Vespa – scooter
Invented and produced to give the masses added mobility after WWII, the Vespa is the symbol of personal freedom. It gave young people from the 1950s onward the opportunity to gather en masse and broaden their horizons, literally, while at the same time enhancing the growth of certain subcultures. It was an important mobile accessory for trendsetting British Mods who pimped their scooters with stickers, and oftentimes an exaggerated number of rear-view mirrors. The vehicle also had an impact on fashion, when Mods began to protect their expensive suits with military parkas while cruising around on their scooters, and when the Italian Paninari discovered the weatherproof Moncler puffer down jacket which kept them warm all night long.
Olivetti Lettera 22 – typewriter
Günter Grass, Leonard Cohen, Thomas Pynchon and even Pope Francis I, have all been dedicated owners of the Italian-made Olivetti typewriter. Playwright and novelist Max Frisch also used the revolutionary Lettera 22 model, which was light and portable. Launched in 1950, it dramatically sped up the writing process. Even 25 years later, Nick Cave appreciated the quaint effects of typing on the famous machine. Camillo Olivetti began manufacturing the typewriter in 1908 after working in the United States, conscious that the device was both an efficient tool, and a design object. He invested in elaborate advertising from the outset. But it was his son, Adriano Olivetti, who brought the company international recognition by hiring design geniuses such as Giovanni Pintori, Ettore Sottsass and Marcello Nizzoli, who with Olivetti, were not only at the forefront of technical innovation but leaders in modern industrial and graphic design.
TS 502 cubic radio – Brionvega
While electronic devices in the 1960s were still relatively bulky objects, which were better hidden in the closet, televisions and radios produced by northern Italian company Brionvega were unashamedly futuristic, colorful and lightweight. Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper, who worked together for Siemens, Alpha Romeo and Kartell, were the designer duo behind the cool, cute and portable Brionvega, with its signature cubic shape, rounded corners and bold color range. Today, the iconic product is still produced and is a popular status symbol among design connoisseurs.
La Cupola espresso maker – Alessi
Its very name reveals the inspiration behind designer Aldo Rossi’s La Cupola espresso maker, conceived for Italian homeware company Alessi in 1988. The coffeemaker is constructed like a dome: stable, simple and distinctive. Rossi initially had to be convinced to create this design classic as an affordable alternative to one of his previous works for the company, La Conica. But both objects reflect Rossi’s philosophical view on city architecture, which states that buildings should be monuments of collective memory which should be constructed to last and to stand independently. With this in mind, his micro-architectural designs for Alessi aren’t only iconic style objects but artifacts of cultural history.
Tolomeo Tavalo Desk Lamp – Artemide
This lamp is a one-of-a-kind status symbol, representing both cultural connoisseurship as well as wealth, and often accompanied with Vitra chairs and a distinctive art collection on the walls. Designed in 1986 by Michele De Lucchi and Giancarlo Fassina for Italian lighting company Artemide, the Tolomeo desk lamp with its heavy base and two straight sections connected with a spring hinge, is still one of the most successful items produced by the brand today. In accordance with Artemide’s dedication to innovation and sustainability, the model is constantly redeveloped and the range of products expanded.
Carlton Bookshelf by Ettore Sottsass – Memphis Group
“This is so Memphis,” you could well have heard uttered by visitors to Europe’s leading interior trade shows like Salone del Mobile in Milan or London Design Festival. When the Memphis Group in Milan was established by architects and designers in the 1980s, they intended nothing less than to revolutionize our gaze upon objects and interior. What is function? What colors go together? Of all the creations the group’s leading member Ettore Sottsass designed, the Carlton Bookshelf focused on appearance over function and defined the look of a new design genre, a genre which is celebrating a comeback today–the retro looking decidedly now.
Fornasetti Lux Gstaad – chair
Piero Fornasetti endlessly illustrated this face inspired by operatic soprano Lina Cavalieri, and which made Fornasetti a master in variation. Expelled for insubordination from the renowned Brera Art Academy in 1932, the Milanese enfant terrible created hundreds of motifs and began to print them on ceramic plates for a 1947 exhibition in Milan curated by fellow designer, Gio Ponti. From that moment on he was obsessed by the face, and ceramics, and went on to produce printed plates until the late 1980s. Today, his surrealistic and repetitive illustrations can be seen on scarves, lamps, plates and furniture across the design world.
La Bocca Sofa – Studio 65 for Gufram
A 1935 portrait of the sensuous mouth of Mae West by surrealist Salvador Dalí, the lips of Marilyn Monroe, and conversely any number of Hollywood stars depicted in American pop art: these are the inspirations behind La Bocca, the iconic sofa designed by Studio 65 for Italian manufacturer Gufram in 1972. Initially created for a fitness center, the sofa functions as a statement piece in several hotel foyers and office halls. It also serves as a perfect blend of contemporary art and design and has became part of the permanent collection of museums including New York’s MoMA and the Louvre in Paris.
Lady armchair – Arflex
When in 1947 a team of engineers — Carlo Barassi who worked for the Italian tire company Pirelli together with Renato Teani, Pio Reggiani, and Aldo Bai – developed a new polyurethane foam and elastic tape, they assumed a huge potential for contemporary furniture design. So they asked Italian architect-designer Marco Zanuso to create a first collection and called it ar-flex, referring to the flexibility of the smart material. In 1951, Arflex unveiled the lady armchair, which won the gold medal at Milan’s IX Triennale in the same year and brought the company international recognition. Today the lady armchair is as fresh as in the early 50s, be it as part of the permanent collection at MOMA or as a real piece of furniture in living rooms and offices around the world.
Nemo armchair – Driade
Sitting within a mask of classic female beauty reminiscent of Greek sculpture is as simple as it is potentially exasperating. Using this over-dimensional yet anonymous face as a chair makes you feel small and concealed but on the other hand, due to its conspicuous appearance, it acts like a revealing theatre stage. The armchair’s very “anonymity” announces the person behind the mask, which makes for an acutely poetical perspective to the relevance of the chair’s design. Fabio Novembre, who created Nemo for the Italian high-end manufacturer Driade in 2010, is well known for his intense approach to human figures in design, which inevitably challenges the user with some kind of self-reflection.
Intervista armchair for Poltrona Frau (by Lella & Massimo Vignelli)
“If you can design one thing, you can design everything,” was Massimo Vignelli’s conviction. Consequently, the designer engaged in different fields, from industrial design, to interior and public signage. “If you do it right, it will last forever. It’s as simple as that,” said his wife and professional partner Lella Vignelli with whom he founded Vignelli Associates. Unlike her husband, Lella preferred subtraction rather than addition and took the production process into account when designing. In the late 1980s the couple was asked to create a set for Italian public television’s second channel news broadcast, and the result became famous: all grey with red cozy armchairs. Since then, the Intervista armchair has become a classic and stands for design “Made in Italy.”
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