All in the Family
The magic of Magis
Torre di Mosto is a small village northeast of Venice. It is there, on terra firma, in the middle of nowhere but next to everything, that Magis headquarters is based. The modern, single-storey building at the end of the street stands on the plain like a solitary box, surrounded by fields. All the office spaces in this family owned and run company, open onto an inner courtyard where trees and some pieces from the outdoor furniture collections are positioned on a green meadow.
“We are a small company”, says Eugenio Perazza, who founded Magis back in the 1970s. “And after 40 years of work, this is our very best period. But believe me, every morning I think about how to link the company to the future.” While Perazza is more concerned with the work of the designers – and there is a long list, from Philippe Starck to the Bouroullecs to Jasper Morrison, and from Stefano Giovannoni to Konstantin Grcic to Thomas Heatherwick – his son Alberto, who joined the company in 1996, cares more about sales and general management. “My father and I are responsible for different fields”, he explains. Father and son – this can be difficult, but the two have clearly found a productive way to work together.
[caption id="attachment_9760" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Jasper Morrison’s Air Chair (2000) for Magis was the first furniture produced using gas- injection-moulding technlology.[/caption]
The story of Magis is not only the story of success, but also of a family and a solid network of local suppliers. “We have a very close and friendly relationship with our suppliers; they are mostly based in our neighbourhood”, Alberto Perazza mentions. The range of materials and technologies adopted into the Magis product range could not be bigger. Back in 2000, Jasper Morrison’s gas-injection-moulded Air Chair was the first furniture ever made using this technology for plastics – and it changed the face of outdoor living areas. But there are also other, less high-tech examples, like the wrought iron pieces for the recently launched Officina collection designed by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec. It is a very low-tech and traditional, handcrafted way to produce frames for tables and chairs. Or take the recently launched Samson, a low seat designed by Konstantin Grcic, made of (fully recyclable) rotation-moulded polyethylene. “Usually, materials and technologies are preconditions for a new project”, says Alberto Perazza says. “When we approach the designers, we have already settled on the material and the technology, be it traditional or never before used in the furniture sector.” The suppliers are very important to the company’s method of operating, in order for the development process to run without any obstacles. “In a way, they are also consultants in the first stage of developing our project”, he adds.
[caption id="attachment_9761" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Fire, heat, and strength: making the table frames recalls archaic traditions.[/caption]
In the RIK-FER wrought iron workshop, not far from Torre di Mosto, strong muscles are needed to form the hot-iron pieces. Everything seems to be produced through the archaic practice of manpower, and the heat seems fundamental to that. “You know, we always have fresh air in here”, Antonio Ceolin, the charming owner of the workshop, states in his own modest way. Ventilators stand near the ovens, and the gates are open to the countryside in order to let fresh air enter. Normally, wrought iron fences or elaborate gates are produced here – all of them custom made, of course. Just recently, the blacksmiths created a big baroque door with various wrought iron ornaments, for a mosque in the Middle East. You can hardly find workshops with the knowledge to do this anymore, and yet Signor Ceolin knows that its products and craftsmanship are no longer in vogue, as in former times. At the main entrance to the workshop are numerous wrought iron fence samples – a collection of monstrous and kitschy pieces that recall times past. You would never think that this is the workshop where the Bouroullecs’s pieces for Officina are produced. “You know, Signor Perazza asked me earlier if we could handle high quantities”, Antonio Ceolin recounts, while still smiling – and this time it might be in a slightly ironic way. With Magis, traditional technology gains a contemporary language and also celebrates the crafts.
A network of different suppliers, technologies, and materials stand behind Magis’s eclectic product range. This makes the company’s collection very authentic. “For Chair One, we pushed die-cast aluminium technology to the limit to form the skeleton of the chair”, Alberto Perazza remembers. The design by Konstantin Grcic serves as a great ambassador for the company, since Lady Gaga even integrated the chair in one of her most famous videos. In discussing who could be the best designers to invite to work with the wrought iron technique, the Perazza family came to the conclusion that the French brothers fit the bill perfectly. For other products like the Pipe chair, the company decided to work with Jasper Morrison, in order to experiment and learn more about aluminium tubes and punched aluminium. When visiting the metal workshop where the single components of the Pipe chair are produced, you can discover wheelchairs alongside stacked chair frames, as well as the Big Will table by Philippe Starck, which is part of the Magis assortment as of this year.
[caption id="attachment_9762" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Magis, a family-run business, has collaborated with more than 40 international designers to date. When Alessandro Mendini, Philippe Starck, Anderssen & Voll, Ronan Bouroullec, Javier Mariscal, and Jaime Hayon visited, they signed the ‘wall of fame’, the company’s equivalent of a guest book.[/caption]
All the individual furniture pieces are assembled at Magis headquarters. The products are also packed in the huge hall behind the offices, ready for delivery to 90 countries. There are the puppy dogs from the Me too collection for kids, designed by Eero Aarnio, and the tables, chairs, and shelves designed by Pierre Paulin. Magis released those iconic pieces, which were originally designed for the Élysée Palace in Paris, when Paulin was still alive. They have now been brought into serial production. “At the time, I did many-many kilometres by car, going back and forth from Veneto to the Cevennes – far away in the mountains”, Enrico Perrin, the Design Manager remembers. When working on the prototypes, Perrin discussed the modifications with the designer, who was living in a castle-like home in the mountains in the south of France, and would then go back to Italy to determine the changes before travelling again to France with a new prototype. But this is another chapter of the Magis story – one of the many that can yet be told.
[caption id="attachment_9682" align="alignnone" width="621"] Konstantin Grcic at work, at Magis.[/caption]