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Paola Navone: A Revolutionary Force in Design

Paola Navone, a renowned Italian architect and designer, has left an indelible mark on the industry with her unique and eclectic approach to furniture design. Born in Turin in 1950, Navone’s career spans over several decades and encompasses various fields, including product design, architecture, interior design, and set design. Her restless spirit and insatiable curiosity have driven her to explore new horizons, resulting in groundbreaking creations that have earned her international acclaim. In this article, we will delve into the life and work of Paola Navone, highlighting her significant contributions to the design world.

Early Years and Influences

Navone’s journey in the world of design began with her graduation in architecture from the Turin Polytechnic in 1973. Her thesis, titled “Architettura Radicale” (Radical Architecture), delved into the avant-garde collectives and marked her initial exploration of bold and unconventional design concepts. It was during this time that she caught the attention of Alessandro Mendini, the editor of Casabella, who recognized her exceptional talent and offered her a position with the magazine. This encounter would prove to be a pivotal moment in Navone’s career, propelling her towards a path of innovation and creativity.

Azul Sofa by Turri

A Rising Star in the Design World

In 1979, Navone became a member of the Alchimia group, an anti-academic movement founded by Mendini, alongside renowned figures such as Ettore Sottsass, Andrea Branzi, and Alessandro Guerriero. This affiliation allowed her to further push the boundaries of design and collaborate with forward-thinking companies like Abet Laminati. Her partnership with Abet Laminati, which began in those early years, continues to thrive to this day.

Navone’s groundbreaking work was recognized in 1983 when she received the prestigious Osaka International Design Award, marking the first of many accolades in her illustrious career. As her reputation grew, she was sought after by international organizations such as UNIDO and the World Bank, where she served as a consultant from 1985 to 1988. These experiences took her to the Far East and Hong Kong, where she opened an office and expanded her global influence.

The lobby at the Como Point Yamu hotel. (Photo by Enrico Conti)

Collaborations and Notable Projects

One of Navone’s most fruitful and enduring collaborations is with Gervasoni, a renowned furniture company. In 1988, she became the artistic director for Gervasoni, a role she still holds today. Her partnership with the company has resulted in a diverse range of stunning designs, including the Ghost collection of upholstered chairs and beds, the Brass hanging lamp, the Nuvola line of upholstered furniture, and the InOut collection of outdoor furniture. Navone’s ability to seamlessly blend different cultures, materials, and craftsmanship is evident in these pieces, which showcase her unique creative vision.

Cappellini, another respected brand in the design world, is home to Navone’s iconic Panda collection. Inspired by the works of the Memphis group, the Panda collection exemplifies Navone’s ability to infuse her designs with vibrancy, playfulness, and a touch of irreverence. Her collaboration with Janus et Cie gave birth to the Strada collection, while her washbasins for Ceramica Flaminia and wall and floor claddings for Decoratori Bassanesi, Bisazza, and MCZ have garnered widespread acclaim.

Navone’s diverse portfolio extends beyond luxury brands, as she has also collaborated with more accessible retailers, including Esselunga and Monoprix. This versatility and willingness to work across all price points have enabled her designs to reach a wider audience, democratizing great design and making it accessible to all.

The Design Philosophy of Paola Navone

Navone’s design philosophy is deeply rooted in her insatiable sense of curiosity and her love for travel. She considers travel to be her primary source of inspiration, drawing from a vast reservoir of images, colors, materials, objects, and craft traditions. This constant exposure to new cultures and experiences allows Navone to create designs that transcend boundaries and blend different influences seamlessly.

Her ability to mix and match diverse elements is a testament to her mastery of both industrial and artisanal techniques. Navone’s designs often feature unexpected combinations of materials, resulting in visually stunning and thought-provoking pieces. Her work reflects a celebration of global cultures, and her designs act as a bridge between different traditions, bringing them together in harmonious and unexpected ways.

From left: A 1950s vase from the south of France, a bowl made out of industrial hoses, and a ceramic cactus from Naples. (Photo by Antonio Campanella)

Recognition and Influence

Paola Navone’s groundbreaking contributions to the design industry have not gone unnoticed. Her work has been exhibited in prestigious galleries and museums worldwide, solidifying her status as a visionary in the field. Navone’s designs have been celebrated for their ability to challenge conventions and redefine established norms.

In addition to her extensive body of work, Navone has also served as a jury member for the Feeel Design World Prize, further solidifying her influence and expertise in the industry. As a juror, she brings her wealth of knowledge and experience to identify and celebrate groundbreaking design that pushes boundaries and promotes innovation.

Hotel 25hours Piazza San Paolino, Florence, Italy. (Photo by Dario Garofalo)

Paola Navone’s impact on the design world is undeniable. Her ability to blend diverse cultures, materials, and techniques has resulted in a body of work that is both visually stunning and intellectually stimulating. From her collaborations with renowned brands to her inclusive approach to design, Navone has left an indelible mark on the industry. Her willingness to challenge conventions and her insatiable curiosity continue to inspire designers and enthusiasts alike. As the design world evolves, Paola Navone remains a revolutionary force, shaping the future of design with her bold and imaginative creations.