New Geologies

With the Alps as a backdrop, New Geologies is an installation of outdoor furniture that celebrates Milan’s regional landscape through explorations in reclaimed stone and aluminum.

New Geologies was inspired by Luigi Ghirri’s photographic idea of ‘New Geographies’. Through his work he sought to “suggest or point out a possible itinerary through the outside world, which seemed to [him] ever more blurry, indestructible and incomprehensible — a boundless kingdom of analogy and fragmentation”.

The collection is built around natural stone pieces that have been shaped over thousands of years, making the design process an exercise in adaptation.

For this collection, stone material is sourced from a small valley at the foot of the Italian alps 100 km north of Villa Bagatti Valsecchi. The collection uses natural boulders that are found and collected from fields or riverbeds rather than extracted from a quarry. These pieces, often referred to as ‘trovanti’, can be a mix of metamorphic rock, granite, and sedimentary rock. Although ‘trovanti’ are found in the same region, their origin and composition can be unique and significantly distinct from each other. Since we are working with natural pieces of stone that have been shaped over thousands of years the design process has become an exercise in adaptation. The aesthetic parameters are set by the stone itself, and the intention was to delicately manipulate the material to maintain and display its essence and history. 

New Geologies challenges our typical design process and pushes us to create an experience that is both in conversation with and distinct from the ground. We are pushing ourselves to be almost austere in our treatment of each stone element—what are the essential cuts that unearth some hidden quality of each ‘trovanti’; how can the idea of a pedestal be reinterpreted through aluminum scaffolding to both lift the monolithic pieces off the ground and by virtue of that separation create a new and intriguing dialogue between site and object, material and landscape.

Surfacedesign uses stone of all types and finishes as horizontal and vertical surfaces as well as more sculptural elements. We play with finishing of stone to reflect light, create texture and shadow and depth to a garden. Stone is the literal and metaphorical link from the regional landscape to our site and back to the pieces themselves.

One of the key features of this collection is the minimal material transformation from its raw state. The ‘trovanti’ are sliced on one end to reveal a functional surface and delicately notched on the opposite end to receive the aluminum assembly. Instead of hand-carving the stone to match a predefined design we are selectively choosing the boulder, identifying which side will be expressed in its natural form, and cutting angles of each of the pieces. It became a process of exploration and adaptation. No mechanical attachment is used to assemble the final pieces.

The pieces in this capsule collection are the expression of the unexpected contrast between an ancient material in its most elemental form and a highly engineered contemporary material. These are wild objects with their own personality and aesthetic and there will always be an element of surprise.

New Geologies

Design Company: Surfacedesign

Lead Designer: Damaso Mayer

Design Partner: Roderick Wyllie

Principal: Michal Kapitulnik

Stone Supplier & Fabricator: Sacco Natural Stone SRL

Aluminum Fabricator: Power Jet AG

Photographer: Alex Lesage

About Damian Holmes 3339 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at