Born in Meda, a bustling town in the Brianza region that he continues to call home, Renzo Bonacina is an entrepreneur who has spent his entire career in the furniture field. Along with his children, he is the inspiration behind, and founder of, the ARKA brand.
We sat down and had a chat with him about the union of Meda and Design.
R.: “Speaking of design and Meda, it is no coincidence that today the Brianza region, and Meda even more so, continue to play an important role in the furniture field. It’s the enterprising spirit and productive skill of Meda’s entrepreneurs who, in the 1950’s and then in the 1960’s, joined forces with Italian architects and designers who at that time were gaining professional experience together. Even before the advent of the Salone del Mobile trade show, the greatest expression of Italy’s furniture production industry and a show that I have participated in for 30 years since the first edition in 1961, it would be fair to say that the Triennale in Milan is where Italian design is rooted and took off. I would also add that, even back then, it was very interesting to see that the international exhibits organised at the Triennale had areas dedicated to foreign schools of design. Booths were set up by various nations not to highlight their distribution or architectural characteristics but specifically to show their furniture.
I also remember the group trips, organised by the Italian Trade Institute or other associations, to some of the most important furniture trade shows in the United States or Northern Europe. For example, we went to see, Scandinavian design which had a big impact on us. Each one of these shows helped the designers to define their ideas and intuitions. We came back full of excitement and shared what we had seen here in the company and with the designers. We then put the ideas into practice with a great amount of enthusiasm.”
D.: Why is Italian design such a success?
R.: “The success of Italian design, which has lasted for over fifty years, was born out of a productive system that already existed and was firmly rooted in the country. Most importantly, it is of the work of a generation of Italian architects, especially from Milan, that, through the companies were able to express their full potential.”
D.: What about today?
R.: “Today the market has expanded and is gradually becoming more and more demanding. Now, competition is affecting every market with producers operating on the basis of varying cost factors. In such an environment, to win the challenge you needquality, history and the charm of a “unique” product. My children, having grown up with this concept at the heart of ARKA’s philosophy, will take over and carry out my work in the future following this very guideline. The “Made in Italy” label must convey all these concepts instead of just being an over-worked slogan. And when we talk about history, going back to what I said before, it means the entire cultural background that Italian design has generated and accumulated over the years. In other words, a truly unique and unequalled formula that continues to be a guarantee for success.”
D.: Which architects do you have the fondest memories of?
R.: “Of all the ones I’ve met I’d have to say Achille Castiglioni for his likable and friendly character, in addition to others such as Studio De Pas, D’Urbino, Lomazzi, Gigi & Pepe Tanzi, Alberto Rosselli, Giorgio Decursu, Laura Griziotti, Adalberto Dal Lago, Italo Lupi, Carlo Santi and also Ettore Sottsass, with whom I created a series of prototypes that never turned into a final collection. I have extremely fond memories of this collaboration.”