23 giugno 2022
by Ilaria Conti

Form. Feature. Ferrari

Flavio Manzoni, Head of Centro Stile Ferrari - Picture by Ferrari Spa
Flavio Manzoni, Head of Centro Stile Ferrari - Picture by Ferrari Spa

Conveying an all-Italian passion to the world: challenge, performance, art and even a “touch of poetry.” Everything that is: Ferrari. A racing car, of course, but also an object that encapsulates 'beauty'. This is how it is described by Flavio Manzoni, Chief Design Officer of Ferrari, an architect as kind and frank as his native Sardinia, who with talent and a lot of science designs the cars of people’s dreams. He has been working in Maranello for about ten years and has built - from scratch - the Ferrari style center. The "form" must marry the "function" and the challenge, he says, lies in "revisiting, re-reading and projecting towards the future” the stylistic features of the cars of the past. The project of the new racing cars always starts from a blank sheet and from an idea.

What about the tools of the digital age? They matter, but they are only an aid. Originally from the town of Nuoro, 57 years old, his pencil also sketched the first hybrid version, LaFerrari. Manzoni is convinced that le Rosse are universal but not really for everyone: whoever buys them must not only love the thrill of speed, but must also be an “esthete.” 

Ferrari is a piece of Italy in motion. A great responsibility

Definitely. Each new Ferrari represents the concept of excellence, of beauty, not just of performance. It is always a responsibility and it is a question of transferring this Italian passion, this humanistic approach to the design. And with every new project, there is a sense of responsibility but also of the challenge. The magic of being able to create something new that does not yet exist and that adds a further piece to this incredible evolution of the brand and to this heritage, which is also aesthetic, of the highest level. 

Ferrari is a point of reference. Pininfarina designed some of the most iconic models. Interpreting–anticipating, realizing–the dreams of enthusiasts can’t be easy. 

It is never simple and it is increasingly complicated because, compared to the Ferraris of the past, which were less subject to all the technical, aerodynamic and homologation constraints, now my team and I have the even more difficult task of merging together, in a very organic and coherent vision, a whole series of elements that come into play in the project. We generally start with performance, that is, achieving certain targets and this involves the conception of a cluster of technical solutions that we must then try to interpret with the right form. Form must marry function, but in an artistic way: there must always be that humanistic touch, that touch of poetry that makes Ferrari unique. 

From the drafting machine to the tablet, can technology come at the expense of creativity? 

I started with my father's drafting machine. He was an architect, so my experience started there. Tablets, the programs that exist today for modeling, for example, all the parts that make up a car in 3D are very important tools that help us. But they are tools, nothing more. It is a style development process that is certainly much more accurate than it once was, where the digital is combined with the physical, but what matters is always the idea behind it, the concept. We always start with a blank sheet of paper, with a pencil drawing, a line drawing. 

Each era has its own style. The designs of many Ferraris of the past are still current today. Are they a source of inspiration? 

Certainly, but above all, we must consider that the corpus of cars that make up the very rich Ferrari heritage has created a veritable formal language that is something that my colleagues and I are constantly committed to revisiting, re-interpreting and projecting towards the future. But we start from stylistic features, also from aesthetic aspects that are characteristic of this brand and that must be understood, interpreted and transformed continuously. 

Ferrari is an international brand and a dream employment opportunity for engineers and designers from all over the world. Do you still speak Italian in Maranello? 

Of course we speak Italian, but we also speak a lot of English. Many languages are spoken at the style center, because many of my colleagues come from different countries: there are around 14-15 represented at the center. There is a multi-ethnic team that brings a mixed bag of ideas that are very fruitful on a creative and visionary level. 

Tell me about the Style Center within the Ferrari factory in Maranello 

The Style Center was set up in 2010 when I started at Ferrari. At the beginning, of course, it was me with very few guys; today, we have a full team of staff that is able to work on the entire design chain. We can do anything inside, thanks also to the style center building inaugurated in 2018, located in the center of the Ferrari Campus in Maranello. I had the pleasure, and also the honor, of designing the building together with a group of my closest colleagues, in which we wanted to transfer to architecture the design approach we adopt with the automobile. So it is a product that responds to a whole series of needs from the team operational and functioning point of view, but at the same time communicates to the outside that style involved where there is movement, plasticity of forms, there is that sculptural aspect characteristic of our Ferraris. 

Ferrari belongs to everyone but it certainly cannot be “for everyone”, otherwise it would not be a dream. What is the typical customer in your opinion? 

Ferrari is universal; it is made for people who love not just the thrill of driving, that pleasure and adrenaline that you get by driving the car. For example, the latest 296 GTB: a real go kart, amazing fun to drive; but there is also the aesthetic element. For me, Ferrari customers must also be esthetes. 

Your cars are customizable. Do you satisfy any request from your customers, even the most eccentric ones? 

Fortunately, the customization programs are dedicated to our most passionate customers, to our collectors, so they already have a certain sensitivity towards the aesthetic characteristics of the brand. Sometimes, we get requests that are a bit eccentric, but it is my job and my team's job to guide the customer towards the best choices both for them, but also in compliance with the aesthetic canons of Ferrari. 

A Ferrari is - also - a work of art. It is said that Michelangelo, so impressed by the result of his work, asked the statue of Moses “Why don't you speak !?” Have you ever talked to a Ferrari? With a project? 

Given the due proportions, there is a certain analogy because Michelangelo tried to transfer the beauty of a living body to a piece of marble; it is the same thing for a Ferrari too. This sensuality, this evocative power of form, is something that must be sought continuously. Obviously, many times the difficulties related to the interlocking of all the elements, to reconciling form and function, can also lead to some swearing when the result isn’t forthcoming. But it is always a question of determination and tenacity in the search of excellence. 

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