Masters of architecture

An interview with Roberto Giustini and Stefano Stagetti for the opening of the new headquarters of the Giustini / Stagetti gallery in Rome, the last project by the architect Umberto Riva

Giustini / Stagetti - Photo © Omar Golli
Giustini / Stagetti - Photo © Omar Golli

Italian design of the 20th century enters a dialogue with international contemporary style in the new spaces of Giustini / Stagetti, the gallery founded in Rome in 2009 that has rapidly become a preferred destination for collectors. Rare pieces by great masters like Gio Ponti, Franco Albini, Ettore Sottsass, Gino Sarfatti are combined with decorative arts from the 1930s to the 1970s, and Venetian glass from the 1910s to the 1960s.

A passion for design that is reflected not only in emblematic objects of Italian history, but also in limited editions created exclusively for the gallery by Formafantasma, Fratelli Campana, Giacomo Moor and Umberto Riva, the recently deceased architect who created – with long-term collaborator Emilio Scarano – the new Roman headquarters of the gallery. The new exhibition is precisely a tribute to Riva, opened on 5 May 2022: a solo show of works by one of the most outstanding figures in Italian architecture.

Lop by Umberto Riva, 1970
Lop by Umberto Riva, 1970
Scarabeo by Umberto Riva, 1973
Scarabeo by Umberto Riva, 1973

Roberto and Stefano, how did your passion for design begin?
Our passion for design evolved from various experiences: for Roberto it began in the 1990s, with work on the contemporary scene between art and design, including collaborations with Enzo Cucchi and Ettore Sottsass; Stefano has had this interest since the 1980s, conducting research on Italian 20th-century design and decorative arts, with a particular focus on Gio Ponti, Fontana Arte and Murano glassware.

What are the pieces most often sought by your collectors?
They look for works by the masters of Italian architecture and design of the 1950s and 1960s, as well as our exclusive editions by contemporary talents like the Campana Brothers, Formafantasma, Konstantin Grcic.

Which great masters interest your clients today?
The most sought-after are definitely Gio Ponti, Gino Sarfatti and Carlo Scarpa.

Edward Scissorhands by Campana Brothers
Edward Scissorhands by Campana Brothers
Wingback by Gio Ponti
Wingback by Gio Ponti

You are opening a new facility in Rome. Can you tell us about this important project?
The gallery opens a new location on 5 May, at Via Gregoriana 41 in Rome: it is the last project by Umberto Riva, together with the architect Emilio Scarano, a long-term collaborator, which is why we have decided to start our programming with a solo show on Riva. The exhibition illustrates the gallery’s collaboration with the architect, starting with a lucky encounter in 2017, which soon led to the creation of an entire collection of furnishings and lamps designed exclusively for us. Some of the items have not yet been shown.

How is the space organized?
The design of the new facility, near Piazza di Spagna, is an open space, with subtle but forceful interventions, in which the objects on display are the protagonists. The floor in white terrazzo accentuates the neutrality of the space. The entrance door leads into the first room, whose vertical dimension is accentuated by the high vaulted ceiling. The second room has a wall of variable height next to the staircase with monolithic steps in Carrara marble. The space is compressed on the loft level, adding a final display zone in the shadow.

Mod. 463 by Umberto Riva, 1959
Mod. 463 by Bonacina, Design Umberto Riva, 1959

What pieces will be on view?
To delve into the theme of contamination between architecture and design in Riva’s work, the show contains a selection of historical works – including the iconic lamps – and a collection of furnishings and lamps designed as an exclusive for the gallery, with many unprecedented pieces. The survey includes the architect’s first work of product design, a rare chaise longue in wicker from 1959 for Bonacina, and it illustrates his personal research on novel solutions, marked by an open, dynamic design approach, extending to the pleasure of utilizing traditional forms of workmanship. Formulated through the use of color, light and pure shapes, space and objects according to Umberto Riva have to offer multiple, unexpected perspective views, never static, never symmetrical, to make the perceptions of the use change each time, constantly subjective depending on the vantage point.

Gallery Installation by Konstantin Grcic - Photo © Omar Golli
Installation by Konstantin Grcic – Photo © Omar Golli
Ore streams by Formafantasma
Ore streams by Formafantasma

Other exhibitions on the calendar?
In Milan, during the Salone del Mobile, we will present the exclusive collection of furnishings designed for us by Konstantin Grcic. In September, our headquarters will hold an exhibition on the stoneware creations of Guido Gambone, made in the 1950s and 1960s.

Giustini / Stagetti
Via Gregoriana 41 – Rome
Opening: 5 May 2022

Umberto Riva Opere Scelte
6 May – 17 June 2022
Catalogue with an essay by Gabriele Neri