Italy has been the cradle of modern and contemporary design since the beginning of the 20th Century. In the years preceding and immediately after WWI, our industrial design distinguished itself by its focus on replicating intricate details. In those times, the first pieces of furniture design were produced on a mass-scale and the luxury industry made its debut in Rome, Milan and Naples’ shop windows.
The first breed of discerning punters was attracted by the fanciful objects put on sale, thanks to their capacity to maintain the national handcrafting traditions.
In fact, Italy’s best designers have drawn deeply from the extremely rich and diverse culture that makes ours the country with the largest artistic heritage in the world. They have absorbed the lessons of a millennia-long history and skilfully and meticulously translated them into everyday objects, exploiting an innate taste. As a top-end fashion master such as Giorgio Armani once said, “to create something exceptional, your mindset must be relentlessly focused on the smallest detail”.
The successes achieved in the first decades of the last century birthed an industry which flourished for many years and was not entirely disrupted by the catastrophes of WWII. Italian originality became renowned and recognizable mainly in the years of the post-war economic boom, when “made-in-Italy” products flooded markets in Europe and overseas. In the 1950s and 60s industrial objects became a symbol of the new reawakening period Italy was experiencing to the extent that some iconic ones became trademarks of our country.
Instrumental to the promotion of Italian design abroad was and still is the “Triennale di Milano”, an international cultural institution which self-defines as “an organiser of exhibitions and conferences as well as a host of arts, design, architecture, fashion, cinema, communications and social events”. The Triennale which is housed in the Palazzo dell’Arte, a beautiful architectural masterpiece that blends rationalist and neo-classical styles, was first launched in 1923 in Monza, on the outskirts of Milan.
The XXI International Exhibition of the Triennale di Milano will be held in 2016 and is appropriately entitled “21st Century. Design After Design”. Ideally drawing upon the legacy of the World Expo that took place in 2015 and attracted over twenty million visitors from all over the world, the XXI Triennale will showcase cutting edge creations, capable to have a long lasting impact on tastes and trends. For five months (April 2nd – September 12th), the Palazzo dell’Arte will host a long list of multidisciplinary events in the arts, entertainment, technology and research, with a key involvement of internationally renowned architects, designers, and top stylists whose ideas will take centre stage. Visitors will be encouraged to play a lead role and participate in performances, as the exhibition will also feature events aimed at study groups, associations and schools.
The whole program is meant to highlight the ways in which design has acquired a strategic role in the age of globalisation and should be seen as a driving force behind new economies and innovation. In other words, design has become a protagonist in our time. Designers give shape to ideas that enrich everyday experiences, and improve our lives. Designers bring clarity where there is confusion; they promote vitality where there is indifference; they lend a voice where there is silence. Design has been a truly revolutionary force in an otherwise standardized and often-too-homogeneous planet.
Italian design and innovation has excelled in shaping the world and continues to do so. Visiting Milan during the Triennale will immediately bring you into contact with Italian design and drive you through an unforgettable experience. Expect the unexpected and do not lower your standards, as you are sure to be pleasantly surprised.