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Interview: Paolo Guzzini shares why brands should be more involved in social and community initiatives

Interview: Paolo Guzzini shares why brands should be more involved in social and community initiatives

The vice president and managing director of the Italian lighting firm, iGuzzini, lends his support to the HerStory exhibition curated by Dubai-based interior architect Indu Varanasi and professor Anna Barbara, School of Design, Politecnico di Milano

From left: Paolo Guzzini, professor Anna Barbara, Indu Varanasi, Dr Rafia Ghubash, founder of the Women's Museum, and His Excellency, Saeed Al Nabouda, acting director general, Dubai Culture and Arts Authority at the launch of the HERstory exhibition.
From left: Paolo Guzzini, professor Anna Barbara, Indu Varanasi, Dr Rafia Ghubash, founder of the Women's Museum, and His Excellency, Saeed Al Nabouda, acting director general, Dubai Culture and Arts Authority at the launch of the HERstory exhibition.

What was the objective behind supporting the HERstory initiative? How did this involvement come about?

Our participation in HERstory originated from an event we organised back in June 2014 at our premises in Recanati (Italy), on the occasion of the third edition of Endurance World Champion title, held in Marche region with the attendance of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The title of the convention, to be more precise, was “Voices of Arab Women – Fashion & Design: heritage and new inspirations”, where we invited both Italian and Emirati female talents from different sectors to share their experiences and discuss various topics related to their professional activities. Together, they explored the differences, limits and the opportunities of the two countries’ different social contexts.

How important is it for iGuzzini to contribute towards such community initiatives? Why and how do you reckon such involvement benefits firms?

Our vision is “Lighting Innovation for People”. The culture of light as an element for social innovation is our distinguishing feature. The well-being of humans as well as of the environment is at the centre of everything we do in order to give value to architecture and space.

Architecture is constantly evolving — adapting to the new social, professional and urban needs. Our constant attention to the mutations of the social necessities originates from places where light plays a primary role in guaranteeing the well-being of the people and social communities.

HERstory is one such initiative involving exceptional women operating in different fields from the cultural and artistic worlds.

Our firm has always been intensively active in these sectors, which are a kind of laboratory for the experimentation of new technologies aimed at improving the fruition, preservation and the enhancement of the cultural and artistic masterpieces.

As an example, I can mention some of the latest interventions carried out by our company in this direction, such as Il Cenacolo by Leonardo da Vinci; La Cappella degli Scrovegni, Giotto; La Pieta by Michelangelo; and La Scuola Grande di San Rocco by Tintoretto.

In your opinion, does the design industry show sufficient commitment towards social and community responsibility initiatives?

The design industry is strictly interwoven with the architectural world, which is, in turn, hugely influenced by social changes.

Subsequently, directly or indirectly, any successful and innovative proposals within the design sector can be achieved without paying attention to the social changes and evolution in the different countries.

To give you an example: until recently, in Japan, families of four or five people used to live in 50–60m2 apartments with furniture suitable to their specific needs in terms of space and its liveability. Such situation is very specific and cannot be transferred to different contexts in the world.

What are some of the other social responsibility programmes you are currently involved in?

Since our campaign against the light pollution in 1990s, we’ve explored many other possibilities. They are a testament to our commitment for a better society and our vision to use light as a tool for innovation.

The provision of the best lighting to experience the greatest masterpieces, such as the Last Supper and the Pieta’ of Michelangelo, as well as our support towards Configuring Light/Staging the Social, an interdisciplinary research programme (based at the School of Economics and Political Science at London School of Economics) delves into the fundamental role of light in the social context. The outcome of this research was published in the first manual applying the social methodology to lighting design.

It is a long journey, which started over 30 years ago, when the company adopted the Galleria Borghese in Rome. Since then, it has also acted as the technical sponsor for hundreds of other projects in large and small museums, in Italy and all over the world, offering both its lighting know-how, and luminaires to major projects involving important artworks and locations.

From this expertise and sensibility, the Light is Back programme was born, which reflects and magnifies our company’s commitment to recognising and preserving cultural heritage worldwide.

I might also mention the series of architecture lectures, (Light On; Lighthinking), given by internationally-renowned architects, specifically selected from all over the world with a particular focus on younger generations. It keeps the debate going. The continuous activation and development of projects in collaboration with the most prestigious universities, schools and educational entities, on the other hand, provides new stimulus and inputs that allow us to stay up-to-date with the social changes and new demands.

The HERstory exhibition runs at the Women’s Museum in Dubai through March 31, 2019.

This article first appeared in the March 2019 edition of Commercial Interior Design under the headline 'Cultural Exchange'

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