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Constantly in Motion | An Interview with Donato Nappo

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Architect and Designer, Donato Nappo, not only has several years of experience in the product and visual communication sector for Pirelli Tyres SpA, Fiat Group SpA, SEA Camper SpA and Fincantieri SpA, but he is also co-founder of “Modular” – a mobile architecture research lab. As well as writing three books on the history of design, Donato has won awards in international events for the originality of his projects. 

MiND had the opportunity to speak with him about his experience in architecture and design and about his upcoming work displayed at Salone del Mobile 2019 in Milan.

‘OvO’ tree house preview for Salone Mobile Milano 2019. Designed by Modular.

Can you walk us through your background and how you got to where you are today?

When I was a child, I liked to draw everything that had a movement. My first love was the truck, which I used to associate with my summer trips, wandering about with the van. I liked the idea of ​​revolutionizing the driver’s cabin to make it a little mobile home with every comfort … at that moment, I understood I wanted to be a designer! I got a degree in architecture at the Politecnico di Milano, Erasmus in France and post-graduate specialization in industrial design. In the meanwhile, I was working as an illustrator and a publicist for the editorial Domus, and after as industrial designer for Pirelli, Fiat group, Sea Camper, Crippaconcept and Fincantieri.

“Modulo 03” truck Concept. Design by Donato Nappo.

As a senior architect and designer, how would you describe your design philosophy?

Fluid and constantly in motion. I always look for simplicity, both in form and concept. I like to think and look at things with the eyes of a child. And so are my lines, seeking their movement and simple in giving life to new forms – unconsciously in our collective memory already.

What led you to Fincantieri Spa?

I was called by Fincantieri due to my previous experience with campers’ interiors at Sea Camper Group with Elnagh and Mobilvetta-McLouis. Furthermore, I was attracted by complex projects both large and small. The interest in minimal space, which is a recurring theme in the naval cabins’ architecture, and the fascination exerted by these contemporary horizontal skyscrapers, did all the rest!

‘Avantgarde’, interior by Crippaconcept. Design by Modular.

Being an expert in the automotive and naval design industry and having worked for Fincantieri, what is your vision as an Interior Design Manager?

In my opinion, the interior design of the ships is both following and anticipating some trends that are already present in the luxury hotel and in the new hotel concepts for millennials. In general, design will have an increasingly thematic connotation but with an international slant. The cabins areas will always be more comfortable and smarter, with systems that can automatically adjust temperature and light. Besides, we don’t forget that when you are at sea, you want to see it. So, there will be more glazed and panoramic surfaces with fluid and open public spaces that are increasingly thematized and dedicated to entertainment activities.

Which is the interior design concept you are most proud of?

Certainly my project concerning an innovative interior concept of a long-distance truck cabin. It places the driver at the center of the project and considers the cabin a small mobile home with all comforts including bathroom and shower. The project, called ‘Modulo 3‘, was born as a thesis in 1994 and has evolved as a working prototype. In 2004 it won numerous design awards and it was exhibited at the Biennial International Design Exhibition of S. Etienne in France and at the Salone del Mobile in Milan.

‘Avantgarde’, exterior by Crippaconcept. Design by Modular.

You wrote three books on the history of design regarding the transportation design. Do you think the automotive sector is changing?

The rules of mobility are changing and therefore the relationship with vehicles will also change. We will move towards advanced forms of car sharing and public transport on-demand that will be increasingly ecological, technological and autonomously driven. In the future, you will be able to sleep, work, eat, play, etc. in the car and the concept of private ownership of the car will gradually disappear. We are actually witnessing a new revolution!

“Modulo 03” truck Concept. Design by Donato Nappo.

What led you and your co-founder to creating ‘Modular’ Research Lab?

In parallel with the activities of a professional designer in multinational companies, I am active in the research and development of projects and products that express my personal design philosophy, namely the fluidity of spaces, the movement and modularity of solutions. Together with architect Roberto Perego, also an expert in minimal and modular spaces, we founded “Modular Mobile Architecture”. Modular has a streamlined structure with different skills, it is a lab where you can dare, propose, and experiment innovative solutions, supporting companies in the search for winning systems and products.

‘Freed-home’, exterior by Crippaconcept. Design by Modular.

Mobile and temporary architecture solutions, such as bars, cafes, bookshops, seem to be at the core of your work. How does the temporariness of these spaces affect your approach to store design?

The point of sale will be more and more temporary due to the speed at which the trends and tastes of users change. This will entail the search for increasingly modular solutions which are easily interchangeable, transportable, and in step with the times. Already autonomous vehicles are hypothesized as distributors of 24-hour on-demand products that will reach the consumer directly under the house! Currently, we are developing new concepts about this!

‘Freed-home’, interior by Crippaconcept. Design by Modular.

Which are the elements that you think are essential for a well-designed place? What makes a it ‘a living place’?

Immediate perception and understanding of the brand through a clear display of the objects for sale and an immersive sensory experience through correct lighting, ease of internal movement and acoustic, perceptive, and visual comfort.

Can you share with us some upcoming projects that we will see in the future?

For the Salone del Mobile in Milan we have designed “OVO” – a tree house designed to be built in series and assembled entirely independently. OVO can be positioned wherever you want, from private gardens to the most remote woods, from the campsites of tourist resorts to farmhouses up to natural parks.

‘OvO’ tree house preview for Salone Mobile Milano 2019. Designed by Modular.

Which brands would you love to work with?

I’d like to work with fashion brands to make some of their stores ‘mobile’! Certainly, there is already interaction between fashion and retail, but the world of furniture has a longer life cycle than fashion and therefore less subject to the fast stylistic changes of fashion. Newly conceived mobile points of sale could increase and bring together many more potential buyers.

Tell us the most important thing you have learned during your career.

“One, none, one hundred thousand”. The beauty of this work is that there is no typical day or a standard project, every day starts and ends differently, and you learn something new, you always have to get back in the game and accept new challenges.

We at MiND really appreciated the opportunity to talk to Donato and we look forward to seeing him in Milan during Salone del Mobile 2019 for the exhibition of his ‘OvO’ tree house.

By: Lisa Zanon

‘OvO’ tree house preview for Salone Mobile Milano 2019. Designed by Modular.