Delta as a collection result as a coherent body of work that more than delivering a portrait of a city, it uses design to draw unexpected links between historical periods in search for timelessness. The delta is the temporal or spatial interval running between two points: it does not divide, but connects realities that would otherwise be distinct.
For its project dedicated to Rome, Studio Formafantasma chose the name Delta precisely because it does not focus upon a single moment of the complex physical and historical stratification of the eternal city, but rather upon a temporal bridge. It is in this interval that epochs and sedimentations, like layers of transparent transversality, make up a new reality. In fact, what comes through in the works of the collection is not a form unto itself, but the result of an investigation into what Kubler had defined as, “the shape of time”.
What emerges, therefore, is a more anthropological than semantic dimension, made up as much of intuition as of research and reasoning. This is an established method of working for Formafantasma which here, for the first time, sees them take on not so much the theme of ancientness, but rather that of the pre-existence of the memory-object with a wider span of present affinities.
Delta opens and closes between Rome’s remote past – Etruscan or Republican Rome, with its everyday objects in which the votive and the daily merge – and the city of the recent past: that of rationalist metaphysics, with the archetype of geometry punctuated by the rhythm of full and empty and of light and shadow.
Small items of tableware follow a profile steeped in history yet which, at the same time, is timeless. What we are witnessing here is not the perfect replication of the student, nor is it collecting as the curious would or, indeed, conserving, as would the antiquarian. The attitude here is that of the historian researching his or her own, very personal, portrait of time and detecting, in the biological sequence of becoming, the form of what is persistent and durable. The shadow cast upon the table top landscape could be that of a sculpture, of a monument, of architecture or, more simply, of the sanctity of an essential function such as existing in the present.
A cabinet maintains and preserves its contents; used to classify and sort, it is also a physical presence within an interior. Its clean volumes are those of black and white films, of cinema – where Rome’s vocation for the ‘eternal’ has been amply captured – and, with a mocking irreverence and disdain of decay, of going ‘beyond’ it.
Lending itself to everything, more so than any other material possible, is light. In all its shifts and seasonal transitions, Formafantasma have learnt know the light of Rome. It is for this very reason they have seized upon the invariant: i.e. the close and continual collaboration between the light of Rome and its architecture.
The light of Rome is never merely natural. Even when it is a pure ray of sunlight, there is always a refractive mediation: a solid intercepting its diffusion; a void enhancing its purity; a material colour amplifying a tone. Here, then, the design of a lamp becomes that of a medium; speaking in the broadest sense of the light of a place, as seen through the eyes of the designer.
Thus, when architecture as a whole becomes a sundial, as with the oculus in the Pantheon that renders the beam visible within the physicality of a golden disc, Andrea and Simone have designed a device where the circle of light is reflected back into an interior. It is almost as if this object becomes the mirror of a great technical machine, conceived to lend magic to the show, dreamt up by men of ancient times for those of the present. And if there is light reflecting, then there must also be its opposite: that which obscures and plays upon disappearance behind an apparent eclipse.
The raw materials also speak clearly: metal reflects and returns vibrations to its surroundings; stone which absorbs and, if tapered like ancient columns, makes the light resonate and mysteriously elusive. However, nothing would be this way, were it not for man, with his gesture, activating, modulating, intervening and sometimes, rejoicing. The light turns on and off with a movement that lends unexpected functionality to an ancient and absolute geometry, but which is also, with the merest of touches – quite void of undue ponderance – able to make moving lights dance and bring an amused smile to our mouths. Thus, by looking carefully and without bias, the portrait of time can be happier than the sum of its best moments.
Andrea Trimarchi (1983) and Simone Farresin (1980) are Studio Formafantasma, an Italian designers duo based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Formafantasma’s work explores such issues as the role of design in folk craft, the relationship between tradition and local culture, critical approaches to sustainability and the significance of objects as cultural conduits.