New approaches to profession. A lesson from Maurizio Riva

The company has just celebrated 95 years. How do you plan to celebrate?

There will be many dedicated events. We are creating a monograph, titled “Enterprise + Social”, which narrates the company's development over 95 years. It will be presented at the Wood Festival in September.

At this event, the third floor of the Riva 1920 Center will be inaugurated. The floor will host a collection of wood and marble: an important space that will give an insight into these materials, especially wood, inspiring younger generations and expanding on the concept of the Wood

Museum. The Pangea table, which we created for Expo, will be on display here.

You had an important presence at Expo Milan with numerous furnishings and several collaborations. How do you view this experience?

Expo was initially scorned, but it ultimately turned out to be a great success. When it came to entrepreneurs and industry associations, there were certainly some shortcom-ings. The ideal would have been to have had a cluster of companies based in the Lombardy region, so as to develop a unifying bond between furniture companies. But the companies did not consider the investment worthwhile. We, on the other hand, did, so we acted independently.

We supported many initiatives, such as the construction of the Pangea table for Pavilion Zero and products for the Grom kiosk and Ferrari bar, the Peace and Hope Horse and the Mollette along the decumano, the furnishing of the Monaco Pavilion's Fairmont Restaurant, as well as the participation in external events such as the d_segno italiano exhibition with ADI, or the Arts&Food exhibition at the Triennale with the kauri table designed by Renzo Piano.

Your approach is often characterized by cooperation…

We believe in the idea of networking and collaboration. Let me give an example. One day the designer Valerio Cometti gave me a pair of wooden glasses.

When I saw them, I thought: “They're stunning! Why not make them in kauri?”. So I met with a small manufacturing company, FEB31st, suggested my idea to them and supplied the ancient kauri wood. This brought about a collaboration that led to an eyewear line that also bears our brand name, which has been awarded for being among the top 10 most important labels in the world. On that occasion, we were able to give concrete assistance to a start-up: these links are essential for growth. 

Is it these principles of great practicality and industriousness that form the basis for the Riva 1920 Center, which houses the Wood Museum and dozens of cultural events throughout the year?

We do not have a showroom in Milan, because anyone who wants to buy a Riva 1920 product can view it here (on the first floor of the building that faces the company, Ed.), and then, simply by crossing a road, can observe how it is manufactured.

The Wood Museum is on the second floor, an idea that was developed because of the lack of a similar structure in the region. It is a reminder of our history, an appreciation of our roots, established to help visitors understand our past: the way our craftsmen worked for decades and what they were capable of doing with only the driving force of their arms. I would like the third floor to become a sort of university classroom where students can learn about the materials.

We are a manufacturing company and that identity defines all of us. This is why we let our customers, who come to visit us, sleep in our farm guesthouse, not far from here, then have lunch at the museum and visit the three factor-ies: it gives them a 360° experience of Riva 1920.

What does this focus on the local area and craft tradition lead to in terms of manufacturing philosophy?

We only collaborate with workshops in the Brianza Como area, and a couple outside of Lombardy. Everything that we produce, with the exception of the wood bought in America because of reforestation or the New Zealand Kauri, which is reused wood, is entirely manufactured here. There is a sound product behind this way of think-ing, created with great care. We do not use chemicals or even chipboard.

We have also initiated the Natural Living project: buy Riva furniture and we give you a tree that produces the relevant wood.


Ever warmer environments and interiors that place increasing emphasis on wood…You are completely at home!

There is a growing tendency to have houses that are dominated by wood. So we have created complete collections to furnish every area of the house, using modern forms and process making, even though research into new kinds of wood is the most fundamental part of our company identity. We work with many designers and our relationships with them are very important, leading to growth and knowledge. Foremost among these designers is Terry Dwan, who has been following us for 16 years as a kind of art director. However our values remain unchanged: for us, furniture must offer flexibility, must point towards the future, and must be created in such a way that it can be passed down for generations.