Design & Decoration S01 ep7: Joseph Licciardi, Licciardi Interiors, [Sydney]
Interview with Joseph Licciardi
I was exposed to these different paradigms and philosophies, all very valid but sometimes absolutely contradictory. One was Massimo Marozzi. He was a continuous chain smoker, continuos ristretto coffee drinker. Massimo believed in throw away things and I have never been confortable with that idea. But then he taught me another lesson. Hardly anybody washes today with collected water which started me thinking about flat areas which is going back centuries to the Greek and Roman times.
Joseph Licciardi is a searcher - always in a hurry to get somewhere.
I started working in a shop. This guy was selling paints but of course his shop
was the perfection of cleanliness. At the same time I was dealing with
wonderful materials and then being so close to sometimes artists and masters.
In fact there were galleries next to us that were selling fine arts - painting and
the actual painters were coming in there to buy paints, but I did not have any
clue of this at 13.
KM: When did you actually move to Australia? How old were you?
We came here, I was 16. I was lucky enough that a friend we met here said,
look Joseph they are looking for a person, in the display, (and I did not know
what display meant) in Georges. Laurie was the manager at the time. He gave
me again the 'display' power - in other words when you show something
properly doesn't matter how much or what it is, it could be rubbish , you make
70% of the sale.
The great thing about Georges [department store] at that time, it was really
eclectic - there was no other shop in Australia similar and not only did they
have the best in the world at the time, the best fashion, the best perfumes, the
best chocolates. In 1973 in fact they brought in all this new Italian furniture,
which practically changed the thinking of furniture design and interior design in
the world. And this is of course what we see today as classics of contemporary
Then I began taking charge of the full studio, which meant that you had to
make the props, you had to build.... that is when I started building things for
myself. So I started Lidi Australia, which was my first company in that period
as a business name.
I was exposed to a glass company and I started to get involved with glass.
Somehow strangely enough, they asked me to produce a collection of mirrors
and tables. And that’s when I understood that in Australia there was an
appreciation for design and quality.
I asked an artist to work for me and the artist could not perform, so I had to
perform because I had a contract. So I asked the artist " What do I do to get
there?" and he said, "well you need an oven" , so we actually commissioned
an oven. It actually not glass blowing which is what Murano does, Lalique is
KM: Lalique still do glass blowing.
This is actually form glass which is the simplest form of glass malleability in a
sense. What it is, is you just use a sheet of glass from anywhere including as a
blown glass piece or a cast piece or in fact simply a window glass. The window
glass is one of the most perfect glass that exists because it has to perform and
has endurance, whereas your 'pretty' glass cannot because there are a lot of
imperfections if you know what I mean. There are the two interesting aspects
KM: Yes but I see glass as such a difficult medium to work with!
It is, it is extremely unforgiving and it is actually very very technical. Glass has
specific temperatures, movements and you can always invent something new
in glass because the parameters are always pushed and pushed and pushed
but I didn’t know that. I was only exposed to this from the early 70's when I
saw glass being made by the contemporary furniture makers in Italy and the
very first thing I saw in Italy that totally blew my mind was the first piece that
Shiro Kuramata and Zanusso made with a bond of glass, to steel and it was
When we did the House of Fiction we were guests in Edsano Saro in New
York with these particular products. I met Shiro Kuramata, I met Afrotobio
Scarpa, you know, Massimo Marozzi helped me organise all those people
down in Italy. I met Alessandro Vendini who is a mogul of design in Germany
and Italy. Mark Newson's first pieces we did with him, in fact he did for us
which is the famous Chez Lounge chair. We actually exposed the first one
because we weren't there we couldn't do it in time. So he said "I'll do it" and he
went and did it and we then took it and showed it around.
So we were somewhat brushing today's talent or masters and my great feeling
about that was that’s when I started to enjoy design as a film producer which I
am sure you understand what I mean.
There a lot of analogies with film-making because it is true, to respect people's
talents in other words. In our field we tend to be worried about who did what
and it's mine, mine, mine. Whereas in the film industry it may be similar in ego
terms, but you actually have got spaces for each talent which is really
KM: It is the ensemble of the talent.
You may have so-called talent who are so arrogant and so up themselves that
really there is not the right weight there of ability and what they are about. But
then I met the most fantastic geniuses, they had such a humble approach,
were so open; they would read you just like that! They would know if they
could trust you or not.
I was exposed to these different paradigms, I was exposed to people's
different thinking, different things, all very valid but sometimes absolutely
contradictory. One was Massimo Marozzi who if I were to pick him as a person
visually, I would never pick him as a person I would be interested in talking to.
He was a continuous chain smoker, continuous ristretto coffee drinker. He
would come here and say you have got such a terrible bloody light in here. He
would say I'm not interested in nature what is this, you have got too much
good food here.
Massimo believe in throwaway things, you know, buy this year throw it away
next year, and I was never comfortable with that idea and then he taught me
another lesson. Hardly anybody today washes with collected water - that really
revolutionised my mind, because at the time I was not doing basins, and
furthermore I had no intention of making basins. But what he showed me
was....I started thinking of what I call today the 'wash plane'. I started to think
about flat areas, which is going back centuries and maybe even millennium
KM: I was what the Romans and the Greeks were doing!
Exactly and it made more sense and of course if you have a flat basin you
don't have to have the bloody vanity underneath it, you can change things
around and if you do that you can change the total ritual of the space and also
the architectural situation - that is a massive change.
Plus , no more is it a space where you visit for 2 minutes or half an hour and
go out. In fact more and more because of the times, it becomes a point of
relaxation, of review - I mean it is an intimate position. It has been reviewed
and this is back in the mid 80's.
As a designer or an artist, if you don't learn about the material or whatever the
subject is, it is very much like you are doing in your computer. If you don't
learn the tool well, you cannot go to the next step, it cannot become part of
KM: You can't evolve?
Right, you can’t evolve. Now I really believe the majority of the so called
designers and so called architects or whatever, mostly don't care about
knowing about their materials. There interests are what I call macro.
I would not even say superficial, they address that.
KM: No I would. Superficial because if you really don't know your materials you
are really working in the dark.
Well for instance Nonda Katsalidis that is where he is very good, because
Nonda has done a lot of hard work, physical work and building and he
For me Nonda is a very good example of what I call Macro Architecture, where
shapes and textures and forms are so irrelevant to that large size. I am more a
micro person I like the details and the proportions and probably a bit more
modest with reference to space.... it is all-relative of course, see people like
him have taught me a lot again. Even this idea of working together and being
able to then have the two create one.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Joseph Licciardi, Licciardi Interiors, Sydney