On the occasion of "Twelve", designed by Alessandro Mendini and produced by Riva 1920, we had a chat with Maurizio Riva, who manages the firm together with his siblings.

Riva is a very active firm, with many ideas and important commissions. Where does this desire to create come from? And how do you try to pass it on to the people who work for you?

I think that every human being, if he or she has the good fortune of being healthy, has the right and the duty to go out and work, and through his or her professional engagement, to leave a positive trace in life, above all with future generations in mind.

In your collections, you give a great deal of attention to materials: you use wood that has already been used, for example. Why?

We are woodworkers and true woodworkers work with real wood. We decided on used wood because, through its rebirth, wood is given another life, and wood is a precious material that nature makes a great effort to give us.

What binds our craftsmen together is a very close relationship of great faith and mutual esteem, which enables us to grow together and to work seriously and passionately every day, creating healthy, natural products to pass on through time.

Besides creating your line of furniture, you work in close contact with famous architects. Do professionals seek your experience or do they always know what they want?

Working with great architects and designers on the level of Italo Rota, Paolo Pininfarina and many others has been very exciting for us. Every day spent with them is full-circle research work, comparison, mutual exchange and human and professional growth.

How did you get the idea for "Giulia", the rocking horse designed by Pininfarina?

“Giulia” was born when engineer Paolo Pininfarina was about to become a father. Giulia is his daughter’s name. I, too, as a happy grandfather with two little grandchildren, am very fond of this rocking horse in fragrant Lebanese cedar wood.

What are the two projects at Riva that you are most personally involved in?

One of the projects I think I am most closely linked to, mainly for its symbolic value, is Ground Zero, the initiative that witnessed the production of five tables in kauri wood signed by important designers and then auctioned off so that the profits could be donated to the children of firemen killed in during the attack on the Twin Towers on 11 September 2001. The other project that I was most emotionally involved in is certainly the one where we salvaged pilings from the Venetian Lagoon, better known by the name of Briccole, and so the collection was called “Tra le Briccole di Venezia”, signed by 34 architects and designers of international fame.

You do many social projects – what is the last one you were concerned with?

Our last project with a social purpose was to salvage wood from barrels, with the community of San Patrignano. When I visited the community for the first time, I was struck to the heart, seeing and getting to know all of those lost kids who, through the community, were trying to find their way back again. After visiting the cellars of San Patrignano, where there are barrels that must be substituted every three years, I immediately thought of creating a project where wood could be recycled. So I got over 30 designers and architects involved, and they designed objects that were then created directly by the kids of the community’s carpentry department – by using the wood from their barrels.

Have you set up different competitions that get dealers, curiosity seekers and enthusiasts to talk to each other? What other initiatives do you have in the works?

With the birth of the Circolo del Legno, an association that unites enthusiasts of this precious material, wood, each month we organize conferences and workshops in our Showroom (the Museum of Wood). They revolve around this noble material and all of the possible related themes, through which we can compare and share ideas and impressions. At the same time, we welcome young people and everyone who wants to discover our world through our factories and the “Porte Aperte” (open doors) programme, an initiative that enables people to visit our production units and see our production cycle, from cutting trunks to the end product.

Your Wood Museum is one-of-a-kind: how did this collection come about?

The collection of all of the instruments in our Wood Museum began through the desire to collect everything that our ancestors used during their lifetimes, with the firm objective of preserving and handing our history and our traditions down to future generations.

In your firm, many excellent craftsmen work – what kind of relationship do you have with them? How is their know-how handed down to their apprentices?

What binds our craftsmen together is a very close relationship of great faith and mutual esteem, which enables us to grow together and to work seriously and passionately every day, creating healthy, natural products to pass on through time.