He always gives answers in different shades and never in black or white, although these are the colors of his favorite team for which he occasionally takes a plane and returns to Italy to see her play. In Gaydon, Massimo Frascella has been managing the Land Rover style center since November 2020, where he arrived in 2011. 51 years old in July, studies at the Institute of Applied Art and Design (Iaad) in Turin after having put aside mechanical engineering in Pisa because numbers (he claims) did not make for him, a start at Bertone, then in America at Ford and Kia, then the English call of the design guru Gerry McGovern, today global head of the style of Jaguar Land Rover. A group and two royally very British brands for which the new mission, CEO Thierry Bolloré said first, is to reinterpret the future of modern luxury with design. Beyond electrification.
You have just presented the third generation of the Range Rover Sport, last year the fifth of the Range Rover, in 2019 the first heir to an icon such as the Land Rover Defender. For all these models, his narrative points to a modernism applied to car design. How do you understand it?
It is modernism intended as a reduction of all that is superfluous. A search for sophistication by eliminating unnecessary elements. We need a design based on purity, which is enhanced by a few but important elements, which give a sign of distinction and longevity. It is not easy of course: ensuring longevity also means not following the fashion of the moment. Leonardo said that simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication. And this encompasses our thinking. One can imagine that a simple design is easier because there are fewer elements, but this is not the case. Because those few must be perfect and have meaning. At the level of execution, achieving purity in design requires rigor and discipline. A difficult approach, as it is to give character with few elements. And when inside the style center we reason with my team, we are aware that if you raise, raise and lower, there is always the risk that you will have little left and that little may not have character.
Is there a relationship between Defender and Range?
They have only one thing in common, that of being two special cars for feeling. The concept of “modern luxury” on the Defender is very different, it is more industrial. However, we internally, when we work on these products, imagine a customer who can have both.
The Range Rover in 1970 invented a genre, the Range Rover Evoque did the same in 2011. Can it still be invented?
It has to be invented. It’s like in music: there are always seven notes, you can’t invent another one but another melody can. In design, the elements are the same: something new is created for how they are harmonized and used. Because there is also a concept behind it, it’s not just about giving shape to style.
What trends do you see in car design?
I have to look but I don’t do it too much, and unfortunately sometimes I also see things that I didn’t want to see (but no names, ed). There is a saturation of certain styles, used and reused for at least fifteen years, so much so that a certain design has almost stopped. Only now is there a return to something more refined and at the same time simpler and more modern. I hope there is more and more: beautiful design enriches everyone’s life to give that emotion that makes humanity progress.
Will we die subsided?
(Smiles) No, I don’t think we’re going to die. That said, there is still something about an SUV that other cars don’t have, starting with that feeling of safety and being able to go anywhere. But since human interest does not change on an emotional level, I can imagine that there will still be less pragmatic, less functional, more irrational, perhaps niche vehicles. Yes, we will not all be survived.
For a car designer, being Italian still has a specific weight, as it was in the twentieth century?
I think yes. These are things that remain in the collective imagination like made in Italy, even if they are sometimes commonplaces. Nor is it true that all Italian designers are good, but on average they have a sensitivity that they do not have in other countries. The truth is that in a globalized world there are more and more globalized skills and being Italian is perhaps still a romantic aspect.
What books should a car designer read?
Good question. In my opinion, he doesn’t have to read a lot, on the contrary: based on my experience, I would suggest not to read car books. I started looking at cars late, at 18, then I went to Bertone, a sanctuary of Italian car history and there I heard discussions of Testudo and other models, I didn’t even know what we were talking about, it was embarrassing. Here: I would recommend any kind of reading that opens the mind.