Bridging cultures through Lighting Design: Francesco Sani’s journey

An architect and light designer with a passion for light, owner of Sani+partners studio, he has been involved in promoting Made in Italy for years. Between China and Africa, through collections and interior projects, light design remains his favorite key discipline

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China was the first significant foreign step he took, first being called as a designer and then also as a lighting design teacher. Francesco Sani, a lively young Tuscan, didn’t hold back; rather, he drew numerous collaborations from his Asian experience, and his suitcase is always packed.

Recently, you’ve also worked in Africa, a context very different from China. What was it like working in these two places, both from a human and professional perspective?

“In China, everything happens at a breakneck speed, whereas in Africa, especially the preliminary discussions with clients, take an incredibly long time. It’s undoubtedly a cultural matter and not just about the working methodology. China is now accustomed to the idea of a project, and when we talk to a client, for instance, they already know what they want and understand the value of our work. In Africa, our current effort, especially during this initial phase in the market, is to “educate” our clients to understand the added value a good project can bring, especially in the world of interior design. 

1. Rondo lamp for Lip

The differences in how work is organized are also vast. In China, I woke up in Shanghai, had a business meeting in Hong Kong, and then dined with clients in Shenzhen. In Africa, you wake up in the morning waiting to find out if and when a previously confirmed appointment will take place, only to often find out it won’t. Having said that, the thrill of feeling like pioneers, and working in beautiful places with such diverse people is very stimulating. Personally, the only downside is the personal relationship which, in both markets, isn’t easy. In China, you’re “revered” as an honoured guest from the first contact with the client until the project ends, a relationship that dissipates after the job’s completion. In Africa, the attitude is very different from the start. Everyone is very suspicious, and it’s not easy to build relationships that stand the test of time. Of course, one can’t generalize; nevertheless, all these experiences enrich my background.”

2. Gong Collection for Ellequattro Illuminazione

In a successful interior project, how much of the success can be attributed to the right lighting design?

“Maybe because I started my career as a lighting product designer and thus have a somewhat “biased” design approach, for me, light is fundamental to every project: be it architectural or especially interior design. Light is part of the project and not just an element that highlights the shapes or materials used. 

I usually conceive my projects as a mix of three elements: geometries, materials, and light. It’s only the correct combination of these three elements that create a perfect project. And for us, who often work abroad, the light component is often our saving grace when we can’t find quality materials or can’t create captivating geometries.”

3. SECCO - Prosecco bar and restaurant (first of the chain) Pistoia (PT), Italia 2019

What are your immediate plans?

“Right now, I can officially announce the opening of a new office in Shenzhen in collaboration with a significant local design and construction company. This new partnership allows us to handle large projects (shopping centres and hotels) “from the front door”, thanks to the support of one of the biggest players in southern China.”

4. SPLEG - Shiling leather and leather bag store - Guangzhou, Guangdong, Cina 2017

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