Jul 4, 2014

iSaloni Milestones. 1972, Drocco and Mello for Gufram

16. A cactus-guframCactus. A clothes rack in theory, an icon in fact.

An intellectual object which seamlessly connects the refined surrealism of the Torinese radicals of the ’70s to that more widespread form of surrealism, American Pop.

A cactus without thorns, essentially. Artificial nature for planting in haute bourgeois homes.

Rarely used as a functional object, it has become so famous as to have obscured the names of its creators, Guido Drocco and Franco Mello, two very serious designers.

Produced in a limited edition, originally in emerald green, it has been continually updated in new and extremely expensive variations. And like all symbols, it is absolutely inimitable.

Jul 1, 2014

iSaloni Interviews. Johanna Grawunder

0.-Johanna-GrawunderJohanna Grawunder is inquestionably the most original American designer working on the international scene. Born in San Diego, California in 1961, she graduated in Architecture from Florence and joined the studio of Ettore Sottsass. This experience, from 1985-2001, would be long and fundamental for her. In 2001 she went back to the States, to San Francisco, where she continues to design for some of the top Italian manufacturers (e.g. Flos, Glas and Boffi) as well as for important galleries. She is also active in the fields of architecture, interior architecture and installations.

What was your most memorable experience of the Saloni? An encounter, an event, or simply an impression.

The week of the Salone is a time of pure optimism. Everyone showing the fruits of a year of work. Everyone discussing and thinking about the future of design. Sometimes in a positive light, other times negative. But apart from the design exhibitions and products presented, for me the Salone is a clarification of the state of the discipline: for a few days, there’s a freeze frame between the current state of design and what we want it to become.

The 5 most important pieces in the 2014 edition? You can include one of your own.

Patrizia Urquiola, Shimmer side table for Glas. Simple form, beautiful dichroic effect on the glass.

Philippe Starck, Masters chair for Kartell. Bling and glam.

Konstantin Grcic, the installation for FLOS in Corso Monforte at the Fuori Salone. Beautiful vision of a future where everything works, where everything is well designed. Suddenly our planet seems healthy and there’s no sign of the usual negative vision. If only it were so!

Just 3 pieces… but obviously I also liked my own Crack tables for Glas. The technological possibilities of this company are always magical.


Interesting places relative to design, architecture or interiors in your home city, or in other cities particularly dear to you?

San Francisco – Una pizza napoletana (11th Street): very theatrical, with a wood oven clad in gold mosaic in the middle of a big industrial loft. A spotlight hits the oven and that’s it, just simple tables around it. And the pizza is delicious.

San Francisco – The Dzine showroom (Utah Street): extremely well curated, always elegant, it features mostly Italian design, not just production pieces but also lots of one-offs.

San Francisco – The Blue Bottle Coffee (Broadway – Oakland, Bay Area): a large open space with the barista and the technology of the coffee machines in full view, situated in an old car showroom with a glass façade and really high ceilings. Very little separation from the customer. Seating around an immense round table or at a high bar. A very special place, an instant classic.

Jun 30, 2014

iSaloni Milestones. 1966, Richard Schultz for Knoll International

2.-knoll1966. The collection that marked the destiny of outdoor furniture.

In the world of furniture design it is usually difficult to trace exact paternities.

With outdoor, however, it’s different. This sector has undergone incredible evolutions in the past decade, and its father is certain – yet in the end not very well known. We’re talking about American designer Richard Schultz, born in 1926.

Richard started working for Knoll in 1951, collaborating with the famous Harry Bertoia, and in 1966 designed an outdoor collection that would change the destiny of this product category: ‘1966’, a series that takes its name from the year of its creation.

Metal profiles, rigorously white and skeletal, of seats in netting, and where necessary consummately elegant wheels combine to form a timeless icon, liberating outdoor furniture, with a single product, from the slavery of the Victorian bench, garden gnomes and wicker.

It’s impossible to imagine the recent outdoor projects of Jasper Morrison for Kettal, of Antonio Citterio for B&B Italia, of Van Duysen for Tribù without citing the work of Richard Schultz.

Jun 23, 2014

iSaloni News. Francesca Molteni and Davide Pizzigoni win the PIDA DESIGN PRIZE 2014

0.-vincitoriThe two curators of the multimedia exhibition ‘Where architects live‘ are the winners of the award given by the jury of PIDA (Ischia International Architecture Prize) for significant contributions to the world of design.

The installation was presented at the Salone del Mobile 2014: the private rooms of eight of the world’s most authoritative exponents of international architecture were opened to the public in an examination of the culture of habitation through videos, images, sounds, accounts and live reenactments.

Shigeru Ban, Mario Bellini, David Chipperfield, Massimiliano e Doriana Fuksas, Zaha Hadid, Marcio Kogan, Daniel Libeskind and Studio Mumbai/Bijoy Jain espoused their conceptions of domestic space, revealing their methods, obsessions and visions.


Good work should always be rewarded, so congratulations to all for a job well done!




Jun 19, 2014

iSaloni. Design meets football

On the occasion of the 2014 World Cup, 10 young Italian designers, led by Giulio Iacchetti and Francesca Molteni under the supervision of Raffaella Pollini/Diomedea, were asked to reinterpret the Super Santos, the ball that kids of every age have always imagined kicking in for the win.

Which is your favorite? Vote by ‘liking’ it in the album.



Choose your champion. May the best ball win!

Jun 11, 2014

iSaloni Milestones. 1977, Vico Magistretti for Oluce

14. atolloThe Atollo lamp. An icon of Italian design

One of those rare products that everyone calls by name, like the Superleggera, the Arco, the 500, the Bialetti, the Sacco. There’s no need to specify chair, floor lamp, car, coffee maker, armchair.

What is the secret of Atollo? Undoubtedly its constructive principle of overlapping simple geometric forms: cone over cylinder, topped by a semi-sphere.

Nothing to add, nothing to subtract: a simplicity from an elementary school workbook, which in the hands of Magistretti, becomes an incomparable masterpiece of balance.

Jun 5, 2014

iSaloni. Italian design beyond the crises

At the beginning of April, in a moment of great ferment and tension as the Salone del Mobile di Milano approached, the 7th edition of the Museum of Design opened at the Triennale. An impeccable exhibition to which we must now return with an in-depth critical reflection.

As you know, each year the Museum of Design proposes a different reading of our design history. This subterfuge, difficult for foreign visitors to understand, nevertheless makes it possible to resolve the age-old problem of space, since the Triennale building cannot, by vocation, be transformed into a permanent museum.


Parting from this premise, what are the features that make this particular edition exceptional? First of all, the particularly felicitous curatorial efforts of Beppe Finessi with the help of Cristina Miglio. Which is not to subtract anything from previous editions, whose curators brought their own ‘particularity’: for the first two, Andrea Branzi, critic with a vision of a wide swath of our design history; for the third, Alessandro Mendini, great master endowed with a sophisticatedly interlocutory approach (Which things are we? is the psychoanalytical query at the core of his presentation); for the fourth, Alberto Alessi, captain of industry, in whose judgment industries become dream factories); for the fifth, Camuffo-Piazza-Vinti in search of the graphic soul of Italian design; and for the sixth, Pierluigi Nicolin, architect and critic wrestling with the uncertain contagions of the syndrome of influence.

Unlike his predecessors, Finessi addresses the Museum by coherently constructing a theme and its inherent limits starting with a specific thesis: crises represent not only moments of difficulty, but also extraordinary opportunities for redemption. In the history of Italian design, there are three emblematic periods that he identifies and dissects: the end of the 1930s with autarchy, the early ‘70s with austerity and the most recent decade of the new millennium with auto-production.

2.-blogAUtarchy, AUsterity, AUto-production share the prefix AU, alchemical symbol for gold and symbolic confirmation of the curator’s thesis. Within these three historical moments, and without any political judgments, Finessi presents pieces that are fascinating and above all subtle. Nothing is old hat, nothing ‘visually worn out’. Even experts in the field stop in astonishment before the string of names like Anita Pittoni, Gegia Bronzini, Bice Lazzari, Antonia Campi, Renata Bonfanti, Fede Cheti, Rossana Bianchi Piccoli (lots of women, significantly), Eugenio Tavolara, Roberto Mango. And when one gets to better known figures, they are presented with ‘lateral’ attention: pieces in papier-mâché and enameled copper by Gio Ponti, ceramics and sheet metal designs by Ettore Sottsass, thereby counteracting that ‘globalization of knowledge’ that every museum in the world now proposes, from East to West, North to South, showing the same paintings, the same objects.

With equal confidence, Finessi approaches the current crisis, where alchemy has not yet done its work and nothing, for now, has been tranformed into gold (Au), by respectfully and attentively presenting several Italian designers of indubitable talent: Ulian, Damiani, Paruccini, Adami, Contin, Gamper, Iacchetti, authentic ‘new masters’ sometimes scarcely considered by industry.

So where, then, is ‘the problem‘, if indeed we must necessarily find one? Perhaps in the originary conception that assembles under the by now too wide umbrella of design, industrial production, decorative arts, handcrafts, bricolage, even the so-called ‘feminine arts’. A potential philosophical ‘weakness’ that becomes a strength in the hands of the curator and his team (Cristina Miglio, Matteo Pirola and Annalisa Ubaldi), but which seems to reject the idea of design as a democratic, egalitarian enterprise, the ‘popular art of the new millennium’, as Giulio Carlo Argan short-sightedly defined it.

Marco Romanelli

Italian design beyond the crises
Autarchy, austerity, autonomy
Triennale di Milano
Until 22 February 2015

Jun 3, 2014

iSaloni Milestones. 1986, Michele De Lucchi and Giancarlo Fassina for Artemide

tolomeoTolomeo. Probably the most widely used ‘design’ lamp in the world. 

In the mid-1980s, De Lucchi and Fassina accomplished a veritable ‘mission impossible’: design a tabletop ‘task lamp’ (the proper name of the product category) where past and future are perfectly integrated, where memory – the model for which is certainly the ‘L1‘ designed by Jacobsen in 1937 – and technology (i.e. the ‘tensostructure’ that keeps the arms balanced) achieve a rare state of equilibrium.

Tolomeo instantly became an icon for many, because it exemplifies the founding principles of design, an object whose form and function coincide perfectly (a principle which may be obsolete, but why not point it out when we see it?), and above all a democratic object.

May 29, 2014

iSaloni. Let us raise a hand to heaven

Massimo Vignelli died in New York on Tuesday 27th May


Anyone who has travelled on the New York subway clutching a map by Massimo Vignelli should raise a hand. Anyone who has followed a sophisticated ‘red line’ through the pavilions at the Salone del Mobile in Milan should raise a hand. Anyone who has flown American Airlines, shopped at Bloomingdales or Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York or Benetton, for that matter, anyone who has consulted a graphic programme at the Piccolo Teatro di Milano or leafed through a Knoll catalogue, anyone who has read a Feltrinelli essay (Economic theory and the underdeveloped countries, perhaps), anyone who has sat on masterpieces such as the Saratoga sofa for Poltronova or the Interview chair for Poltrona Frau – all these people should raise a hand to heaven today to salute and thank Massimo Vignelli.

Massimo Vignelli died on 27th May 2014 in his beloved New York, a city of which he, Italian to the core, had become an incontrovertible icon. Massimo and Lella were very young when they took New York by storm (I always thought they must have got there on their Vespa, the one they climbed onto immediately after their wedding, waving at everybody – Ed.). Massimo and Lella, dark and beautiful then, and still beautiful now, proudly white-haired. Massimo and Lella conquered the world together, without firing a single bazooka, without raising their voices (other than Lella’s resounding laugh), without offending anyone, quite the reverse…


In fact, the louder the world became during the ‘80s and ‘90s, the more perfect and controlled Massimo’s style became, the wider the bourgeoisie wore their ties and their shoulder-pads, the more monkish Massimo’s fashion designs became, the more aggressive communication became, the more Massimo revered Bodoni, Helvetica and Warm Red, the colour he chose in 1994 for the Salone.

Massimo reiterated certain basic criteria, fundamental rules which he put together in The Vignelli Canon. He was convinced that this was all that was needed to build a better world: Design is one!

Let us repeat some of Massimo’s mantras together today, promising to try and adhere to these sacrosanct principles throughout the mundane confusion of our daily lives:

‘We believe in discipline as the pursuit of structural integrity, appropriateness as the search for the plurality of meanings…

We believe that the interaction between different experiences enriches the mind…

We strongly believe in the social responsibility of the designer…

We also believe that in design where there are dogmas, there is no more design.’

1. agenda

M. R.

Photo credits of the first pic:  Vignelli, Rizzoli, New York, 1990
Photo credits of the third pic:  Massimo Vignelli was awarded by the Compasso d’Oro in 1998 with the corporate image of Cosmit.

May 27, 2014

iSaloni Interviews. Jörg Boner

jörg-600-313Jörg Boner is one of the most interesting and autonomous voices in Swiss design, and design in general. His work, far from the stereotypes of fashionable design, places him at the center of the international debate. Born in 1968 in Uster, he trained as a woodworker before studying design at the Schule fur Gestaltung in Basel. After collaborating with the collective N2, in 2001 he opened his own studio in Zurich. His work is characterized by great attention to modeling by hand, which leads to a rare balance between form and new technologies. Since 2002 he has been teaching at ECAL in Lausanne. He has designed for ClassiCon, COR, FontanaArte, Louis Poulsen, Normann Copenhagen, Wittmann and others. A number of his pieces are in the Swiss national collection at the Zurich Design Museum. His pof 1 chair is in the permanent collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

What was your most memorable experience of the Saloni? An encounter, an event, or simply an impression.

To go to the Salone is always a highlight for me. It is this very good moment in the season which makes it so special. April to me as a Swiss designer is the best moment to go to Milan. Often, coming from Zurich, I pass the Alps, which at that time are mostly still snow covered. It is one of the last winter greetings. Down in Milan it is often the first impression of spring time. And spring time in Milan is one of the most beautiful seasons. This feeling holds me during the whole Salone. And it is impossible to top it. Only Milan has this opportunity. I have known the Salone for more than 20 years now and it has never changed. Even when the economy is under pressure, it is always able to provide hope and a little bit of the ‘dolce vita’ feeling that we from the north just know from Italian movies. I really enjoyed the small but excellent exhibition by Morrison, Olivares & Velardi, called Source Material. What impressed me most, was the charming and warm opening evening, the high quality of the publication which accompanied the exhibition, and the exhibition itself. With not a lot of money in a small, beautiful space the 3 curators did their best. It was so nice to see that even with a relatively small budget you can really accomplish something. It was the quality that impressed me. And also subjectivity as a concept was great.

The 5 most important pieces in the 2014 edition? You can include one of your own.

Ronan&Erwan Bouroullec, Uncino chairs for Mattiazzi. They were great. Also here the same recipe: no market research, no analysis. The products just looked like fun and passion. And in the end that is what will move us forward. All you need is the pact between the manufacturer and the designer. I had the feeling that both sides believed in what they did, and that’s more than enough. This is what design is made of. Sometimes we forget completely what design used to be.

Arper and Kristalia are two companies that showed great skill and knowledge with respect to chairs. It’s great to see young companies on the horizon!

Lina Bo Bardi, re-edition of Bardi’s Bowl for Arper

Lievore Altherr Molina, Colina collection for Arper

Neuland Industriaedesign, the Elephant Rocking chair for Kristalia.

Jörg Boner – yes, I would like to cite my own work: the Oyster collection of leather furniture I did for Wittmann. My approach to this first collaborative project with Wittmann was characterized by respect and diligence. I studied Austrian design in detail and took various cues from the Wittmann collection, without losing sight of the wider context of international design history. The outcome is an unusual piece of furniture available in three different sizes. It communicates its tradition of handcraftsmanship and legendary quality, conveying a contemporary and individualistic impression through its bold appearance


Interesting places relative to design, architecture or interiors in your home city, or in other cities particularly dear to you?

Zurich – The Bord shop
Zurich – The Edition Populaire shop
Zurich – The new store of the Viu eyewear brand
Zurich – The Lullin and Ferrari art gallery
Zurich –  The Rietberg Museum, the most beautiful place in the city

A young designer who you think might soon become a major figure at the Salone? Curriculum, a comment and 3 products.

Hrm, very hard to choose just one… I guess we had a few really interesting young designer’s at ECAL, and I’m sure they’ll be talked about in the near future. Among them: Camille Blin (Oyster Experiment), Carlo Clopath (Cristalin), Charlotte Talbot (Node), Julie Richoz (Vases Oreilles), Lucas Uhlmann (Wood), Christian Spiess (Norm).


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