Big, bold ideas, inventive materials and a collection penned by designers including Marc Sadler, Ferruccio Laviani, Nendo and Patricia Urquiola, Foscarini is a lighting group with a unique vision that bridges design, art and culture.
It all began in Venice. For many glass-based traditions in Italy, Venice has been the spiritual home of glassmaking, and it is on the Murano Islands, a stones-throw off the Venetian coast, where the sparkling beauty of glassblowing was perfected.
Foscarini arrived a few centuries later. It was 1981 when they set up in Murano and 1983 when the first collection was released. A series of lamps by co-founders and designers themselves, Carlo Urbinati and Alessandro Vecchiato, followed by their first commercial success with Lumiere by Rodolfo Dordoni, put them on the design map and helped establish the group as a contemporary force to be reckoned with.
Unlike many other lighting groups in Venice, Foscarini was interested in more than the traditions of glass. That vision took hold in 1992 when they released the Orbital floor lamp designed by newcomer (at the time) Ferruccio Laviani. It was their first lamp made from industrial glass and the collaboration kick started a relationship that continues today.
In 1993 Foscarini launched another first, the Havana outdoor/indoor lamp designed by Joseph Forakis and made of polythene. As the collection grew, so did their success which was rewarded with their first design industry 'Golden Globe', a Compasso d’Oro awarded for the technologically challenging fibreglass and kevlar Mite lamp designed by Marc Sadler.
Starting his career designing ski boots, from the outside Marc Sadler was an unusual choice for Foscarini. But it was his interest in exploring materials that helped Foscarini develop their own vision for the company further, and has seen the release of a collection of lamps including Twiggy, Tite, Tress and Jamaica.
The connection Foscarini has developed with designers runs deep. Patricia Urquola has described her relationship with manufacturers as 'a beautiful dance' which is a lovely way of looking at how good design collaborations can work. For Carlo Urbinati and Alessandro Vecchiato, the dance involves many designers, many materials, and collections which are full of individual personality.
This interest in diversity has seen Foscarini push into other sectors of the arts too. The company is a major backer of the Venice Biennale and at any given time has a host of publishing projects across print and film on the go, as well as their artful and immersive lighting installations that are one of the most popular events at the Milan Furniture Fair every April.
Way back before design companies were telling their stories through moving image, Foscarini was experimenting on ways to connect with their audience. Documenting the creative process and collaborations on film, Foscarini gives us insights into how things work behind the scenes. Some films go into design studios and others are purely creative, playful and fun.
Film favourites include a 1950s-inspired behind-the-scenes look at the celebrated Caboche light with Patricia Urquiola as she critiques the prototype with Eliana Gerotto; a cute animation about the Binic lamp featuring its creator, French designer Ionna Vaultrin; a beautifully shot B&W looking at the design ideas behind the Caiigo light filmed in Venice; a visit to Nendo's studio in Tokyo to look at the Kurage table lamp, Foscarini's first light made of paper; and an up close and personal chat about the Jamaica lamp with Marc Sadler.
Like the films they produce, the cultural events they support and the designers they collaborate with, Foscarini's collection is packed with creativity and reveals a deep and unique connection with design, materials and technology, and an extraordinary belief in fostering the entire process of design.
The Foscarini collection is available at Space Furniture: Space Australia – Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.