The Half+Half collection features three styles of this innovative door designed by the HOK product design team, and engineered and manufactured by the family-owned Lualdi factory in Milan, Italy. In our exclusive interview with Alberto Lualdi he discusses the creative partnership and how men’s suiting proves to be a point of inspiration.
What was the inspiration behind developing this product?
This project started with a meeting with HOK Product Design, in which they told me
that a problem that they often face when designing for hospitality is that they are always struggling to save space – hotel rooms are small, and even in hospitals or clinics, there is a code that specifies that a door must be a specific width, but often
when hospital or clinic doors swing open, they can affect things like the toilets or the
sinks in the rooms. The team asked me if I had any ideas for finding a solution when space is an issue, and together we came up with the idea of a mix between a sliding and a swinging door that opens halfway in one room, and halfway in the other, keeping a low profile while also looking well-designed.
After the initial meeting, we met with all of the people involved in the interior and industrial design department at HOK in Toronto. Then, they came to the factory in Italy to see the skill and technology available within the factory. The HOK team then worked out a proposal with numerous different concepts, and I chose the one that seemed to me to be the most realizable, the easiest to engineer. We then created a prototype in the factory, and the whole team came back to Italy a second time to approve the details. When everything was ready, we launched the product officially. It was a very close collaboration with lots of talking back and forth; my involvement was mainly to solve the technical problems since I am the “door expert”.
You have a family-owned factory, can you talk about how this impacts the quality of the products you produce?
For me, the tradition of a fourth-generation family-owned factory is the reason why Lualdi is so successful and is considered the worldwide “door specialist”. It is due to the knowledge and skill passed down through generations. This knowledge and skill builds up brick by brick. We have an incredible wealth of experience – it starts from our DNA! The mentality, the skill, the knowledge, the tradition our factory possesses – it’s all based on the information achieved throughout all of the generations.
The designs were inspired by men’s suiting, can you talk a little bit more about this process and how you developed the patterns?
The trick of an industrial product is the flexibility; the important thing is to set the right technology base. The product must be versatile enough to let the designer customize it without reengineering the entire product. So, like you change your suit according to the day or the occasion, you must do the same thing with every project. A more casual finish might be appropriate for a more casual job, or a more formal finish might work better for a more upscale hotel. You use the same product, but with little tweaks and changes. In addition, we were inspired by Italy’s long history of fashion and design, and decided to add some of that history into the Half+Half collection.
How do you keep up on the latest manufacturing technologies?
To be honest, we are carpenters and woodworkers, basically. We are not Apple or Microsoft, so the technology in our business improves slowly compared to other sectors. But, the technologies have changed a lot, especially for the new finishes available. Again, it means flexibility in the hardware – Italians and Germans are best in the world when it comes to woodworking machinery, using the same technology and adapting it to new products. Glass, veneer, metal, tiles, fabric, marble can now be used to produce doors, and this level of change really comes from the architects. They push the limits of what is feasible or not with every project. All the products are feasible in handcraft, but this is just for exclusive one of a kind products. The challenge is to recreate the quality of the handcrafted products in an industrial production setting with the help of machinery.
Check out the door in action – Half + Half_Video