Interview with designer Serena Zanello (SZ), regarding views on design, and for the award-winning design Solunto Hospitality Design.

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Interview with Serena Zanello at Sunday 17th of April 2016: DI: What is the main principle, idea and inspiration behind your design?
SZ : The main inspirations were coming from the clear brief of the client. He wanted a Mediterranean inspired space and something completely different from the trendy locals and restaurants in little Italy. Our Italian Heritage and a bit of research helped us to create a space where people could experience different flavors and colors of the Mediterranean cuisine: the bakery which offers fresh bread , pastries, coffee and gelato, the Neapolitan Pizza Oven in the center and community tables and wine bar on the other side.

DI: What has been your main focus in designing this work? Especially what did you want to achieve?
SZ : We wanted to step aside from the industrial look of most of the restaurants and bars nowadays. Leave the usual concrete floor, reclaimed wood and hot rolled steel design elements and create something more joyful and colorful using local recycled tills and some unique lighting and furniture from Europe.

DI: What are your future plans for this award winning design?
SZ : My future plan is to get inspired from it, learn from both mistakes and achievement and go to the next project using this valuable package of knowledge.

DI: How long did it take you to design this particular concept?
SZ : The project started over a year ago though. We probably took for the first phase of research/mood and concept about 4 weeks. Construction works probably last 7/8 months.

DI: Why did you design this particular concept? Was this design commissioned or did you decide to pursuit an inspiration?
SZ : The design was commissioned by client Antonino Mastellone who wanted to renovate completely the image of an old and well-known bakery in San Diego. He asked us to design something completely different in the heart of Little Italy, san Diego, inspired by Mediterranean flavors.

DI: Is your design being produced or used by another company, or do you plan to sell or lease the production rights or do you intent to produce your work yourself?
SZ : N/A

DI: What made you design this particular type of work?
SZ : We followed the brief and after analyzing user scenario and competitors we started working on some ideas in order make an outstanding design without following the current trends but thinking ahead and inspire the design community. We also wanted to use local vendors and sustainable materials mixed with some Italian and European Design elements like lighting and chairs.

DI: Where there any other designs and/or designers that helped the influence the design of your work?
SZ : Of course, me and Daniel, my business partner, always work with different professional and friends who continuously validate our design process and help us to get better each time. A thank you note to our Italian Graphic Designer Sara Gori, who helped us to create beautiful wall graphics . My dad who provided all the original Illustrations from his antique books collection and Architect Emanuele Zaniboni for his support and creative mind.

DI: Who is the target customer for his design?
SZ : Solunto has been in the heart of little Italy for over 20 years. Target Customers varies from locAl customers who used to go to the bakery every morning to buy fresh pastries and bread to families, group of friends and tourists.

DI: What sets this design apart from other similar or resembling concepts?
SZ : N/A

DI: How did you come up with the name for this design? What does it mean?
SZ : We kept the original name since the Bakery has been an icon fro years in San Diego County. Solunto was an ancient city of Sicily, one of the three chief Phoenician settlements in the island, situated on the north coast, about 16 kilometres east of Palermo and immediately to the east of the bold promontory called Capo Zafferano. It lay 183 metros above sea level, on the southeast side of Monte Catalfano in a naturally strong situation, and commanding a fine view.

DI: Which design tools did you use when you were working on this project?
SZ : Hand sketches for the first ideas and preliminary concepts. Photoshop and Illustrator to create mood/inspiration boards at the beginning of the design process, then later on to design the brand identity ( logo and collateral material). Rhinoceros 3D to create the 3d model and Key shot for quick renderings.

DI: What is the most unique aspect of your design?
SZ : Decorative Tiles by FireClaytiles, Design elements from Europe like the Terracotta lighting by awarded designer Thomas Houdsen from hand&eyedesignstudio, colored Billiani chairs and custom giant wall graphics made by antique books illustrations. The experience of having bakery, pizza and wine bar in one space is also pretty unique.

DI: Who did you collaborate with for this design? Did you work with people with technical / specialized skills?
SZ : Yes, we work with Architect Perez, San Diego, to prepare all the Construction documents and get permits from the city and various general contractors.

DI: What is the role of technology in this particular design?
SZ : N/A

DI: Is your design influenced by data or analytical research in any way? What kind of research did you conduct for making this design?
SZ : We conducted a complex research of Historical elements of Mediterranean culture, sustainable design materials and local relevances mixed with European furniture who could be used and imported easily in the States

DI: What are some of the challenges you faced during the design/realization of your concept?
SZ : We created original patterns for floor, walls and oven with hundreds of different tiles. The big challenge was designing on paper all the patterns and explain the contractors how to place them. the other challenge was to choose one by one the tiles and customized colors in order to match the concept and be cohesive with the three experiences. for example for the wine bar wall we customized for each tiles all the reds, using a “wine” inspired color. It was a long process but the results were great. The other challenge was to get permits for the new metal facade, and create completely something different.

DI: How did you decide to submit your design to an international design competition?
SZ : We won an honorable mention last year for a furniture design system and we wanted to submit again our latest projects that opened just a couple of weeks before the deadline. We also wanted to validate this project and see if other professionals thought it was a good design.

DI: What did you learn or how did you improve yourself during the designing of this work?
SZ : The biggest challenge is always related to importing furniture or equipments from other countries, so we learned how to plan ahead and work with vendors in order to get everything on time. Sound is something we rarely think off, so acoustical issues and ways to improve the acoustic in the space.