The architect and designer Antonio Citterio has designed three collections for the brand Axor by Hansgrohe. Photo © Axor / Hansgrohe
A quest for clarity and simplicity
Thomas Edelmann: Your work in the field of architecture as well as in furniture and product design is known for its approach of being calm, elegant and understandable. What are your first steps for a new project such as “Axor Citterio E”?
Antonio Citterio: In the design profession each person has his own stylistic signature. For me it has been hard to define, or maybe I have preferred not to have one. I have always focused on a method, not a style. In the case of the “Citterio E” collection we wanted to create a product with a timeless and elegant appearance whose use is as intuitive as possible. I regard clients more as partners than as customers: I typically choose to work with people who share my vision and my design language and, together with them, I participate in the risks connected with a specific project. This is what happened with Hansgrohe as well. The “Citterio E” collection is the result of this most recent collaboration. The products are characterized not only by flexible implementation, but also by exceptional ease of use and a pleasant touch and feel.
Your list of clients is impressive because of the strong relationship you have built up over decades with most of your clients. How is that so?
The metamorphosis of an idea, of an intention, into a project/product takes place, in my opinion, by means of the alchemy that is the relationship between the architect/designer and client. I typically choose to work with people who share my vision and my design language, and, together with them, I participate in the risks connected with a specific project. I believe that this instils great confidence in them, therefore they are also being encouraged to entrust assignments to me of a different nature.
Is there a difference for you in designing furniture for the living room and products for the office or for recreation rooms?
The way in which my career has evolved is based on the mixture between the architect’s conceptual approach and the creativity of the industrial designer. When I start working on a new product, a bathroom or office furniture for example, I always visualize its surroundings along with people’s needs and lifestyle. I’m always looking for clarity and simplicity when I’m designing products. So that as soon as you see a product, you immediately know how to use it.
Your first faucet project “Axor Citterio” was presented in 2003. It was very geometrical. The second collection “Axor Citterio M”, with a much softer approach, came out in 2006. Now “Axor Citterio E” has been launched. What is the main idea behind it?
The original “Citterio” range, the first one designed for Axor and presented in 2003, conveyed a minimalistic image originating from the utilization of flat surfaces and precise edges. The following collection, “Citterio M” (2006), featured a more ‘organic’ approach with the introduction of finely tuned, curved surfaces. The new “Citterio E” collection draws on both designs: Here we find both the flat plane, on the outer surface, and the curved profile, on the inner side of the mixer. We tried to find the right balance and we came up with a soft and slender design.
Is there any tension between the aim of making an enduring collection and the idea of making it as contemporary as possible?
I design products I personally feel are lacking in everyday life, or things whose performance could be improved, thanks to new solutions to technical problems, for example, always trying to optimize the quality / production cost / retail cost relationship. We seek to design “timeless” products with enduring quality, and the same approach is used in architecture.
You have mentioned that “Axor Citterio E” is an example of “simple luxury”. What does that mean to you?
I think that nowadays “luxury” means quality of life: spending your time in the morning in the bathroom, for example, listening to music while taking a shower, or reading your favourite author while lying on a very comfortable sofa in your home. Being surrounded by objects you like and that serve the purpose you have bought them for.
Characteristics of the Axor Citterio E products is the tension between soft shapes and precise edges and surfaces – full of elegance and sophistication.
Sketch © Antonio Citterio
As distinct design feature of the entire collectionare are slim, rounded handles. Photo © Axor / Hansgrohe
The different handle designs of the thermostat modules help the users to capture their functions: The cross handle regulates the amount of water, the cylindrical thermostat handles the temperature setting. Photo © Axor / Hansgrohe
In addition to the gold-optics Axor manufactory produces special surfaces, f.e. brass, bronze and black chrome. Photo © Axor / Hansgrohe
The surfaces are each available in a polished and with a brushed finish. Photo © Axor / Hansgrohe