the video conversation with enzo mari that you see in this article (here we are in 2015) probably was the last time I photographed him.


enzo mari: those who start producing today actually make shit.
to make shit you have to eat shit.


birgit lohmann: why is the situation like this?
EM: because, what I thought in my life and I dedicated 50% of my life working on was a plan to ensure that the world would not arrive at what it is today. I imagined the most extraordinary situations, I projected them a thousand years ahead. I knew the world was degrading. I knew the mechanisms of money very well.

I did things that some know, like you, and not because I wanted to do design. when I was young, I did not even know the word ‘design’. I remember that I went on for ten or twenty years, I called it a ‘project’ and then I realized, twenty or thirty years ago, that this system must be accepted.


BL: is there no more hope for radical design?


BL: can you give advice to young people – what to do?
EM: it is very difficult. it is very difficult to TALK.
my wife, who is an intelligent woman, totally despises all design. even what I did.


you and me, we speak as if we had met by chance on a train. I don’t know, because I’ve known you for many years… we speak as if for the first time. my wife always tells me – don’t TALK to people – and advises me to adapt. earlier, I imposed it to myself, I disagreed, but then I realized and I comforted myself that she is completely right. it is not possible to TALK. the problem is that being able to question the general system means a very tiring job and – ten or twenty years ago, I had calculated… I was talking to someone. sometimes there was someone who seemed to understand a little more and I calculated again… based on the experiences, seeing what they did. some of the young people that I met in my studio, in some form, behave very dignified. dignified, but like an eight-year-old child.


20 years, earlier,
in 1994, in one of our monthly travels to and from berlin, endlessly waiting at tegel airport for departure, I proposed enzo mari this fashionable parlor game with a formulaic set of queries: stupid questions for ingenious answers.


every FAZ reader knows what I’m talking about when it comes to the questionnaire which the french essayist and novelist marcel proust filled out three times in his life. he believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature. since the 1980s, for decades, a slightly adapted list was an integral part of the weekly frankfurter allgemeine magazin.


happy birthday enzo mari! a video conversation and proust questionnaire designboom

enzo mari

video and photos by birgit lohmann, 2015



enzo mari was born on april 27, 1932.
here are mari’s answers to the proust questionnaire (1994) I proposed to him.




1) your biggest disappointment?

non mi viene in mente nessun evento negativo in particolare.

I can’t think of any negative event in particular.



2) where would you like to live?

in una città grande sul mare con clima temperato.

in a large city on the sea with a temperate climate.



3) what is your idea of perfect happiness?

in un mondo circondato dall’acqua essere delegato a costruire le barche.

in a world surrounded by water being delegated to build boats.



4) what faults are you most likely to excuse?

quelli in buona fede.

acts in good faith.



5) your favorite novel heroes?

robinson crusoe.



6) who is your favorite historical character?





7) your heroines in real life?

birgit (lohmann).



8) your favorite heroines in fiction?

non mi viene in mente nessuna.

no one comes to mind.



9) your favorite painters?

piero della francesca.



10) your favorite composers?

(johann sebastian) bach.



11) the quality you most value in a man?

alta sopportazione del dolore.

high tolerance for pain.



12) the quality you most value in a woman?





13) your favorite virtue?





14) your favorite occupation?

fare l’amore con la persona che amo.

make love to the person I love.



15) who or what would you have liked to be?

jacque cousteau.



16) what is your most marked characteristic?

forza d’animo.




17) what do you most value in your friends?

sincerità e allegria.

sincerity and cheerfulness.



18) your idea of misery?

vivere in un mondo di sogni, di bugie.

to live in a world of dreams, living a lie.



19) your dream of contentedness?

non annoiarsi.

to not be bored.



20) what would be your biggest misfortune?

avere a che fare tutto il giorno con le persone stupide.

dealing with stupid people all day.



21) if not yourself, what would you have liked to be?


an astronomer.



22) your favorite color?





23) your favorite flower?





24) your favorite bird?

colombo in salmì.

pigeon in salmi’.



25) your favorite prose authors?

(gustave) flaubert.



26) your favorite poets?

(jacques) prévert.



27) your favorite heroes in real life?

non mi viene in mente nessuno.

no one comes to mind.



28) who are your heroines in history?

non mi viene in mente nessuna.

no one comes to mind.



29) what are your favorite names?

tutti, quando sono appropriati.

all of them, when appropriate.



30) what is it that you most dislike?





31) what characters in history do you most dislike?

(benito) mussolini.



32) what military performance do you admire the most?

gli indiani contro generale custer.

the indians against general custer.



33) which reform do you admire the most?

alle donne fu concesso il diritto di voto.

women were granted the right to vote.



34) the natural gift you would like to have?





35) how would you like to die?

mentre faccio l’amore.

while I make love.



36) what is your present state of mind?





37) your favorite motto?

meglio fare poche cose bene.

better to do a few things well.



happy birthday enzo mari! a video conversation and proust questionnaire designboom


in 1999, when we started designboom we remembered this questionnaire, and made up our own set of questions that we adopted over 10 years. there were NO other online magazines yet (there was no money to make :-), very few people had a computer at home) and no publishing software available. google search engine also just started. 

in fact we had to learn coding. unfortunately, when we, much later, switched to work on wordpress, most of our historic archive material got ‘dismantled’. we also celebrate a birthday, 20 years of designboom, and are still in lockdown in milan. there is a bit of extra time now and I will try to recover some of them.


about the proust questionnaire


in 2018, at the ‘salon du livre’, the antiquarian book fair in the grand palais in paris, a square-format booklet entitled ‘mes confidences’ has been presented, in which on june 25, 1887, marcel proust filled out by hand a list of thirty pre-printed personal questions. fifteen days before his sixteenth birthday.


a few months later, on september 4, 1887, antoinette faure, the daughter of the future french president félix faure, asked her childhood friend to fill out an album to record thoughts, feelings… in a book titled ‘confessions’. the original manuscript – the so far earliest known questionnaire – was uncovered in 1924, two years after the writer’s death.


proust completed another such questionnaire, during or shortly after his military service in 1889/90. proust’s questionnaires have had a far-reaching influence that their young author could scarcely have foreseen, becoming, over time, the template for one of the most widely administered personality quizzes in history. by the 1950s, versions of the questionnaire began to appear regularly in upmarket european and american magazines.