Professionally, she is not scared of anything. She is a hopeless optimist. Cristina Celestino finds inspiration for her designs in the city where she lives, Milan. She graduated from Architecture in Venice in 2005 and soon began studying catalogues by auction houses while she looked around in flea markets, searching for pieces that would speed up her heart rate. After working in several architecture studios she decided to begin designing furniture for her own interior design projects, and founded Attico Design in 2009.
It is Celestino’s innate curiosity what drives her to do deep research on objects. Her modus operandi is based on the observation and study, and from them, a deep exploration about the possibilities linked to the concepts of shape and function is born. Cristina usually includes both historical and contemporary references into the world of fashion, art, and design. Throughout her career, she has been recognized with diverse international awards, like the jury’s special award during the Salone del Mobile Milano Awards in 2016.
There is a folder with images called “Milano” in Cristina’s mobile phone. It holds photographs that seem to be notes. They are pieces of architecture, materials, details seen casually during a stroll… It is a filing system that responds to the quick and precise instinct that is part of the architect and designer’s working method. Celestino “begins freely”, according to her own words, to later complete the creative process with broad references. Starting from a collection, which is part spontaneous, part fruit of the study and a deep historical knowledge, a synthesis and personal interpretation process is naturally activated, which is the sign of identity of all Celestino’s production.
For example, inside her head, the enthusiast preference of Adolf Loos for colored marbles (particularly Cipollino), the metallic squares and marble stucco (marmorino) by Carlo Scarpa in Venice, the square silk scarves by Hermès, the foyers in Milanese buildings, Gio Ponti, or the Duomo itself, dance in unison. This is joined by the Italian’s signature: balanced geometric shapes, soft colors, and an effortless elegance, almost contained and jovial.
RAQUEL AZPÍROZ: Which is design’s unavoidable duty?
CRISTINA CELESTINO: To interact with people in order to make their lives more stimulating and interesting.
RA: How do you imagine the future of design?
CC: Perhaps it will be increasingly sectorial and specialized; there will be less product design and more design linked to material research, functionalities, and skills.
RA: What destroys or damages this trade?
CC: The lack of respect for the importance of quality and for the value of the creative work. Often, it is even the fault of creative people, who devalue their own work or aren’t professional enough. Another problem is that design production is filled with imitations (most of vintage design, not only of Italian design) and it is very sad… It is not the correct way to improve our work field.
RA: How do you heal from a creative disillusion?
CC: If I can, I take a short vacation. If not, I go on a compulsive design-shopping spree.
RA: Let’s get serious, is it possible to have fun while working for firms like Fendi or Bulgari?
CC: I have been very lucky to work with firms like Fendi or Sergio Rossi. I have always been so free to express my creativity as an architect and designer. The Happy Room collection for Fendi (2016) was my first project for a fashion brand. It was a great opportunity and a big challenge. The relationship was good from the start: they trusted me and gave me full freedom for the designing process, from the research to the final pieces and the configuration. It was truly stimulating to work for an Italian family brand that is so feminine, with such an iconic legacy and to interact with Silvia Venturini Fendi.
I explore different fields, from fashion to jewelry. Sometimes my references come from nature, from the energy in colors, materials, and textures offered by it
RA: Material, light, shape… Which is your favorite tool for creating?
CC: Generally speaking I like all materials for working and objects for designing. Although I must say that I enjoy light and thinking how it interacts with materials. I also like to include special products or materials in my interior design projects, which work in a similar way to the objets à reaction poétique, by Le Corbusier.
RA: Which is the key for a design to work?
CC: When a project works and is finished (on paper), I can feel it. It is a subtle balance of volumes, materials, and colors, very precarious and never predictable at once.
RA: Which is the moment of glory you have enjoyed the most?
CC: The Tram Corallo exhibition in MDW 2018 [Cristina reinterpreted Milan’s historical streetcars by imagining the “Corallo Cinema”, which traveled across the Brera district] was a glorious moment for me as a designer, and not as native Milanese, since it was a way to pay homage to the city where I live and work fruitfully.
RA: Why do you collect design objects?
CC: I like to own beautiful objects and pieces of furniture. But they don’t necessarily have to be pieces by the great masters of design, they can also be anonymous items or things like seashells or corals, for example. To me, it is like having a wide array of materials, aesthetic solutions, colors…
RA: What have you learned that you would like to share with new designers?
CC: Time and a lot of work are needed in order to find your own way. They need to choose the right references and teachers who they will follow.
RA: Women and design. Are they better at it?
CC: I believe that women can create both good and bad designs, the same as men. However, I hate gender discrimination. It has nothing to do with the profession. More and more women are getting established in this sector, perhaps once considered male-dominated and purely technical.
RA: What would you be if you had not been an architect and designer?
CC: A baker or a florist.