Martino Gamper reveals his dinner party designs

Planning your ideal dinner party, fantasising about who might be invited and what might be on the menu, is a popular daydream. Few of us take the concept further than lazy musing, but not London-based, Italian-born designer Martino Gamper. His Total Trattoria exhibition, which launches at The Aram Gallery this week, sees Gamper construct an entire dining experience and also host a series of meals, inviting friends and industry luminaries to eat.

‘I’ve always been into food and having friends round to eat but wanted to take it one step further and create the whole space, furniture and graphics,’ says Gamper.

Conceived by Gamper and three friends – Alex Rich and Abake’s Maki Suzuki and Kajsa Stahl – every item in the Trattoria is custom made. The cutlery is ex-airline and attached on a large keyring-like hook to facilitate sharing and communication; glassware includes a jug modelled on a plastic water bottle; and the dining table is a composition of 13 individual tables each made from reclaimed timber and joined to create what resembles a 3D puzzle. There’s even the obligatory Chianti bottle candle holder, only in this case made entirely of wax.

Rich, Suzuki and Stahl have designed the exhibition graphics, invites and place mats, all of which feature a semi-diagrammatic view of a portion of the tongue. ‘As you spill food on the place mats the tongue laps it up,’ says Gamper by way of explanation. The four will cook the meals, and with their Italian, Welsh, Franco-Japanese and Swedish heritage the menu should make interesting reading. ‘It’s a Trattoria not restaurant experience,’ says Gamper. ‘It’s democratic and social, about food and hanging out with friends.’

The concept is typically Gamper/ inventive, experimental and imaginative. Gamper manages to work outside the mainstream commercial world, allowing himself a more avant-garde approach to design. His 100 Chairs project (where he created 100 chairs in 100 days) saw him take apart discarded and collected chairs and rework them to create unique pieces, juxtaposing simple with highbrow, mass produced with cult classics. Last year, with If Gio Only Knew, Gamper deconstructed Gio Ponti fittings in front of a live audience in Basel, Switzerland, and recreated them to his own designs. With Total Trattoria, he continues that tradition of innovation.

‘I’m continuously trying to create situations where I have to do new work,’ he says. ‘Too often with designing products for other people or companies, you’re not sure if there’s a real need for them. And if you have to think “Is it going to sell? what is the market?”, you’re probably never going to create the object in the first place. Here the pieces are very much designed to be used at the event. They’re simple ideas and I’ll develop them later. It’s always been part of my practice that every object I create feeds into another.’ l

Total Trattoria runs from 7 March to 26 April, at The Aram Gallery, Drury Lane, Covent Garden, London WC2

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