With heart and head
A trip to Pedrali always means tremendous warmth, consummate hospitality, and fascinating insights into a transparent manufacturing system. With a keen sense for the details of true craftsmanship, the family-run Italian company has been producing furniture, lighting and accessories since 1963. The business is now in the hands of the second generation of Pedralis, brother and sister Giuseppe and Monica, but it all began in the workshop of their father Mario in the northern Italian town of Palazzolo sull’Oglio in Lombardy, where he produced his first collection of metal chairs for outdoor use. An accomplished craftsman, Mario Pedrali developed the machines he needed to realize his ideas as he went along. The “Nolita” collection, which was designed for Pedrali in 2015 by CMP Design, is an homage to that time: The armchair made of tubular steel, rock-solid nevertheless has a clarity of form that gives it an elegance all of its own, along with a broad range of color options for the painted finish. Beauty, tradition and innovation are basically in Pedrali’s DNA. “Three simple words that perfectly convey the essence of the brand,” says Monica Pedrali.
The word “care” might also be added to the list, since every step the company takes is carefully considered right down to the details. This applies to the forward-thinking investment in machines and research for the latest production techniques, which are evident in the automated “Fili d’Erba” warehouse in Mornico al Serio close to Bergamo. “Blades of grass” is the English translation of “Fili d’Erba”, a nod to the idea by CZA – Cino Zucchi Architetti– to reflect the green landscape around the site with an extraordinary façade structure. Countless narrow, vertically and diagonally aligned aluminum supports are coated on one side in natural green tones so that they reflect the daylight and correspond with the grey and blue tones of the sky. With various incidence of light, the result is a consistently changing, fascinating optical effect. Depending on the viewing angle, the façade of the cubic building appears homogeneous or dynamic. Even the drive to the warehouse on the company’s site is progressive – a Skytrain connects the automated warehouse with the other industrial areas.
Longevity in mind
Inside Pedrali’s automated warehouse, every bit of the 7,000 square meters is used productively, with high-rack bays permitting vertical storage up to a height of 29 meters. Robotic vehicles manage the sections independently around the clock, hence 50 pallets an hour are transported via a connection between the warehouse and the manufacturing, packaging and logistics departments. Pedrali produces up to 5,000 chairs and 2,000 tables every day in Mornico al Serio and Manzano, and each order can be individually adjusted. To achieve this, Pedrali combines technical innovations with artisanal expertise, and a look around the different workstations shows just how effectively these two areas of expertise complement each other: From the shaping of the metal frames to the varnishing, to the upholstering of the seat surfaces, every stage can be observed.
Production waste is hard to spot at the individual stations, since circular economy and environmental awareness are fundamental pillars of Pedrali’s company policy. Every raw material is reviewed thoroughly for its environmental compatibility before being put to use. “Throughout the production process, we place particular emphasis on the substances used, consumption of raw materials, optimizing resources, waste management and emissions control,” says Monica Pedrali. Even the furniture made of polypropylene is up to 100-percent recyclable. For the woodworking in the factory in Manzano near Udine, FSC certification guarantees that the raw materials come from sustainably managed forests in line with strict environmental, social and economic standards, while the varnish used on the wood is water-based and plant-derived. With their high-quality materials and optimized production processes, the products are carefully considered from the outset. Pedrali’s choice of location for the two factories inside Italy also contributes to the quality: “The whole cycle can be thoroughly monitored, from the development to the procurement of the raw materials, through to production and delivery,” says Monica Pedrali.
Pedrali’s timeless designs also contribute to its sustainability: “The collections share a universal language that is recognizable and appreciated the world over,” Monica Pedrali explains. One example is the oak “Frida” chair by Odo Fioravanti, which won the renowned Compasso d’Oro ADI industrial design prize in 2011: elegant, clear, with attention to detail and a pleasingly positive character that takes the users and their comfort into consideration. “‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’, in the words of Leonardo da Vinci, and this mantra works for our company too,” says Monica Pedrali. The striking impact that can be achieved with clear lines is evident, for example, in the “Fox” armchair designed by Patrick Norguet: With its curved ash frame and a slender seat shell that can be in polypropylene or upholstered in leather or fabric, this has an unmistakable character. Pedrali presents up to 15 new collections every year. “For us, it’s about creating furniture that combines the creative art of the designer and the technological competence of industrial production for the contract market – that’s what distinguishes Pedrali,” explains Monica Pedrali.
The convincing nature of this philosophy is proven by the long list of projects that Pedrali has already fitted out with stylish seating: from the “ore” restaurant by Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse at the Château de Versailles to the biggest Amazon campus in the world in the Indian city of Hyderabad, to the American University in Cairo. “The most glamorous setting for our products in recent years was undoubtedly the Grand Diner at the Palais du Louvre to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the glass pyramid,” notes Monica Pedrali, adding: “It was such a thrill to be there.” The role of Pedrali, however, does not end with the outfitting and organization of extraordinary projects and events: The company is serious about its responsibility as a supporter of cultural and social initiatives, be it through support for the event “Love Design”, which raises funds for cancer research, or participation in the “VigoniForEurope” forum, which serves as a platform for discussion of cultural policy. A practical approach with a keen sense for simple elegance that is closely bound up with tradition yet remains forward-thinking: “Everything begins with a strong passion for the product and a clear and lasting vision”, says Monica Pedrali.