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The Interior Design Reference & Specification Book by Mimi Love, Chris Grimley, Linda O'Shea

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Job:02-30056 Title: RP-Interior Design Reference and Specification
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Michael Gabellini, describe yourself and your practice.
My firm is an interdisciplinary design studio specializing in architecture and interior
design. We operate as a kind of high-octane design shop, generating concepts and
assembling teams of designers and artists to cross-pollinate a project. The practice
was founded in 1990, after I returned from living in Italy for a while, which offered a
unique vantage point from which to initiate my own work.
Who were your mentors that taught you about design? At what point in your life did
you feel confident about designing?
My father was an artist and interior designer. Growing up in Pennsylvania, in an area
with rich art and industry traditions, design was a constant undercurrent, a way of
seeing the world. This initiated a fascination with design as something that can
enhance your daily life, from spatial geometry and movement to better lighting or
furnishings.
Until I arrived at RISD, however, I thought I was going to be a sculptor. This sculp-
tural sensibility percolated into my architectural studies and gave me an interesting
counterpoint to work from. The program was very rigorous and conceptually oriented,
which suited me well. It was at this point that different influences and interests con-
verged into the desire to become a designer.
I was also infused with purpose while studying at the Architectural Association in
London during a very intoxicating period with mentors such as Rem Koolhaas,
Bernard Tschumi, and Zaha Hadid.
Who or what do you look at for inspiration?
In terms of pure architecture, I look to the modern masters like Mies, Neutra, and
Barragán. I also love the early modern French designers Paul Dupré-Lafon and Jean-
Michel Franc. But equally important for me is the work of contemporary artists and
specific artistic sensibilities; for example, arte povera, the California light artists,
and American land art, such as Robert Smithson’s landfill projects.
How do you refresh your creativity?
It percolates down through art and travel and those rare moments of solitude. I find
the visual conversations among artists to be quite stimulating, a feast for the senses
and the mind. And there is no substitute for the fresh perspective and insights you
gain from immersing yourself in different cultures and places, each with its own vocabulary of
public and private space.
Many of your projects “dematerialize” the corners of a room by incorporating reveals and light
conditions at the intersections of ceilings, walls, and floors. Does that serve to emphasize
planes rather than volumes? Please describe your intent.
Its about creating a sense of floating planes that affect and help sculpt the volume in order
to create a seductive interplay between light and space. Also, to convey a sense of weight
and weightlessness to blur the distinctions between indoors and outdoors. Ultimately, I want
to elevate the essential acts of perception and deepen the awareness of space and the body
moving through it.
Lighting seems to be very Important in your work. How do you develop your lighting strategies,
and how does this affect your reading of space? Is there a lighting designer with whom you
collaborate?
We wouldn’t be the first designers to consider light as the prime animator of space, but we
really have to think about the cycle of illumination from daylight to moonlight and how it relates
to the lives of our individual clients. We seek a balance of natural and artificial light to mold
the space, creating a functional and alluring frame to the activities of viewing art, shopping,
lounging, bathing, or whatever the program may be. Over the years, we have collaborated with
a handful of talented lighting designers such as William Armstrong and Ross Muir.
The East Hampton residence that you designed is unlike any of your other projects in that it
places the existing house on a minimalist plinth and creates an exterior room. In the context of
the rest of your work it could be considered a landscape project. What is your opinion about the
differences and similarities among interior design, architecture, and landscape architecture?
The Bellport House was indeed a special project, but actually I have always been very inter-
ested in the spatial crossover from outdoors to indoors. Our first project for Jil Sander, the
Paris flagship, was conceived as an interior “courtyard” within the Beaux-Arts mansion. More
recently, we designed the louvered ceiling and lighting concept of Bergdorf Goodman’s fifth
floor to evoke something of a sun-lit afternoon.
The notion of “exterior rooms” also came into play at the Rockefeller Center observation
decks, where we designed the terraces with optical glass screens to offer the purest possible
viewing experience. Whether we are designing a piece of furniture or an urban square, we con-
sider the discipline of design to be the master mediator of scale and use.
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THE INTERIOR DESIGN REFERENCE + SPECIFICATION BOOK
PERSPECTIVES ON SPACE:
MICHAEL GABELLINI
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Job:02-30056 Title: RP-Interior Design Reference and Specification
#175 Dtp:216 Page:128
(RAY)
112-133_30056.indd 128 3/4/13 7:34 PM

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