Last week, architect and designer Vincent Van Duysen made a special visit to the Moltenti&C | Dada Los Angeles Flagship store. Since 2016, the Belgian architect has been the Creative Director of the Molteni&C and Dada brands. The partnership has focused on coordinating the design brands’s global image and retail concept. In 2018, The Molteni Group opened a Lifestyle Store on Madison Avenue in New York designed by Van Duysen, which was also the first flagship store in the world to combine the group’s three brands: Molteni&C, Dada, and UniFor. He’s continued to design locations in his role, including the Los Angeles Flagship.
The designer’s firm, Vincent Van Duysen Architects, established in 1989, has grown into a dynamic team of 30 collaborators, with work ranging from product design for numerous international brands, to commercial and large-scale architectural projects. It also concentrates on high-end residences throughout the world. For Van Duysen, the consistent use of pure and tactile materials translates into elegant, timeless design. With the utmost respect to context and tradition, it’s a gracious approach which places the integrity of the user at its core.
Whitewall had the opportunity to speak with Vincent in Los Angeles about his influential partnership with the iconic Italian design brand, their meaningful 2022 collection, and designing with humanity in mind.
WHITEWALL: Can you speak about the 2022 collection, including your unique sculptural and architectural project Intersection, which won the Best Kitchen Cabinetry Award at NYCxDesign 2021?
VINCENT VAN DUYSEN: It was a very special year. We had a small presentation last year, in September, but it was the first Salone since the pandemic. It was a moment for introspection and reflection on who we are and where we are. Especially for me, as Creative Director of Molteni, and six years already on board, thinking about how we could present ourselves with the 2022 presentation—not only in terms of the booth in the Salone but also product-wise.
The aim for me was openness. The booth that we designed was very architectural, as always. It was of course related to our homes, which have become more and more important after the pandemic. The home and the art of living was actually already one of my major themes in my work since I came on board at Molteni. This year we really wanted to create this kind of openness—very transparent, literally like bringing the oxygen into the house.
The main protagonist piece that we came out with is called Living Box. It is a lower, rectangular object, that could be considered either a low side-board or a space divider between one area and another area. You can use it for multiple purposes. It is a long piece that refers to a window that opens up to the world—a panoramic view towards the world, a positive attitude. We want to transmit that through the piece itself.
Then we have this kind of box that sits in that Living Box and can move. You can make various compositions with it. It contains whatever object or book that you want to put in it. It is a very interesting piece that basically synthesizes what we wanted to do. It has subtle curves on the outside and inside. The curves are also related to another theme, which we call fluidity or more organic forms. It is the first year that my designs are having curves. The sofa system has beautiful curves and softness of edge, very gentle. We have a piece that is an interpretation of an archetypal Latin design. I revisited these traditional curvy, crafted pieces. Lower tables have curves on the base and tops, with materials from wood to leather.
All of this is part of that new theme that reflects fluidity and modernity.
WW: How would you describe the physical experience of space, textures, and light in the Los Angeles Flagship store?
VVD: We have stores all over the world, but with this particular store there is a link with west coast modernism. It feels like a home and it is more horizontal in its characteristics. We revisited modernists from here, which I really adore. I infused it, of course, with the Italian DNA in terms of materials, working with beautiful woods, light and dark, and wall textures. Everything that belongs already to the Molteni DNA in terms of materials, craftsmanship, and heritage, was mixed with that modernist attitude.
WW: How does sustainability come into play with new and future collections? How vital is it to the future of design and your own principles?
VVD: We are very aware of sustainability in the use of fabrics, woods, and materials, and work with them when we can. We launched a very sustainable fabric a couple of months ago. We use all of the materials with a very respectful mindset, and we believe in longevity. The timelessness of it is important. We are not aiming for throwaway pieces, or consumption for the sake of consumption. I’ve never been like that in my design attitude as an architect or in my career. It is something that I’m taking with me in my role as Creative Director for Molteni.
WW: What do you think consumers desire from their interiors in 2022? How have these wants and needs changed over the past few years, with people spending more time in their residences since the pandemic began?
VVD: Post-pandemic, people are much more conscious and much more aware of their homes, the quality of their homes, and the quality of living. In each of my designs, it is not just design for the sake of design. I am for pieces that are contributing to the comfort and the well-being of individuals and consumers. This is what I really want.
The sofas have to be sofas that you feel comfortable in. Ergonomically, they answer to each of our needs. All of these ergonomic needs are connected to quality of life. It is something that we are aiming for more and more, specifically in a post-pandemic era that we are living in right now. That is actually what consumers are asking for, quality of life in our products.
WW: Can you describe a bit of your process? How do you choose which projects you will take on?
VVD: I’m not a person that starts from a blank sheet and starts sketching. I cannot even draw on a computer because I am still from the old generation. I turned 60-years-old on the 26th of April. It is a milestone in my career. I am a mental person. My mind is continuously sketching and thinking, and that’s where I will start 24/7. Then of course I have a lovely team, who knows how to translate my creative thoughts. Obviously I design, and I sketch, but very prematurely I design much more in my mind. I am very verbal, and narrative, and am in daily contact with my team—talking with them and exchanging ideas, or sending them some sketches and things that I have seen that might be inspirational. I am a control freak so nothing goes out of the office without having gone through me. It is part of who I am and my creative process—I am a passionate person.
WW: What are you working on next?
VVD: We are working on private houses here in the US and Los Angeles. I am working on projects literally all over the world, from residential projects in Asia, in Singapore and Bangkok, to houses in Berlin, Paris, and Belgium, of course. I am doing a huge hospitality project in Portugal. We are creating products for various companies and we just launched our collaboration with Zara Home. It was a very particular and important collaboration in the moment where I am right now. It is a very accessible collection, in which I can reach the whole world. I am trying to allow everyone to have a little bit of Vincent in their homes. I am very human-centric and democratic, heart and soul.