Celebrated architect, designer and visionary Claudio Silvestrin speaks to Epicure about how he makes beautiful things with a purpose
Claudio Silvestrin’s clients include Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein, Giada, Anish Kapoor, Victoria Miro, and Kanye West. Born in Zurich, raised in Italy and naturalised British, he is one of globe’s most respected experts on design. His wide-ranging projects are noted for their discernment, serenity and ingenuity, in addition to a meticulous attention to detail.
Your style has been called “austere but not extreme, contemporary yet timeless, calm yet not spartan, powerful yet not intimidating, elegant but not ostentatious, and understated yet not soulless”. How does one achieve all this?
In interior design I am always aiming for a feeling of meditation and serenity. I believe that architecture should encourage contemplation and an opportunity to reflect. It should speak to the soul.
How important is functionality when it comes to creating beautiful spaces? Is that something you give much consideration to?
Yes, it is very important. I think that the architect’s challenge is to balance functionality with aesthetic: something very beautiful that ‘works’ is always wonderful.
What do you think some hotels do wrong when it comes to design?
I think often there is no real interest in making something very beautiful and magical. The marketing brief demands a particular style – say, modern baroque, kitsch, minimalistic, high tech, eclectic etc. The preoccupation with nothing but profit often clouds the possibility of creating something that is enchanting or innovative.
How important is eco-awareness in design?
If it is authentic and genuine it is great, if it is fake and decorative it is all just blah blah blah for marketing purposes.
What makes a well-designed hotel room, in your opinion?
Calmness to the eye, a space so beautiful and meditative that one feels sorry to leave it.
Currently on the cover of Architectural Digest, Kanye West’s California home has been hailed as an “otherworldly oasis of purity and light”. You often collaborate with West and worked with him on this project. What was the vision there?
I’ve being designing regularly with Kanye West since 2005. Currently, on the drawing board is his ranch in Wyoming and other exciting projects that cannot be disclosed (for now). Following some new house designs that were rejected by the LA local authority a few years ago, there was no option but to make the most of a very traditional LA house. The outcome is a very nice interior design job with some very beautiful areas, such the master bathroom. However, the true dream has higher aspirations. Please wait and see!
What’s more important – function or beauty?
I would phrase it this way: both are equally important, but beauty must be the guiding light. For instance, in a beautiful natural landscape the beauty of the landscape must be preserved and at the same time the functionalities of our rational existence must also work.
What place is on your travel agenda for 2020 and why?
I have residential and commercial projects in Shanghai, Beijing, Korea, Milan, Russia, LA and Wyoming. I am dreaming of returning to Japan (one of my favourite places in the world) for a holiday, but I doubt I will find the time.
Who would be your ideal travel companion (real, imaginary, living or dead)?
Depending on the type of travel, it can be an excellent book, an intelligent/wise person or my family.
Where are you headed next, and why?
Miami, I’ve been asked to give a talk at the Luminaire LAB space.
What’s in your suitcase you wouldn’t expect?
Cannot think of any, behind every object there is usefulness and rationality
Any top travel tips?
Over long-haul travel, sleeping is ideal; I am normally travelling for work and get immediately squeezed like a lemon when I arrive.
Where is your favourite holiday destination?
Sardinia (with my family) or Japan
What do you care about the most when you travel?
Comfort and quality.
What makes a good trip?
Going home with the feeling that you have evolved, and your life is richer thanks to the place you have visited.