Designer chooses humble life in Shanghai
Aldo Cibic, a notable figure in the history of the Italian design for 40 years, found a new, much simpler, humble way of living lately.
It’s first time in his life he’s lived in a very small apartment, with very few objects and very few clothes.
And he has not left Shanghai since October 2020.
Cibic designs architecture, interiors, objects and ways of living for communities. His first experience in China was in 2003, when he was done a design workshop, with the students of Tongji University, for Paola C., a renowned Italian tableware firm for which he was the art director.
The outcome was the exhibition “Shanghai Made in Italy,” presented with great success at the Milano Design Week. Thanks to this, Tongji University appointed him as honorary professor.
“The basic idea is that communities and their residents can be important sources of innovation in cities, and that universities, when they are integrated with communities, can give rise to a surprising chemical reaction, thanks to the presence of talents, ideas, emotions, knowledge and abilities that can become catalysts of new experiences,” Cibic said.
The architect and designer fully immerses himself in the local living style and chose an apartment inside Anshan Wu Cun (village five), a typical residential area built in the last century by the authorities. Originally, this area was designed as industrial workers’ accommodations. Like many other neighborhoods of the time, it is categorized as “xincun,” “new village,” made for workers, in contrast with the traditional rural village for farmers.
While the Chinese economy has experienced a significant evolution in recent decades, the neighborhood looks old now.
Here, Cibic is the only foreigner.
“I wanted to create an Italian (signature) interior and the challenge from the beginning was to create an unexpected safe and pleasant harbor in a typical ‘xincun’.”
This apartment was quite an ordinary one, and basically with a lot of irregularities.
“I wanted to have a very precise architectural space. To reach that, I sacrificed a couple of square meters, in order to obtain a perfect geometry. Once I got that, I concentrated on how to make it appealing with the mild colors in the big room on one side, and with the bright red in the kitchen and the bathroom on the other side,” he said.
Cibic is keen on having a local feeling and a very warm atmosphere at home. “That’s why the floor of the whole house, including the bathroom and the kitchen, is a beautiful used old wooden floor. I realized a big step below the window to keep my books and where to store the stuff. On the big window there are wooden shutters and a traditional air fan over the bed.”
The bed sits on a wood platform, and the bedspread and the pillows have been done by Cibic’s wife’s company (nothingnew.it) which uses upcycled materials: In this case it’s old hemp fabric, while the pillows are dyed in different colors.
“I designed most of the objects: The coffee table is Colony for Paola C.; the lamps and the yellow table are prototypes,” he said. “In the illuminated niche I always like to create little compositions that make me happy: Here you see the little ceramic tree on top of the box, with a Christmas apple beside.”
Cibic loves to mix furniture and objects to establish a sort of emotional relationship, a tribute to different cultures, and to reach a lively aesthetics.
“Color for me is the flavor of life.
“In this case there’s a waxed warm floor everywhere which is matching both with the strong red of the kitchen and the bathroom, and the soft sage green of the bigger space.”
And regarding the lighting, Cibic said in China many places there’s a strong cold light from the ceiling, which he doesn’t like at all.
“Here, he used a warm wall-washing lighting in the big window, in the kitchen and in the bathroom.
Cibic has done several small houses: in Milan, in Paris, in London and on the seaside in Turkey. In most of these little houses, the situation is very similar.
“In a way, all these places they are like little lofts, and the decoration is quite informal and reflects my needs, which are: a comfortable table to eat and work, a bed which is somehow also a couch, and a relatively bigger space empty, where I can sit on the floor or make my exercises. In this way the house is not too crowded and you don’t have the feeling that you are in a ‘small house’.”
He also discovered that there is no need of many things to live well. “I feel at ease when I can live the rituals of every day, having the pleasure of feeling that the house is perfect in every detail.”
Ask The Owner
Q: What’s the best thing about living in Shanghai?
A: It’s a vibrant city, where every week I meet new stimulating people.
Q: Describe your home in three words.
A: It’s the safe place where I enjoy to stay.
Q: How do you unwind?
A: I like staying on my bed reading.
Q: Where do you spend most of your time at home?
A: At my yellow table, drawing, eat- ing, chatting with friends, both in person and online.
Q: What’s the view outside your window?
A: There is a little alley, with trees, with the nice ‘noise’ of the birds.
Q: What’s your favorite object in your home?
A: The small altar in the illuminated niche, with the box, the red tree and the yellow grapefruit.
Q: Where do you buy furniture?
A: 90 % of the furniture is designed by myself. The little things I buy are from Taobao.