An entrepreneurial spirit without borders
After the Second World War, the Italian design industry developed an extremely original process of design conception. While other countries moved toward national management and rationalization of production, in Italy new factories were born of individual initiative. Businesses focus on free and creative tests. It’s in this atmosphere that all the major Italians designers are born, moving from architecture to industrial design, contrary to the rest of Europe where these two fields are rigidly separated. Allying architecture, craft and art with design is the secret to Italian design’s success. Milan becomes home to the greatest Italian designers of the day, such as Sergio Asti, Cini Bœri, and Jœ Colombo.
The tradition of craftsmanship takes on a new form in the factory it adapts to industrial production, as is the case at Tecno. This industrial business comes out of a dialogue between Osvaldo Borsani, an architect attuned to the cultural and social transformations of the post-war period, and his father, an ardent defender of the artisanal tradition. Osvaldo Borsani has a global vision : art, design, architecture and craft should be in symbiosis. Tecno became a pioneer in the growth of Italian design in the 50’s. At the time, they collaborated with artists like Fontana, Melotti and Pomodoro for their furniture designs.
The national market in a global network
A key moment in Milan is the Triennale di Milano, and in 1954 it was already being held for the sixth time. From the start, the Triennale is marked by a uniform treatment of all forms of art and creative expression, strongly linked to social and economic developments of the day. In the same year in Milan, Gio Ponti creates the prix Compasso d’Oro prize, the oldest and most important design award in the world. Milan becomes the economic capital of the country, where numerous furniture manufacturers are found, and is naturally chosen as the location for the Salone Internationale del Mobile, created in 1961 by the small group of manufactures FederlegnoArredo. The salon is organized by COSMIT, one of the oldest committees charged with bringing together small furniture makers from across the country. The organization allows manufacturers to preserve high production standards while increasing their exports (often very small scale) beyond national borders.
Today, Milan’s Salone de Mobile is considered to be the largest in the world. Six other fairs are associated with the event : Eurocucina, Euroluce, EIMU, Salone Ufficio, Salone Internazionale del Complemento d’Arredo and the SaloneSattellite created in 1998 (dedicated to promoting designers under 35).
With the creation of salons Worldwide, the salon has also expanded internationally - to Moscow in 2004 and Shanghai in 2016.
A culture of creation
Since the end of the 60’s, with important changes in production followed by the energy crisis, factories were progressively abandoned, leaving huge derelict zones in the heart of the city. With a sunnier economic outlook in the 80’s, Milan benefitted from a program of urban requalification and heads of industry took the lead in supporting cultural projects, following in the footsteps of the great patrons of the Italian Renaissance.
As such, the Superstudio space in Tortona was created in 1983 by Flavio Lucchini, the creator of major Italian fashion magazines like Amica, L’Uomo Vogue, Casa Vogue, Vogue Bambini, Lei-Glamour. Formerly an electric parts factory, this 5,000 m² space gradually became a creative crossroads and today houses research centers and fashion, design and photography studios.
Other factory-reconversion projects are successfully realized as well, like Design Center Ex-Ansaldo. The city of Milan acquired this 70,000 m² building in 1994 for use in promoting and hosting cultural activities.
More recent examples include museums and foundations, all monumental spaces evoking a renewal of the ambitious Renaissance spirit : the Hangar Bicocca, a 9,500 m² space created by the Pirelli foundation in 2004, the Mudec Museo delle Culture (17,000 m²) founded in 2015, and the Prada Foundation (20,000 m²) in 2015....
Capitalizing on the dynamism of the design market, director of design magazine INTERNI Gilda Bojardi created Fuorisalone in 1990. This event is organized around the annual design fair, with activities throughout the city stimulating the economy, with free admission, a festive spirit and a focus on future trends.
An example of creative culture fueling the wider urban economy.