Martina Castagna applies artificial intelligence to design

15 March 2024

AItelier Castagna

She explains how and why it will be a revolution, but it will not be able to replace the experience and passion of the designer

Martina Castagna is the right person to really understand how artificial intelligence is changing the world of planning and design. Because the reality in which she was born and raised and trained as an architect is a perfect mix of old and new school since her father is Massimo Castagna, one of the most important designers of our time, and that Martina did not limit herself to follow in his father’s footsteps: she seized the opportunities of the present by founding, as he says, a start-up/studio that uses artificial intelligence for design.

AItelier Castagna
AItelier Castagna

When designing spaces and furnishings with artificial intelligence, what will change and what will remain the same?

This question makes me smile because it fits perfectly: I have just opened my own interior and product design studio which was born as an innovative startup, as the design is entirely supported by Artificial Intelligence, through a method that I invented myself: we are the first studio ever to do this and we are generating a lot of interest both from companies, for product design, and from private clients, for interior design. Generative AI has completely revolutionized my way of working: when I began to be interested in innovation and studying artificial intelligence I immediately recognized its great potential for our sector, but understanding how to apply it in a useful and constructive way has took much longer.

Thanks to AI, I have completely reversed the normal creative process for developing a product: generally, in fact, when developing furniture to propose to a company, we start from an initial concept such as a pencil sketch which is then represented in 2D with the correct dimensions and if necessary, a 3D is created to understand the overall dimensions and generic shape. With my method, however, I do the exact opposite: I work immediately on the rendering of the product, which helps me considerably because it allows me to immediately understand what it will really look like. Once I have obtained the generic look I am looking for, I proceed by modifying the individual parts, finally once I have the concept, I propose it to the companies and if they like it, only at a later stage I proceed with its technical representation in 2D.

What I have noticed by applying this methodology is that, by bringing this kind of concept into the company, it is much easier to understand the potential of the product, since one finds oneself in front of a “realistic” view of the product and not a 2D technical diagram (sometimes difficult to understand), a view that can even be contextualized within an environment that follows the same mood and style as the product created.

AItelier Castagna
AItelier Castagna

For this reason, I believe that in the coming years AI will increasingly become a tool to support design. What will never change, however, is the experience, passion, and skill of the designer behind the machines: while doing research online, I have often found really good digital artists, capable of creating incredible images and in some ways fairy-tale, but that’s what they remained, viral images only online.

In the designer’s work, aesthetics and graphic representation certainly play a fundamental role, but it’s not just this: it’s an all-round job in which basic skills and an awareness of spaces are needed, you need to know how to do research, knowing how to correctly match colors and materials and knowing how to create layouts for an entire home that are not only aesthetically beautiful, but that FUNCTIONS. With Aitelier Castagna, my startup/studio, I do just this: I combine years of experience as a designer with the potential of AI, using it as a support and integral part of the creative process, giving life to interior and product projects that have new and revolutionary shapes, but which at the same time find a real application in real life, not limited to the digital world.

AItelier Castagna
AItelier Castagna

How does the daily relationship with digital influence our aesthetic taste?

The digital world is now an integral part of our lives and has contributed significantly to influencing people’s aesthetic taste: if once clients turned to an architect to redo their home and completely relied on him for any choice, from finishes to furnishings Now, however, everything is always “at hand” and it is the customers themselves who sometimes propose a certain type of furniture or material. However, the digital world is also a very saturated world: every day we are bombarded by a large amount of content which in many cases creates confusion and I believe that in this context, the figure of an architect/interior designer is still the most important and fundamental to guide the customer towards the most appropriate choice among a multitude of options.

In the projects by Fòc, Bon Vin and Ert for Pedretti Home you combine stone with other materials to create sculptural and functional accessories: how did you approach this very particular material?

For the Continuum collection I used Dolomia, a typical stone from the Dolomites and Trentino (to which the collection itself is dedicated).

Pedretti Home Bon Vin Wine Display

Despite its very grainy appearance, Dolomia is an elegant, massive, and very resistant stone, therefore perfect for architectural solutions and design objects: on a technical level it was therefore not difficult to work with this stone which we tried to keep as natural as possible, applying light and non-invasive processes and maintaining its irregularities and imperfections.

Pedretti Home Ért Floor Lamp

In the collaboration with Tonelli Design, however, glass is the protagonist: what type of technical and design challenges did you have to face to create your project for the company?

Tonelli Design is a company that was born as a glass products company, which is why its use plays a role of primary importance. Together with my father, who takes care of the artistic direction, over the years we have introduced the use of other materials which are combined with glass which always plays a leading role.

My challenge in this case was precisely “to give glass something extra” that would allow my products to stand out among a wide choice of furnishings made with the same material: hence the idea of Updown, small tables with very simple shapes, made of colored glass and metal. I believe the potential of this product lies precisely in the fact that it is very simple and in making it we did not encounter many difficulties on a technical level, but the aesthetic result is truly satisfying.

Side table Updown | Martina castagna |  Tonelli Design
Side table Updown | Tonelli Design

What did you learn from your father, Massimo Castagna, and what do you feel you can teach him?

I learned work ethic from my father. Before starting my business I spent years in the office with him, years during which I was never given anything for free: I still remember the first day I set foot in the studio, I was made available to one of my colleague who dealt with Interior Design and I worked under him for months, before earning the opportunity to carry out a part of the project on my own and review it directly with my father, without going through someone who acted as an intermediary.

So yes, if there is one thing he taught me it is definitely this: that in life no one gives you anything and that, if you want something, you have to believe in it, bend over backwards and go get it because no one will do it for you. Working with him I learned to make do and fight my battles alone. If I had to teach him something, I would probably teach him to look at the world from another perspective: he belongs to a very different generation from mine, a generation of rigid models, “standard” mental schemes in which projects could only be carried out in a given way, the only one that is still correct for him.

Today, however, the world changes and evolves at an impressive speed, there are no “standard” schemes and I believe it is important to have a 360-degree vision, flexible and predisposed to change, otherwise we remain perpetually anchored to the past and do not evolve or improve.

Pedretti Home Fòc Fire Table

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