An Interview with Enrico Bressan of Artecnica
A native of Italy and an architect by trade, Bressan, he has spent many years as a computer electronic design engineer. In 1986 he co-founded Artecnica with Tahmineh Javanbakht. The focus of the business was architectural and interior design services for clients including Gianni Versace and Sebastian International. Bressan’s award-winning architectural work. has recently extended to developing sustainable product design and architectural programs with foundations and design schools in the Dominican Republic, Brazil and California.
An Iranian-born artist, American educated Javanbakht has produced many commissioned paintings. She is a graduate of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, where she has also taught experimental painting. Her designs have sold at specialty design and museum stores around the world. While collaborating with Enrico Bressan on several freelance projects, Artecnica was born. Javanbakht works and lives in Los Angeles.
How did you get into your field?
It was always in myself to be a creative person and I always admired personalities of the Italian renaissance that were engineers, artists, scientists, architects all at once. So I pursued such dreams with a certainty that I wanted to be a multilayered man despite the fact that modern times seem to force specialization at the expense of a more complete and universal cultural preparation. I felt that such an endeavor was not going to be easy to execute but step by step I was able to piece together the necessary background to become a multilayered professional in the arts, technology and business. I studied engineering at a few universities, practice arts and design with my partner/wife Tahmineh while she was going to art school, practice architecture by trade and learned how to be an entrepreneur as a necessity to sustain my practice.
What influences your work?
A love for beauty in life. I believe that everything has to be beautiful to be worthwhile creating. I can never separate the need to create something functional without giving it an original and worthwhile appearance. I know that appearances are subjective but then everything we do including what we call "science and technology" are the result of a personal vision, and start as subjective impressions and dreams. Our whole life and “reality” is an illusion in essence that we keep creating and thinker with. On the other hand more specifically I am influenced by different architectural work, by designers that collaborate with us, by the current geopolitical and social conditions, by philosophers and writers… In fact, I think it is important to be aware of aspects that are both part of our immediate professional field but also part of our wider context and global environment.
What role does design play in your work?
Design is a state of mind according to which everything is observed, scrutinized and acted upon. Therefore design is part of everything we do.
What is one of the biggest challenges in your field?
How to incorporate sustainability to the nth degree in everything we do in a world that for many years had forgotten how important it is to our survival as a society and as a species on this planet. There is a lot of work that needs to be done to improve the overall sustainability of our society and it is a challenge when many of the economics factors encourage you to disregard it for the sake of feasibility. We started pioneering this work in 2001 actively and have been contemplating it for two decades. It is hard work and it comes at a personal and financial cost. I must say though that our generation is in a wonderful position to promote sustainable practices and get it done because we are a link between the pre-industrial/pre-consumer society of our grandparents and the one of our children. We still experienced the spirit of frugality and respect for material objects that was ingrained in our older generations and heard the stories of times past narrated while we sat with a grandmother or a great aunt telling us about the joys and hardships of growing up in a developing world of scarcities. We know enough about both sides of the coin: wealth and waste on one side and poverty and appreciation for material possessions on the other.
How do you personally view design and its role in our lives today?
It is essentially an optical lens to help us view and interpret our lives, a tool to guide us in reshaping our world. I cannot imagine a world without design and I must say it is not entirely a new concept. The use of the word design has to come to be an integral part of the modern vernacular but the actual concept has been around since our birth as a species.
Does location play a role in your work, why?
It does and it does not.
It does as we are influenced by what we are immediately exposed to and we have come to realize over the years that Los Angeles and California has helped us shape our environmental conscience, our entrepreneurial spirit and even our sense of design. California is at the vanguard of environmental regulations and awareness in the world, at the forefront of technological advances and research, and always pioneering new ideas, products and lifestyles. Here is where the next water sport gear is discovered, where antismog standards were first developed, where the iPad/iPhone technology was launched, where nuclear studies where first put into practice, where aerospace was born, where the movie industry was founded, where east meets west,…. You can find world-wide acclaimed yoga masters, architects, philosophers, writers, environmentalists, …. So you have a ton of stimulating resources and opportunities to draw from as long as you are willing to search. We work in a very independent and individualistic approach. At first you do not realize that location is so important but over time and especially after traveling you realize you are also a product of California even only a few of us were actually born here. And of course it seems helpful that we live in the land of eternal summer (for the most part).
It does not because our products are made, designed and sold all over the world and we could be doing this type of work anywhere near an international airport and the only requirement is an internet connection. We are very involved in the development and creation of every single detail of the designs and manufacturing of our collection, whether the initial idea is from within our own design studio or one of our collaborating designers. Since all of this work happens through communication tools online, we could be literally anywhere. You just have to deal with the time zones differences.
What do you see as the future of retail?
The future of retail in the design world is often a topic of discussion here and it is obviously going more and more online. However, there is a significant component of the product experience that yet escapes the current state of internet technology. We often wish we could portray the reality of our project and products more completely through the internet, but until tactile 3d technology is implemented, we are still some years away from being relieved of all of brick and mortar retail locations. On the other hand we are excited at the possibilities of using new retail technologies to create more user focused and specific products.
What do you see the future of local manufacturing to be?
If you refer to local manufacturing as products being made here in the USA, we start seeing the possibility of local manufacturing for certain items starting to be possible here once again. We have for the first time a product that we can see being feasibly made here as much as in the far east from an economic standpoint. This is good news. Most of our products were made here in California in our own factory until the early nineties and then we outsourced all the products abroad one by one despite our own unwillingness to do so. Of course, local manufacturing makes a lot of sense. I see the world in the future becoming a mixture of products being made in local areas and others being made only in certain areas depending on where certain manufacturing traditions have become more ingrained and sustainable, at the moment where we transition to a more leveled labor cost globally. We are still years away from this moment though.
How do you see design contributing to the economy?
New and better design ideas can spur and improve our economy. We can affect every field of our society with better design. But most importantly how we can affect our socio-political world and migrate toward a new form of economy will dictate how good the economy can be for most of the people in our planet. The politics of the world are affecting us a lot more than design can mend. We can affect change and inspire people with program like our Design with Conscience; designers are becoming a force that wants a better world and are more and more inspired to humanitarian design directed not so much to the elites but to the third world, to the disabled, to the artisans and to the "common people". I see in young designers the desire to help and make design more significant to the 99.99% along with the .01%. The design community would love nothing else but to become more democratic. However we cannot do it unless we become more involved politically and demand it of our elected (and often non-elected, self-elected or lobby elected) officials. We have allies in other communities and we cannot become good designers without taking a political stand for a better world and better communities.
What advice would you give to young designers?
Keep believing in your dreams and work hard at your craft, be ready to be scrutinized and tested. You need to prepare to become a very knowledgeable master of your design field and also develop your communication and persuasive skills. Good design needs as much design talent as solid promoting skills. But most of all stay original and innovative.
What is a favorite object you own?
The one I am designing at the moment. And by that I mean, the object I am designing at any particular moment in my life. It could be a house, a light, a flooring system, or the tree house for my children. I love to study every detail of it to make it as absolutely fantastic in function, form and spirit as I can make it. I love to keep thinking of every construction detail to make it as simple as possible to build and as interesting and original in form.