Redesigning nature Antonio Pio Saracino

“Design is the place between humans and nature,” says Antonio Pio Saracino, the award-winning designer, architect and artist. Many of his projects, ranging from furniture, product design, lighting, jewellery, interiors, public art commissions and large-scale architectural blue-prints, are inspired by such natural forms as bones, horns, plants, shells and coral. His particular style also makes references to high-tech innovation, Roman mythology and genetics.

“I have always been interested to create from nature, to build a bridge between the natural and the artificial,” he says. “We see many forms of life evolving from the structures of ribs, sectioning of bones, the spines of fish, snakes and other animals, the columns of interlocking bones that carry life and allow movement. And architecture can be seen as a method of making our own exoskeletons, created from the same logic as the protection offered by a shell or scales.”

Born in 1976 in Puglia, Saracino now lives between New York and Rome. His projects are infused with Italian classicism, mixed with the spirit and dynamism of the New World. In any case, Saracino is something of a contemporary Renaissance man. His talent incorporates computer-manipulated photography, outdoor illuminated installations and monumental sculptures including his two Guardian statues in Bryant Park in Manhattan: Hero carved in layers of Carrara marble based on Michel- angelo’s David, and Superhero made from ribbons of mirror-polished stainless steel mimicking the self-confident silhouette of Superman in a flowing cape.

Saracino’s chairs, produced in Italy, Belgium and the United States, have been featured in many of the world’s leading publications. His Hexa Lounge made in Italy by Amura is his best-selling chair, while his Ray Chair and Cervo Chair
are in the permanent collections of the Powerhouse Museum of Applied Arts
and Sciences in Sydney and the Brooklyn Museum in New York, respectively.

“The Ray Chair is created with an algorithm that generates the mathematical model of a crystal into soft seating. The Cervo Chair is shaped from thin strips
of bentwood, recalling the ribcage and antlers of a deer. The complexity of the structure enhances the idea of a form that is inside-out and as result it strengthens the seat itself.”

Saracino’s design for a lookout tower on the grounds of an old house in the countryside surrounding the southern French city of Carcassonne, near Tou- louse, follows the same formal principles of an expanded rib-cage. Reminiscent of Carcassonne’s many castle towers, the structure is built from a series of stainless steel tubes woven in space and anchored to a free-floating red steel staircase. The stairs extend into a diving board and end at the summit in an open-air bench. Earlier this year, his maquette for the observation tower was purchased by the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

For 15 years, Saracino’s designs and work have been shown in solo and group shows in Rome, Venice, Florence, Trieste, Brussels, London, Athens, Moscow, Sao Paulo, Mexico City, New York, Washington and Sydney, and his retrospective exhibition at the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles, runs until the end of July. Saracino works simultaneously on many projects, commissions and prototypes over several continents. He has designed the trophies for the Formula 1 and Moto GP World Championships for Eni. In 2011, GATE 150 was designed as a monument honouring the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy for the Caraffa Museum in Cordoba (Argentina) and his work was exhibited in the same year in the Italian pavilion in the 54th Venice Biennale. His architectural concepts include a doctor’s surgery built in Rome and a dentist’s office in Chicago, a sinuous Brazilian boutique in Sao Paulo, a museum of photography conceived for Dubai, an Art Hotel in the Big Apple and a harbour-side house in Sydney based around the form of a series of diving platforms and a coral-like super-structure, proposed as the perfect home for Australian Olympic gold-medal diver Matthew Mitcham.

“Today more than ever, we see the importance of reconnecting back to nature, to take the imperial order from nature, and inject our ideas and designs back into nature.”

This is clearly demonstrated in one of his latest projects, a cylindrical monument under construction for the New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York, one of America’s top-ranking clinics for medical research. “It is an outdoor sculpture of overlapping rings inspired by the shifting shape of the spiral structure of DNA. It also represents elements of protein-map- ping, the vibration of a heart-beat and the diversity of genetics. Each stainless steel ring is different, but looks similar to the one below and above. Each touches the next ring at two points, and while it might look visually unstable, it is strongly engineered, fragile yet resilient.”

It is an uplifting, symbolic monument which traces the rhythm and diversity
of life. In his work, Antonio Pio Saracino explores the parallel worlds of design
and architecture inspired by nature, while integrating his art projects into the broader urban landscape. His unique skill is how he also includes issues of ethics and aesthetics, history and geography, and the many languages of visual arts.