December 1st, 2008
Ambra Medda Interview
by Kajy Donoghue
WHITEWALL: You grew up around design your mother was a design gallerist. Given that, did you even have a first experience that solidified your passion for design?
AMBRA MEDDA: My mother was working with Tom Dickinson and with a number of British designers in London when she had a gallery there. And I remember that part being really impactful. I didn’t grow up thinking, “Oh, I’m going to do design.” I studied Chinese and thought I would do contemporary Chinese art. And then I gravitated back toward design. I guess I couldn’t shake it off.
WW: The discussion of design as art has heated up over the past couple of years. Do you ever get sick of the question, “Can a chair be art?”
AM: Yes! There’s this whole debate: Is it art? Is it design? I don’t know if we’re really getting anywhere. I think that there’s a shift, and people feel uncomfortable because they want to know. When things are in motion and they’re changing there is no specific label, but that’s what makes this moment so exciting.
WW: What can we expect this year from Design Miami?
AM: The biggest changes are that we’re building a temporary structure designed by two young architects, Aranda/Lasch. The layout of the modular system is done in a way that’s completely unexpect¬ed. It’s not a wedding tent, for sure. But it’s not like a crazy artistic statement either. What they’re using is very basic. So we’re building our home — so that is huge.
The design talks will be moderated by Marcus Fairs, and we’ve decided to change the format so that the pace is much faster and about three designers per day. It’s almost going to be like a salon setting, with an informal dialogue and a real exchange of thought. Then for the first time Design Miami is actually curating an exhibition that explores the theme of nature.
WW: Working with industry to create limited-edition pieces in the United States is difficult. Do you see that changing? Do you think it’s an issue of design education?
AM: I think that the schools have a lot to do with it. At a young age you’re approached to go toward the industry. There’s something in the market there, but traditionally there hasn’t been a school that fosters that unique design, whereas in the Netherlands and in the U.K. — which have the best schools — they’re pushing their students to the limit to express themselves, think outside the box, and go against the current.
WW: In regard to Design Miami/Basel, you’ve said you don’t see development as doubling the number of gallerists present. What do you see development as, then?
AM: Different specializations, different periods, maybe even turn-of-the-century. We have a jeweler coming in for the first time. I think there’ll be more and more architecture coming into the show.
Architectural models, drawings, sculptures, furniture by architects is something that is going to really take off. My feeling with architects is that they get so exciting design. Normally they build on such a gn with so many limitations, and it's a lot ol solving. Design allows them to go from micro and actually have much more cor what they're making. And furniture is actually so much a part of what you end up as an architect. The way we enjoy a through the interior.