A 60-year voyage in history, geography and science

The encounter with Alberto Lualdi represents a rapid excursion on what it means to be entrepreneurs in the world, without arrogance but with a bit of courage and that pinch of luck that only comes to those who try, laying the groundwork for growth

The first traces of the company date back to over 130 years ago, and already at the time – in the 1800s – there was talk of ‘made to measure’ and ‘quality,’ two terms that all the successive generations of Lualdi have protected and conserved.

Alberto Lualdi
Alberto Lualdi, President of Lualdi

Let’s start from a distance: what did Caccia Dominioni represent for your company?
We’re talking about the 1960s. The encounter was very significant, and for Lualdi it meant the passage from being a company that made wooden window frames for postwar reconstruction. From construction to furnishings, an epochal turning point. We had done the casements of the villa of the engineer Leopoldo Pirelli, and the architect asked us if we also knew how to make furniture. We said no, but we were willing to try: we produced all the custom furnishings. When that was done, the problem arose of the doors. There were no suitable doors on the market for the type of decor the architect had in mind: thus came the first example of industrial design applied to doors, where creativity met technology. The LCD 62 was born (Lualdi Caccia Dominioni and the year). From that point on we left the world of constructions to become a trusted carpentry shop, making complete turnkey furnishings. We were contractors back when the term did not yet exist in our country.

LCD 62, Lualdi
LCD 62, Lualdi

What are the key moments that caused breakthroughs in the history of Lualdi?
The early 1990s were the moment of internationalization for Lualdi. The opportunity came with the international tender in London for the construction of the EBRD headquarters (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development), with the architect Jean Louis Berthet. The building was new, and it had been designed by SOM; the French architect asked us to make the mock-up of a special door inserted in a work of architecture full of glass: Berthet’s idea was to have a curved door that would attract attention, standing out from the large glass walls and adding a particular touch of style. Our project, done in collaboration with Tecno, won the bid. It was in 1992, and all of London wondered who the Italian company was that was able to win the most important contract of the last 10 years (2.5 billion lire for about 600 very sophisticated doors). Shortly thereafter, Lualdi began to work with the most important international design firms.

Matrix, Compass, Lualdi
Matrix, Compass, Lualdi

Over the years doors have changed their function. Today they are true decor elements, and in many cases they help in the design of spaces. How has your way of selling and presenting them changed?
Lualdi is far from the classic world of distribution of doors: the door corresponds to about 2 vertical square meters, and therefore its contribution to interior design is significant, like a good painting. Over the years Lualdi has gained expertise in all vertical surfaces, from paneling to dividers and mobile partitions, where the door can lead to a closet, or divide spaces, or be a sliding element. A very flexible role.

Are finishes other than wood compatible in the world of doors?
Absolutely. When you talk about decor, the door becomes a wall and vice versa, so materials different from wood are very useful for projects: stones, metals, fabrics, ceramics, wallpaper. Every day we are in contact with the companies that supply the finishes, and we work together on projects, especially in the area of hospitality.

Let’s talk about China. Have there been repercussions for Lualdi after the spread of the Coronavirus?
I can confirm that for the moment we have not had any problems. We work and speak every day with our distributors. Of course there is a healthcare crisis in progress and that has to be taken into consideration. Everyone is working at home, the rhythms are different, but professional life goes on. Those with projects in progress in China are not experiencing downturns.

Lualdi sede EBRD, Londra
Lualdi sede EBRD, Londra

You have a company in the United States, which you opened well in advance of the wave of design, which came later. Was that a matter of intuition?
The early 2000s represented another turning point for Lualdi. This was somewhat the result of chance, but also of courageous business decisions. We had catalogue products that were distributed, as is our philosophy, through the furniture channel. We had the chance, in New York and Miami, to present ourselves as an Italian quality producer, at the same time with the flexibility to do custom jobs. The experience in London helped us to be more professional: in London, when you take part in a project, they ask you who you are, where you come from, they try to understand your solidity, how much you sell, how many workers you have. To take part in a project you have to get beyond the pre-qualification phase, to be accredited as a reliable and therefore official supplier. In the USA they are even more structured in this sense, and relying on our experience in England we have built a reputation. But in the States you cannot gain credibility through dealers, you have to be a company existing on the territory, and you have to know how to interact with project managers, the local logistics, the pertinent legislation. In 2005 Lualdi’s solidity on the American territory was already in place.

Teatro Lualdi ©Simone Barberis
Teatro Lualdi

Do you have a particular dream for the future?
You cannot help but have dreams hidden away, we build new ones every day, because we enjoy our work. But if I have to choose one, I would like to design a virtual door: I don’t know how, but I am not putting limits on the potential of the future. At the moment we are working on a project with Philippe Starck, and he too says that the door has to become ‘intelligent,’ not to have the function of opening and closing, but to express other meanings. And if Starck says so…