May 22, 2013

Ones to Watch: Acqua Aalta

The artistic work and design that Venice inspires is as varied as the city itself.

Giorgia Zanellato


Daniele Bortotto

’s most recent project takes its name from the Italian words for the city’s “high water” days:

Acqua Alta

. “There is a strange phenomenon in the city of Venice where the water rises up and covers the city,” says Zanellato. “We wanted to start from this problem and create something beautiful.”

For the two friends, who met while obtaining their master’s degrees at Switzerland’s

École Cantonale d’Art de Lausanne

, the project celebrates Venice’s cultural and historic heritage and well-kept trade secrets that have long allowed it to produce a wealth of treasured handicraft.

“This collection relates to our past work in terms of relations with craftsmen and companies, and the way every idea and object is born and grows with the support of someone with a knowledge in a specific field,” says Bortotto.

Displayed in

Salone Satellite

alongside the new collection, the designers’ photographs offer a glimpse of Venice through their eyes. Water affects almost every exterior surface, imparting mineral deposits in places, or algae and watermarks in others. Local manufacturing techniques capture these visions in silk, wool, fragrance and stone.

Zanellato Bortotto
The pair’s textile collection, titled

I Sestrieri

after Venice’s six main districts, recreate colors and textures that appear over time on plaster and marble due to the corrosive effects of the city’s salty water. The designers developed the collection—which they hope to apply to furniture sometime soon—with Venetian furniture manufacturer



A rug called

La Giudecca

, the name of an island in the Venetian lagoon, was similarly inspired by moss-covered steps leading from the water to the city streets. Like the rug, the

La Salina

marble table lamp calls to mind the textures created by salt water meeting land. The piece is machined by hand in a technique the designers developed with Venetian craftsman

Ermenegildo Sartori


The designers did not stop at visual references.


, a hand-blown glass container based on the shape of Venice’s wooden


, posts that help boats safely navigate the city’s canals, contains a customized fragrance created with perfumer

Lorenzo Dante Ferro

that conjures the flora and salinity of the lagoon.

Poised to develop the collection further, Zanellato and Bortotto are beginning new experiments in textured ceramics, and are also ready to find inspiration in other cities. “We need to travel and discover new things,” says Bortotto. “We’ve lived between Switzerland and Italy for the last three years. It’s just the starting point of a long journey.”


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