Profile: Luca Nichetto

He grew up in a country that celebrates good design and still has the industrial base to commission it. Max Fraser talks to the Italian designer who goes against national stereotypes with his feel for collaboration and awareness of sustainability

Born and bred on the glass-making island of Murano near Venice, 34-year-old Luca Nichetto has remained loyal to the city in which he discovered, as a child, that he wanted to be a designer. His grandfather was a glass master and the mesmerising energy of the glass furnaces and the attuned skills of the makers spurred on the boy to contribute to the material landscape in the future. Fast forward 30 years and Nichetto is now fulfilling that vision, steering a small team through a variety of product, lighting and furniture projects from his Venetian studio.

The designer’s professional evolution has been steady, but not hurried, since completing his studies at Venice’s Art Institute and then the University Institute of Architecture of Venice, where he graduated in industrial design. At the tender age of 24, his first port of call was the island of Murano where he was able to realise his childhood aspirations to undertake projects in glass, working for a period with established producer Salviati.

Shortly thereafter, he began working with Italian lighting manufacturer Foscarini, not only designing but also consulting on new materials research and product development. This experience reinforced his passion for materials and processes, and provided a strong foundation on which to establish his own studio in 2006 – Nichetto & Partners – located in Venice’s regenerated industrial area of Porto Marghera.

Nichetto has benefited from the extensive client base in his ’design mature’ home country of Italy. The opportunities to work with leading manufacturers are real, and proximity to, for example, the traditional chair-producing centre of Udine, only an hour from Venice, gives Nichetto an edge over international rivals when it comes to accessing technical expertise and product development.

Nichetto’s latest project, the Robo chair for Swedish manufacturer Offect, is a case in point. The chair, launched last month, is made up of six body parts – seat, back, and four legs – which are shipped in a small box and mounted together with thin connector rods. The complicated structure of each part exploits a new technology that Offect’s Swedish suppliers were unable to execute confidently. The fittings for the connector rods are sandwiched between one sheet of plywood and one sheet of felt in a complicated process that required constant adjustments throughout its development.

In the end, Nichetto succeeded with a producer in Italy with which he had previously worked. ’In Sweden, when they say “yes” or “no” they mean it. In Italy, it is always more ambiguous,’ Nichetto says, laughing. ’The Italians are normally prepared to push themselves pretty hard.’

To his frustration, one issue that the Italians are not pushing very hard is their attitude towards sustainable production. ’In contrast to other countries, Italian producers seem less interested in sustainability,’ opines Nichetto. ’The interest here is on style and quality.’ Indeed, for a long time now, such attributes have been synonymous with Italian design. It is encouraging to learn that Nichetto is part of a new generation of Italian designers who wish to tackle environmental responsibilities head on.

The designer certainly has an Italian-centric client base, making it feasible to effect some change at a local level. His portfolio is diverse and embraces varying product typologies: handmade glass for Salviati and Venini; professional barware and catering products for Italesse; plastic bowls and utensils for Fratelli Guzzini; ceramics for Bosa; tables and stools for Moroso; mirrors and tables for Gallotti & Radice; lighting for Foscarini; and seating for Casamania, Kristalia, Bonaldo and Emmegi.

One thing is clear from this variety – Nichetto’s work avoids a signature style. ’I am more interested in working with partners to push materials and advance processes,’ he says. This is a refreshing statement in this age of egocentric authorship.

As he enters his second decade working in the industry, it is this attitude that will no doubt see his talents called upon in countries beyond his home hub. The forthcoming Milan furniture fair in April will provide proof of this when he unveils his first project for British company Established & Sons, as well as new lighting for Italian giant Artemide.

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