What do you get when you take four Italians, all trained in industrial design at the Politecnico di Milano, the pre-eminent Italian technology university, add an editor with exactly the same background, then create two essays and two interviews? A razor sharp insight into the nature of the Italian design world.
Northern Italy is a powerhouse of European manufacturing, that rapidly grew out of the ashes of the Second World War as Italy rebuilt and modernised. Furniture design and production has been one of the most well-known and respected exports from this region. But all is not now well with the industry.
Design. Furniture. Northern Italy. exposes the fault lines that have emerged in the early 21st century, where the products that are now being created are driven more by the ability to sell them in a marketplace of desires rather than meeting real needs.
Skilfully edited by Valentina Rossini, with essays by Fabio Biavaschi and Francesca Di Gennaro, along with Giorgio Gatti and Filippo Mambretti in interview, each of the contributors seeks to delve into the root causes of the malaise. Identifying problems with education and teaching, designers, consumers and business, and a stark warning from Di Gennaro of the real risk of contemporary Italian design leaving a legacy of “empty boxes”, the reader might be left thinking there is little hope.
But Italian design cannot escape from its history: one marked by great figures such as Enzo Mari, who remind the current generation that design can and should be different.