The Pillow as Companion

Article excerpt

A cure for loneliness from a couple of romantics.

Francesca Lanzavecchia, a doctor's daughter from Italy, and Hunn Wai, the son of a Malaysian engineer, fell in love while they were grad students at the rigorous Design Academy in Eindhoven in the Netherlands. Could that be why some of the best objects produced by their firm still have a romantic side that's rare in cutting-edge design? Lanzavecchia+Wai's Lightmate is a body-size pillow, shaped like a cloud, or maybe a puddle, that emits a gentle glow and delicate heat as you hug it. It was born as a student project by Lanzavecchia, when the new arrival in Holland "still felt very little and tiny and lonely" and wanted to make "a project to alleviate loneliness--filling the gap left by another's absence."

After graduating, the two designers replaced their romance with a creative collaboration, but they still aim to make objects that are "intimate to the human body and mind," as Lanzavecchia puts it, Skyping from their studio in Pavia, near Milan. Wai, on the line from their office in Singapore--this boutique firm spans the globe--holds up an iPhone as an example of the kind of "cold" object he was first trained to make, in industrial design at the University of Singapore. It's basically a box for electronic components that you sex up with a gloss of design, he says. "The thing that is the furthest possible from me is this perfection, this chrome," says Lanzavecchia, who is 29. …