Empire of the Tile
Josephine Minutillo -- Interior Design, 10/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
In a decade-long campaign to make traditional Venetian glass tesserae hip, Bisazza has collaborated with some of the world's leading creative talents. It started in 1994 with the appointment of designer Alessandro Mendini—who, as art director, brought in architect Michael Graves, artist Sandro Chia, and fashion designer Romeo Gigli to produce furniture and murals. Mendini's successor, the architect Fabio Novembre, went on to open a splashy, psychedelic showroom in Milan, quickly followed by others in New York and Berlin.
When Carlo Dal Bianco was named director of Bisazza's design studio this year, he took on the task of unifying the brand image via design of the company's five showrooms worldwide. That includes a new London location and another set to open in Paris in 2006. New York was the first to be partially revamped. Though he left Novembre's sweeping central nave intact, Dal Bianco performed a complete face-lift on 500 square feet of auxiliary areas on either side.
"Mosaics create luxury," Dal Bianco says. "They should also bring you into a new and unexpected dimension." In that case, he sees a showroom less as a point of sales than as a stage set that allows customers to become part of an elaborate drama.
In New York, his most theatrical move was to replace standard walls with undulating ones. "Emotions don't follow a straight line," he says. Plus, he points out that the sculptural surfaces have a technical advantage: "The curves reveal mosaic's extraordinary adaptability to different applications and intensify the material's distinctive brilliance." Heightening that brilliance, many of the walls are clad in tile composed of 24-karat white gold and semiprecious stones.
Dal Bianco was also deliberate in his choice of objects to include in bathroom vignettes. To turn the spotlight on the selected tiles, displays on the showroom's more classical side chiefly feature an oval mirror and Piero Lissoni's clear glass integral sink basin and stand. A hallway on this side is dominated by Bonaparte, a gargantuan freestanding mosaic panel that depicts Antonio Canova's bronze portrait of Napoléon, now standing in the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan.
On the opposite side of the showroom, the neoclassical references recede—and Dal Bianco showcases his Winter Flowers collection in a more baroque setting. In a "master bath" scheme, a ballroom-worthy chandelier dripping with Austrian crystals casts its light on walls abloom in huge tile roses. The same floral motif enlivens a "powder room" that's furnished with a Louis Ghost chair by Philippe Starck and a Tulip side table by Eero Saarinen.
"I try to include objects that seem as distant from one another as a large crystal chandelier and a small mid-century table," Dal Bianco explains. "It's like creating a fragrance—born from diverse, even clashing elements that blend to form a new identity." Acqua di Bisazza.