually, I didn’t like that – it’s too familiar, too easy for people to recognise. My challenge was to do something that would have a similar emotional impact but with a new language,” explains Franceschini. “Then, whilst I was studying at Pratt – and in the US in general – I found this attitude of creating something new. I think this approach, combined with the sensibility of having grown up in Italy, is a very good mix!”
Franceschini’s time in Brooklyn, in 2019, while doing his master’s degree in architecture, has ended up having a decisive impact on his design career path in many different ways. It was during that time that he came across ‘Neotenic Design’, an exhibition at the (now closed) A/D/O Design Center that has influenced his work not just creatively but also, and just as importantly, by suggesting conceptual design as a viable career path. The exhibition name came from a biological term (neoteny) that refers to an organism’s uneven physical development as it ages, with the juvenile years identified with soft, rounded, pudgy features. In design, this is often translated using soft shapes with odd proportions and a certain cartoon-like feel. The whimsical quality of these pieces appealed to Franceschini’s desire to combine both playful and more sophisticated characteristics in his own designs – something that could make the user smile and yet be classical and timeless.
Shortly after that, at the end of summer 2019, Franceschini decided to go on a sabbatical, moving back to Italy and taking time to focus on developing his furniture designs. The pandemic lockdown and consequent slowing down of life ended up being a productive time, allowing him to develop his first collection.
It was then that he met and started collaborating with visual artist Enrico Cappani to create digital renderings of the pieces being designed. “I have always thought that renderings were a great tool – not only to present a physical idea of an object to a client, but also to express its soul and make a statement about the design,” explains Franceschini. “With Enrico, we developed an immediate connection and a very easy rapport, which led to a great collaborative partnership.”
Indeed, Cappani’s creations quite literally gave Franceschini’s visions a “home”, creating surreal settings for the furniture pieces that were perfectly aligned with the designer’s desire to navigate that fluid line of illusion versus reality. “From the very beginning I wanted to frame my practice in between the digital and the real. I like when people ask, ‘Is this real or not?’” says Franceschini.
Elaborating further, the designer goes on to say: “I want my work to be part of a broader discourse and deal with topics that are relevant to the contemporary design conversation.” He goes on to speak about the merging he has observed of artists tapping into design objects in their work and designers straying increasingly from the mere functional idea of an object – citing Rick Owens as an influence.
Thanks to the rapid speed of social media, his first pieces quickly found both an audience and a market. Representation (Galerie Philia) and publishing opportunities followed.
On working in architecture versus designing furniture, he had this to say: “I enjoy the work as an architect, but I find the pace of creating furniture more interesting. I am fast-thinking person and the time between thinking of something and then actually touching it is obviously much shorter in furniture than architecture, where it can take years.”
Although Franceschini is currently more focused on his furniture designs he is still interested in interior design and has some new projects coming up. “In interiors there is this challenge – there is your vision but there is also the client who will live in an immersive, direct way, with that vision.”
Franceschini is showing no signs of slowing down. He is currently developing a collection for an Australian manufacturer and a new curatorial project with Galeria Philia. But he is also craving a return to travel, and as soon as it is safe to do so again, he hopes to head to India, as well as the Siwa Oasis in Egypt. “Travelling and the emotional experiences it allows us, is one of the key inspirations for my personal collections,” he says.