Human touch: Fabio Novembre’s illustrious career is explored in a new tome

The HITGallery concept store in Hong Kong
The HITGallery concept store in Hong Kong, 2012, takes inspiration from the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico
(Image credit: Jessica Klingelfuss)

Throughout his career, Fabio Novembre has deftly treaded the line between design and architecture. A new book, published by Electa, chronicles the designer-architect’s most important career milestones, from football club AC Milan’s HQ, to the iconic ‘Nemo’ armchair, created for Driade and designed as an oversized mask embracing the body.

Design critic Beppe Finessi introduces this tome with an essay that draws attention to Novembre’s personal pool of visual references and recurring themes. Nature and anthropomorphic shapes are at the centre of his work, and Finessi explains how Novembre’s personal obsessions have, over the years, become a sort of formal design language that has come to identify his distinctive oeuvre.

Titled Fabio Novembre – design architecture, the book is curiously arranged in order of project size, and offers a record of Novembre’s most memorable works from the past two and a half decades, constantly swinging between architecture, design and interiors. Perhaps symbolically, it opens with a door handle titled ‘love opens doors’, and the project concluding the book is one that hasn’t been finalised yet (‘year: whenever, location: wherever’, reads the caption) – a human-centric idea for a skyscraper – because, as the designer says, ‘in the end we just want to touch the sky with a finger’.

‘F3’ outdoor furniture collection, 2013

‘F3’ outdoor furniture collection, 2013

(Image credit: Jessica Klingelfuss)

A ‘professional amateur’ as he calls himself, has always eschewed traditional design and architecture, instead using colour, familiar forms, optical illusions and popular culture to instill a personality into each of his projects that hasn’t been matched in the industry yet.

Designed by Milanese graphic design studio Leftloft (who, among other things, has spearheaded advertising campaigns for some of the best Italian furniture brands, from Pedrali to Cassina), the book is a sleek all-black tome, its discreet shell strongly contrasting with Novembre’s not-at-all discreet work.

Finessi notices how the designer never shakes hands with the people he meets – ‘he hugs instead’. A gesture, he explains, is a hint at his approach to work, a dialogue with the body that is for him a matter of engaging passion. ‘I cut out spaces in the vacuum by blowing air bubbles,’ writes Novembre in the book’s introduction, ‘I let myself float with the wind, convinced that I am able to seduce everything that surrounds me.’

A two-storey New York showroom in 2000

Novembre’s array of clients include footwear and accessories brand Tardini, for whom the designer created a two-storey New York showroom in 2000

(Image credit: Jessica Klingelfuss)

Novembre designed the new HQ for football team AC Milan in 2014

Novembre designed the new HQ for football team AC Milan in 2014

(Image credit: Jessica Klingelfuss)

Installation view of ‘Il Fiore di Novembre’ at the Milan Triennale

Nature and anthropomorphic shapes are at the centre of the designer’s work. Pictured, installation view of ‘Il Fiore di Novembre’ at the Milan Triennale, 2009

(Image credit: Jessica Klingelfuss)

The book was designed by Milanese graphic design studio Leftloft

The book was designed by Milanese graphic design studio Leftloft

(Image credit: Jessica Klingelfuss)

Novembre’s personal home in Milan

Novembre’s personal home in Milan, completed in 2004, has a distinctive green mosaic façade

(Image credit: Jessica Klingelfuss)

Per fare un albero, Milan, 2009

Per fare un albero, Milan, 2009

(Image credit: Jessica Klingelfuss)

INFORMATION

Fabio Novembre – design architecture, $49, published by Electa (opens in new tab)

Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.