Interview with Massimo Mercurio, Managing Director of Mercurio Design Lab, ITA

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Massimo Mercurio

As Managing Director of Mercurio Design Lab, Massimo is dedicated to creation and crafting of cutting edge and outstanding design work, where he merges creativity and artistic sense to create architecturally meaningful works.

Interview with the 2019 MUSE Design Awards Winner - Massimo Mercurio

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself, your company, job profile, etc.
Born in Rome, I grew up surrounded by magnificent art and architecture. The influence of Italy’s culture and environment and my exposure to AMA group, an architectural company owned and lead by my father have shaped my career path. Armed with a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Sapienza University of Rome, I furthered my studies in Architecture and International Construction Management.

In 1996, with my father Alfonso Mercurio, I opened A.M. Associates (subsidiary of AMA Group) to oversee projects in Asia, after then, in 2008, I started Mercurio Design Lab (MDL), a spin-off of the AMA Group, with a braver, more innovative spirit that caters to the real estate and lifestyle markets. With roots still firmly planted in Italy, our group has become a global company with particular expertise in the Asian market.
2Tell us a bit about your business and what you do.
I have always wanted to create out-of-the-box concepts so I knew that I can only design iconic buildings outside the classical and antique architecture of my birth country, hence, the story of MDL. Borne of AMA Group, one of the largest architectural consortia in continental Europe for more than 50 years now, MDL creates new milestones in architecture, interior design and industrial design. It seeks to elevate and balance the synergies of the Asian architectural context with indomitable Italian style and tradition. Our team is composed of passionate architects, engineers, designers and artists who integrate art with technology in the design process, while respecting the three fundamental criteria: the functional, the aesthetic and the social.

As the Managing Director and futurists, I lead the team to push the envelope of contemporary aesthetic into new territories and approach the dynamic fields in a mathematical way so that everything looks perfect. I also constantly look for ways to soften building designs and to forge a stronger affinity to the natural world. My strong engineering background lends a sense of balance between pure bold creativity and the reality of manufacturing MDL’s creativity. Experimental and not constricted by standard formulas, I like to challenge the force of gravity, and press the limits of structures and structural engineering to extremes. Today, my firm works with visionary developers and private owners that want to leave a mark in the industry.
3Congratulations! As the winner of the 2019 Muse Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?
The Muse Awards is a prestigious award that recognises the best in design from across the globe. To win such an award is an honour and acknowledgement of our work at Mercurio Design Lab. We would like to leverage on Muse’s platform to showcase our work and also to draw inspiration from other deserving designers in the community.
4Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2019 Muse Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?
Villa Mistral is like a sleek cruise ship. It is named after ‘mistral’, the seasonal strong, north-westerly wind that blows across the Mediterranean. Painted in a hint of metallic white, its structural elements are expressed both externally and internally, simultaneously referencing a boat and communicating the sense of a strong forward thrust. It exploits the angularity of outward-leaning structural elements and similarly angled glazed walls to fashion an almost vertiginous experience both inside and outside of a powerful vessel driving through the sea.

I chose to enter this project, simply because I love symbology. Mistral has a story to tell, which begins on the outside where their forms and their landscaping blend to generate an integrated whole which then extends to the interiors, where the interior architecture, the materials and the planning ─ not to mention the customize artworks and other decorative elements ─ all work together to generate narratives unique to each building. The structure of Mistral sets the tone for defying the monotone box-like form. Not because it is supposed to be a building, it has to look exactly like all the other buildings. Designers must be open to doing unusual work, to expire and mimic other objects, and create things that go literally beyond the box.
5What was the biggest challenge with this project?
Part of the challenge is the restrictive guidelines which calls for a 30 degree pitched roof if an attic is required, which it invariably is, because of the desire to maximize floor space while conforming to height regulations. In addition, the brief called for optimal use of natural materials, sustainable strategies and to observe certain fengshui requirements.
6What are your top three (3) favorite things about our industry?
The design industry allows us, designers, to express ourselves in ways that other professions don’t. It gives a tangible result to the effort of an individual’s work life as one’s output is something that no one can claim. Being a designer also gives me a great sense of accomplishment in knowing that I am designing to bring solace and a better environment for the people of this planet who live, work, and play on the buildings I design, thus, I feel I am contributing something good to the society.
7What makes your country specifically, unique in the creative industry?
In Italy, where national treasures abound and the conservation board is rather aggressive, new building go under tremendous scrutiny. Asia, on the other hand, is more open to novel design. Asia is a place where there are exciting opportunities for both architecture and art, with rapid transformation in society moulding new ideas that will likely yield major happenings in the trends and styles of this new century.
8Where do you see the evolution of creative industry going over the next 5-10 years?
“The future is always moving,” as master Yoda used to say. There are a lot of forces that are acting together in the design world and often they pull in different directions. For this reason, it is particularly difficult to make a good educated guess on what design will mean in a few years.

While we think creativity is distinctively a unique human feature, machines are proving quite good at being creative at tasks we would never expect them to be, like poetry for example. There might come the day that designers will be replaced by AI, which will probably be more efficient and with a less complex ego to satisfy. Not all possible futures might have this sense of foreboding, but it is a possibility.

One thing is sure, there are many reasons today to dissuade people from taking the path of a creative person, and even less to taking that path with conviction and the call of doing something good for mankind. The traditional professions are becoming distinctively more difficult to justify. Years of studies, and after that often a not very reassuring remuneration, does not compete well with job options that let you reach financial freedom in a short time, with far less responsibilities.

The world needs to reassess its education systems and revaluate professional careers. It needs to look into the remuneration structure of different jobs quickly before there will be no one left to design your house.
9If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring Muse Award submitter, what advice would you give them?
The key is to keep wandering and searching, never stop inventing and reinventing, and always push the boundaries beyond the comfort of known territories. This adventure will ultimately lead to your ultimate goal.
10What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the creative industry?
Books in general always yield great inspirations. Books need not to be about architecture only as all kinds of objects and creations can also be good sources for new ideas.

Winning Entries

Villa Mistral | 2019

Villa Mistral | Mercurio Design Lab | Muse Awards
Named after the seasonal strong, northwesterly wind that blows across the Mediterranean, Mistral is a sleek yacht swathed in all white with a metallic tinge... (read more)

Mercurio Design Lab

Mercurio Design Lab is an Italian design studio that brings milestone making ideas and solutions into the fields of Architecture, Interior Design and Industrial Design, where art and technology meet to craft the best of what these two aspects have to offer.