di Secondome

In the sign of lightness. It was not an easy task setting up the retrospective exhibition for the 100th anniversary of Achille Castiglioni, father of italian design, and turning it into and experience both scientific and enjoyable, with the just right amount of irony, after all, Achille’s approach to design was ironic as well.

“To Castiglioni”, until January 20th at Milan Triennale, is a trip into the extensive production by “Cicci” as he was lovingly called by relatives, friends and colleagues, through his “long century”, structured in an unusual way by curators Patricia Urquiola and Federica Sala: not following a timeline, but set up in thematic clusters where a product reminds others from different periods. Achille’s genius – as well as his brothers’ Livio and Pier Giacomo – led the designer to develop ideas which resulted in different ones, even years later.

That’s how in the different areas of the Triennale you can admire Achille’s creations grouped following a project continuity instead of a timeline, with a set up built on rhizomes, the impossible geometric shapes theorized by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari that connect a point to any other, with none of both recalling other of the same kind. Basically an apparent chaos that subtely hides the creativity’s fil rouge, avoiding hierachies, especially the more predictable ones.There are twenty clusters, Federica Sala explains, and are actual microcosms you venture into without any specific route, moving to one point to any other. A contemporary and immersive idea of setting, coherent with the more experience-based and less pedagogic approach to the culture.

There are more than two hundred piece in show, from Alessi to Zanotta, to Flos and other historical brands which Castiglioni worked for. There are also architectures and installations realized for showroom, fairs and exhibitions. Keep it simple is the section of the iconic lamps of Italian desing: Tubino, Luminator, Parentesi. To Parenesi is dedicated the Traparentesi installation created by Studio Urquiola with Flos: one hundred units activate in front of the specators, accompanied by the recorded voice of Castiglioni himself and the noise of daily use objects. In the Ready Making cluster, Sony Design reinterprets through technology the icons Toio and Lampadina together with the stools Sella and Mezzadro.

The curatorial work brought Urquiola and Sala to spend months between the Achille Castiglioni Foundation and several archives, both private and corporate, “looking for unknown items and missing tiles to picture such a complex character”, explains Federica.

The result is a journey into the genius of a man and the made in Italy, but also an enlightning tour that sparks into the visitor an idea of how an intuition comes and grows to become fulfilled design.

Photo: Gianluca Di Iola



di Secondome

From illustration to design, as in an ancient fairytale about the origin of the mankind, its sense and its fate.

There are primates, primitive creatures which remind the man of his animal nature. There is Countess Florinda, the totem of a woman who doesn’t want to grow old and indulges in aesthetic surgery to the point where her appearance is completely exhausted in a grotesque yet - in her own way - poetic image. There are the colored lamps, homage to Giorgio Morandi and there is Polifemo, with the eye of the giant that opens becoming the shutters of a credenza, inspired to the part and yet entirely reinterpreted in a contemporary key, almost turning into a treasure chest full of secrets and memories.

Elena Salmistraro’s creations look like objects from a fairytale, works where playfulness, irony and research take the shapes and colors of peculiar furniture and decor items. All these collections , in the six years since her debut - during 2012 Milan Fuorisalone - made the 35 years old Milanese designer a case both in Italy and abroad.

An exhibition in Milan, in Cc-Tapis showroom, curated by Valentina Guidi Ottobri and in collaboration with Seletti, Bosa, Stone Italia, Lithea, SecondoMe, DeCastelli, London Art and Camp Design Gallery – all brands Elena Salmistraro works actively with – is the chance (up to October 26th) to explore this poetic and the way it translates into objects that look from a timeless past and represent an unicum into the Italian creativity panorama.

The first peculiar thing that sets Salmistraro as a singularity in the Italian design scene is that everything starts with an illustration and slowly turns into matter that, through patterns, zoomorph creatures and geometries, conquers the eyes with an incredible richness in colors and expressivity, leading the gaze on precious finishings and details.

The earliest of Elena’s experiments, paper-machè lamps and the Deux Ames sofa, implied the course her work was going to take. Even more telling, the trasition to the use of Jacroki, a natural fiber, than to ceramic and step by step to a moltitude of materials, in a continuous research and game, fueled by the awareness that “objects were becoming my favourite subjects”, as she once said.

From the early self-productions – that brought her to the Fuorisalone, six years ago – to today, there is the whole vertigo of a creative whose items are touring around the world thanks to the exhibition “The new Italian design” curated by Silvana Annichiarico and Andrea Branzi.

The exhibition develops on two rooms and it’s a full immersion into products of every kind, from vases to rugs, that long to become icons. And sometimes they already are.

credit: Photo by Juliano Araujo



di Secondome

From September 14th to 30th, the Fondazione Giorgio Cini in San Giorgio Maggiore Island, Venice, hosts Homo Faber. Crafting a more human future, the event/exhibition organized by Michelangelo Foundation for Creativity and Craftsmanship of Geneva, in partnership with Fondation Bettencourt Schueller, the Triennale Design Museum and the Fondazione Cologni dei Mestieri d’Arte.

Creativity and Craftmanship curated by Michele De Lucchi |  PH Alessandra Chemollo

Michele De Lucchi, Judith Clark, Jean Blanchaert, Stefano Boeri, India Madhavi are some of personality from the architecture, design and fashion world that curated the many sections of the exhibition.

Homo Faber digs up the excellence of European handcrafted production, gathering in 4.000 square meters, among libraries, cloisters and galleries of the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, 400 artisans and 900 objects. This numbers make Homo Faber the largest exhibition ever made about craftmanship, but it is also an event in which the public is invited to actively participate with live demonstrations, workshops, installations and conferences.

Tavole a specchio - Still life | Massimo Lunardon 

The initiative aims to give craftsmanship a new life, it is a celebration of the creative and manual act in all its form, evoking the Arts and Crafts Movement and the high craft in the middle between everyday life and the art world. Exhibited, the objects that more and more, for their refinement and uniqueness, embody the wish of a public now too used to factory production.

The exhibition is structured in 16 thematic sections which explore materials, techniques and masters of design and art. The public, through photography and virtual reality, is “welcomed” in the ateliers and workshops of the most influent masters of jewelry, design, craftsmanship and high fashion’s tailors (dressmakers).

Homo Faber is indeed articulated in many shades. In the Chiostro dei Cipressi, Susanna Pozzoli curated Venetian Way, a photographic exhibition that brings visitors into the heart of the workshops of 21 Venetians artisans.

Best of Europe curated by Jean Blanchaert and Stefano Boeri | PH Stefano Boeri architects

Jean Blanchaert and Stefano Boeri curated Best of Europe, a thorough selection of over 300 objects made by European artists-artisans, from Italian ceramics to Spanish leather goods, from French porcelain to German glass.

Among them, Massimo Lunardon, with his still lifes placed on very thin plate, in silver-colored blown glass, creates plays of reflections and mirrored shapes.

Creativity and Craftsmanship section, curated by Michele de Lucchi in the Palladian Cenacle, is about the relationship between design and craftsmanship, with 8 international designers called to collaborate with European artisans. From this partnership 8 unseen projects were born, elaborated on a single theme given by De Lucchi: the tabernacle.

There are many other sections/exhibitions such as Singular Talents, Imaginary Architectures, Discovering... and Rediscovering, Evolution of form, Double Signature, also intended as real experiences for the public, making Homo Faber a celebration to craftsmanship, which highlights not only the finished object but also the creative process, the tools, the materials and the gestures of what is a real artistic act.




by Secondome

An elliptical dome - sectioned by vertical lines that cut through it creating low archs and penetrated by vertical blades that serve as entrances – awaits the visitors of the Central Pavilion in the Gardens of Venice Biennale.Inside, spreads out a little big wonder of the Venetian exhibition: the homage tributed by Cino Zucchi and his studio to Luigi Caccia Dominioni and to the Milan born from the hand of the great master, who passed two years ago.

The set up is dedicated to the complex of Corso Italia, built between 1057 and 1961, and explores it on the big and the small scale, with three-dimensional models that set the building in the contest of a city reborn after the War and was living the boom, and the images – pictures taken by Zucchi himself, as a love act toward the master and his teachings – who give back the value and the strength of materials, colors, textures, of the openings on the public street and on the internal spaces.

“We knew that Zucchi met the great architect and this special relationship of his, together with his experience as professional and academic, we thought gave us the perfect chance to “re-read” Caccia Dominioni’s works”, say Yvonne Farrel and Shelley McNamara, the Irish architects curator of this year Biennale, whose theme is Freespace and architecture’s generosity. “To Cino Zucchi, architecture is the privileged background of our existences. His methodology as an architect makes him messenger for an eclectic approach, made not only of analysis nor invention, where customs and culture filter the gross data of architecture and the declared values are urbanity, city’s beauty and environmental responsibility”. Zucchi analyzes Caccia Dominioni’s work, organizing it in three separate groups: façades are the inhabited screens in the city, interiors are the recesses sculpted by light and movement. And details: narrations that move through materials and shapes, that Zucchi integrates with his quotes, from the Pompeian red stucco on the interior walls of the dome, to the refined chandelier.

A lesson about a lesson, given by Zucchi, who, not for nothing speaks about a “subtle pedagogic effect” of this rediscovery, as much as Caccia Dominioni’s “ethic approach”. “Each of his projects” says Zucchi “crates its own specific case that request peculiar solutions and whose limitations turn on the author’s artistic wit, creating amazing spaces and shapes able to solve, apparently easily, the variety of conditions they have to submit to.”

A wonder engraved also in the installation’s name “Everyday Wonders”.

Images © CZA - Cino Zucchi Architetti



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The public agora Europe doesn’t have and should get. Falling walls and bridges connecting spaces and cultures. Narrow corridors symbolizing the scarceness of public space left for the citizens to use. Also complex groups of run-down, semi demolished council housing, willing to be saved. You write it Freespace, you read it politics: politics in the highest and noble sense of the word.

It was not a given that after the Biennale directed by Alejandro Aravena, the archistar who has the favelas close to his heart, another “socially active” exposition would unravel between the Arsenal and the Laguna Gardens. However that’s what happened: in its best set ups, the Grafton Biennale, the Irish studio of the curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, ends up sending the world a message in a bottle which speaks about democracy, barriers to tear down, civil society. All aims that architecture can and must contribute to achieve.

Unbuilding walls © Jan Bitter - German pavilion

To be clear: the sixty-three guest Countries and architecture firms interpreted the theme chosen by Grafton, Freespace, in many ways, deeply different. Often, also in more classical manners – scale models, designs – than installations, which have more of the emotional language we got used to through time. If there is a line that raises above the many others, is the one appealing for a come back of architecture to be an instrument to grant the world quality spaces and areas of freedom. Grafton’s Freespace, the theme assigned by the two architects launched one year ago with their Manifesto and was given to the participants, really represents “the soul generosity and the sense of humanity that has a central place in architecture’s own agenda”, “the invitation to re-examine our ways of thinking, stimulating new ways of seeing the world and inventing solutions for architecture to supply welfare and dignity of every inhabitant of this fragile planet”.

But how exactly this Freespace is interpreted in this “political” set ups?

Eurotopie © Philippe Braquenier - Belgian pavilion

Belgium, for one, transformed his pavilion in a square, blue as the European flag, structuring it in a series of steps to be crossed from one side to the other, evoking that public agora, consecrated to confrontation among Nations and people that probably this troubled Union never had. It’s not a coincidence that the name of the installation is Eurotopie.

Germany space, Unbuilding Walls, is dedicated to crumbling walls and the spaces in need of mending that they leave behind, a whole new world to explore for architecture. This space recovers the thread of last edition, when Berlin focused on immigrant’s integration.

With a similar spirit, Hungary, with Liberty Bridges, narrates the dream of inclusion in the EU, recreating a bridge which leads visitors on the top of the pavilion.

The French pavilion is no less socially active, where the curators of Infinite Places recreate a physical and metaphorical space which refers to the cultural exchange, free from conditioning, first of all from the economical one. Basically, the installation tells about ten abandoned architectures recovered by citizens who turned them in a second home.

Infinite Places © Irene Fanizza - French pavilion

Almost moving, not included among the national pavilions, is the special project curated by Biennale and the Victoria and Albert Museum which recreates, on the front of the Arsenal’s Armory a portion of the Robin Hood Gardens, the brutalist council housing complex built in London in the 70’s, currently being demolished. And what’s more politics of a Biennale which celebrates Robin Hood and his houses?



Secondome interviews Gio Tirotto

Project before everything. Design to touch feelings. Art as a lighthouse. A short interview to Gio Tirotto.

Who is Gio Tirotto?
“A craftsman of the idea.”

What does it mean to be a designer today?
“It means to really believe in a project, in the deep meaning of the actual designing part occupies in the whole making process. I think this is the only possible way to create a piece destined to last long in time.”

Coexist Mod Ground & Mod Sky

What does it mean to be a 37 years old designer? Does the so called Millennial design, intended as a different approach of your generation to creativity, exist? If so, do you feel as one of its spokepersons?
“I’m not sure if it does exist. It’s a really hard question. I constantly try to bring my research to production, both for companies or for private interior design project, but I can’t tell if mine is Millennial design… The approach to design I express today, I’ve learnt from the masters, in books and in the firms I’ve worked with; at first I respected it, than, with time, I assimilated it, trying as much as possible to make it my creative method, rapresented, as of today, by the last ten years of my production.”

Someone wrote about you that you aim to recreate complicity between human and object. Is emotion the new fuction?
“Yes. To me, moving people is what matters the most. An object moves when encloses the best possible balance between function, message and shape. These are the characteristics that create complicity between human and object, which is the main and essential focus of my artistic language.”


This is Achille Castiglioni’s year. How important is his figure in your work?
“Very. Since the day I’ve met him (unfortunately not in person) he’s become the pillar of my desire of being a designer. Lately I’ve designed Ammuraggio (name that indeed emphasize this connection, inspired by Allunaggio by Castiglioni for Zanotta), a piece of furniture designed for the garden inspired to his teachings, realizing behavioural patterns and underlining through the object.”

You speak about rites, something completely changed in today’s society: there aren’t rites of passage anymore and less and less shared practices. Where do you find your circles to exchange ideas and find sparks and suggestions?
“There are endless circles, I always happen to research during the day, I can’t help it, it probably is a matter of personal attitude more than passion (it’s become my excuse to finally open an Instagram profile!). Maybe also Ryto the liquor I’ve been producing for a few year now, is the starting point for the more creative and stimulating circles I experience. Travel to present it and to tell its story makes me meet new interesting people every week who, even if from a non purely design perspective, stimulates me for new projects. Let me repeat myself: everything creates suggestions, the more art, the better.”


Two projects by someone else you loved recently?
“Talking about projects, not stricly products/objects, “Una stanza tutta per sé” by Cantiere Galli comes to my mind, a temporary well done and interesting interior design project , which also goes deeper into the idea of interior catching its meaning even only through one photography. The other project I loved is the P.O.P. collection by Zaven for Luisa delle Piane, small possible objects born from a research that perfectly matches graphic and function, a project that oozes art from every pore.”

What is it you are working on for the immediate future?
“I’m creating a new collection of ceramic upholstery. For a few years I’ve been researching and experimenting in this area and now I think I’ve brought my idea to a good level of production and craft. The project deals with the classic theme of natural materials, reinterpreting them, actually entirely reinventing them through the consistency of the superficial decorations I’ve decided to use.”




by Secondome

There are certain phenomenons that need an effort written on paper to became an accepted reality, even though they are under everyone’s eyes. One of those is definitely the assertive comeback of décor. Texture and pattern, to mention the most relevant, are again ahead of the curve and the research for new surfaces is leading designers and companies to experiment on the ornament. An ornament which quite never ends in itself but is functional.

Rilievi | Zaven per Cedit

On this décor comeback takes stock an interesting book by Cinzia Pagni, just out for Franco Angeli. “Ornament is not a crime anymore” aligns years of trends in the design world to reach a conclusion: the era of less is more is now definitely behind our backs and Adolf Loos - who inspired the Pagni’s book’s title with his own “Ornament is a crime” – now would encounter serious difficulties to structure his thesis.

Proust | Alessandro Mendini

But what happened to make the design world abandon progressively rationalism and its derivations? First of all, explains the author – professor at the Milan Politecnico – the long wave of architects and designers raised within the rationalist school exhausted itself, so that masters and referrals changed, has it normally happens. However the reasons are not exclusively a question of age. In a flexible, multiethnic, multicultural and hyper technological society, design has become more and more mixed. There is no more – and it couldn’t have been otherwise – an univocal code and language, contamination prevails. And in this multitude of symbols that décor and ornament find their new strength to assert themselves, not just as aesthetic elements, but as planning one.

Una Bar cabinet | Stefano Marolla per Secondome

The pattern is becoming a textbook case. Previously Robert Levit, scholar and winner of several design prizes, already stated the reaffirmation of hypnotical decorative patterns is not a simple expression of the need of decoration, but much more. Today, says Pagni, the pattern making is everywhere, more often than not subordinate to the function, as restoration of a symbolic data, exalted by technology and 3D. So, not just graphic, at all “The idea of the immateriality of digital technologies and the consequential possibilities open to unexpected opportunities – writes Pegni – to determine a future in the décor evolution. These are the elements which will more and more influence a project.” That’s why we can’t go back to a time without décor. “Design, in its chameleonic path through the labyrinths of the modifications offered by society, has managed to become expression of new sensibilities, which washed away any fear to be considered superficial in using decorations”. From the less is more, we are already into the epic of more and more.



Secondome interviews Vito Nesta

During the last Fuorisalone, he surprised everyone by bringing into Palazzo Litta a collection of wallpapers designed drawning hints by Limonta’s archive. In Jenuary he launched Grand Tour, his brand born with a storytelling inspired to the past, when Italy was the destination of the cultural trips for the young European talents. This time it’s Vito Nesta the one to travel abroad and to bring back in Italy the international suggestions in shape of design: “I spend a lot of my time travelling. Sometimes far from home, smelling the scents of the central market in Kyoto, getting enchanted by the unique shade of red in the sanctuary on the top of Mount Fushimi Inari, getting lost in the Istanbul’s Grand Bazar….”.

Fenicotteri | Wallpaper |PH Mattia Meneghini

Who is Vito Nesta?

“I’m an extremely curious guy, I like to discover what I ignore, always looking for my personal way of expressing myself, travelling, meeting people, discovering places, getting contaminated by everything that surrounds me. I live in a simple way, fighting for my dream of becoming a good interior decorator”.

What does it mean today to be a designer?

A designer today has a very complex role as his work it’s not limited to designing but includes being your own entrepreneur. A designer creates, together with the firm, a guide and a plan to introduce the product to the market, creates an effective communication for the launch, follows all the phases of a project from the first sketch to the sale”.

Memory is your creative world: how do you manage not to fall into nostalgia?

“I’ve always loved listening to stories, in my work I try and tell them, in my own way. My pieces are not nostalgic. On the contrary, they speak about far away worlds, tales from the past and hidden places, respecting their essence, looking forward to the future. I think it’s necessary to look to the past just like this, while looking to the future”.

Décor today, in the design world: it’s an opportunity for creative, or a field already on the verge of saturation?

“I think that the feel for décor cannot be considered a technique to be taught or learnt. Either you have it in yourself and feel it as a way of expression, or you can’t make an exercise out of it. I think I couldn’t have done anything else, as since a very young age I’ve always felt attraction towards décor, which has definitely been helpful in a moment like this, when décor is becoming more and more an added value to any project”.

Risvolti | PH Serena Eller Vainicher

How did you came up with the concept of the Grand Tour?

“The idea of the Grand Tour comes from the will to experiment through decoration all the worlds, symbols, histories and images I look for during my journeys, both the actual and the imaginary ones”.

Esotica for F.lli Majello | PH Andrea Pedretti

Next stops?

“Egypt, Kenya and Lebanon”.



by Secondome

There is a sixty years time lapse between the moka invented by Alfonso Bialetti in 1933 and the “moscardino” – the piece of cutlery that is both fork and spoon – invented by Giulio Iacchetti and Matteo Ragni in 2000 for Pandora. In between all the best years of Italian design. Years when creatives and brands gave life to beautiful, useful and pleasing objects. In a word: icons.

We might even call those years the short century of the icons. And it’s been over for a long time. This is the thesis that Chiara Alessi develops in her last essay, both a family novel and an inquiry about design. Curator, historian and professor at the Politecnico in Milan, Chiara is first and foremost descendant of two historical families of Italian entrepreneurs: on one side the moka’s Bialetti, on the other the homeware’s Alessi. Two families that somewhere along history become related producing design upon design, stories upon stories. That’s why Chiara knows these stories both first hand and as an academic. So the tale that emerges from her “My great-grandparents coffee-makers” mixes two levels: one more intimate and sentimental, the other scientific.

But why did Italian design stopped producing icons as were and still are lamps such as the Arco by Castiglionis, Tizio by Richard Sapper or the Sacco by Zanotta? The first reply we might be tempted to give is that is too early to judge a recent product and predict if it will be considered an icon later on. But it’s not true. There are past icons which became such immediately. The other hypothesis is that we are not into objects like in the past. “Far from true” answers back Alessi. The point is that “today more than ever what work are the “things” not necessarily meant to work or last, but are able to give strong, immediate, emotions”. It’s as if we don’t ask the object to have a definite function or last long. That’s why, for instance, the long queue of people lining to get the last Apple item is more iconic than the actual i-Phone.


In this world where emotions prevail over function and the feeling is given by the appearance, the disappearing of icons is most likely an inevitable consequence. Because we don’t believe anymore that an object such as a radio, an armchair or a piece of furniture can shape the future, as they believed in the past. We live in an eternal present day, where the future is seen as absent or uncertain, so we cannot imagine any object that defines it. “The authors of our icons” explains Chiara Alessi “worked deeply buried in their present, were able to relate to it, and yet their ideas were not perfectly aligned to the ones of the time, and this discrepancy is what made the birth of these objects possible. They embodied and were able to tell the tale of that distance. Their efforts would be supported even later in the future”. So to say, we’ll go back to producing icons, when we’ll go back having a future. At least one we can tell about.



Images: Courtesy of Museo Alessi e Famiglia Alessi

Grafica: Yoshiko Kubota



by Secondome

Everybody want Osvaldo Borsani. The Triennale Design Museum in Milan celebrates him with a retrospective of three hundred pieces of furniture and four hundred images – original sketches among the others – set up by no other than Norman Foster. Milan Design Week rediscovers him opening Villa Borsani in Varedo for a projectcurated by Ambra Medda from mid April to September. Also bring him back ahead of the curve – if ever the great architect and entrepreneur stopped influencing worldwide design even after his death in 1985 – Britt Moran and Emiliano Salci: the Dimore Studio duo just opened the gallery’s spaces at via Solferino 11 to a series of unique pieces signed Borsani and made between the 30s and the 60s, before the visionary genius gave life to Tecno. There are wooden and glass, hand-painted bar cabinets, lacquered wood mirrors with details made of golden foil, walnut and mahogany wood buffet, floor lamps, armchairs, modular bookshelves… all pieces from a phase signed by the great craftsmanship typical of the Varedo atelier and originated by the creative influences linked to the collaboration which he started whit the greatest Italian artists of the time. Later on, with the Tecno, will come the factory production, destined to make the history of furniture and design as well. For example Graphis, the modular system that in 1968, in the heart of the student’s protests, brought a revolution to the office furnishing and ended up stained during the occupation of the same Triennale that today pays tribute to the master.

But what is the reason behind this rediscover? First of all, a desire of the entrepreneur descendants, obviously. Borsani’s nephew, Tommaso Fantoni, who collaborated with Foster to the exhibition’s set up, says: “We’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, it was hard to choose what to showcase.”

But it’s the entire design world which has been requesting a retrospective such as the Triennale Design Museum one. Borsani, indeed, embodies the perfect synthesis between the two characteristics that made the Italian design great: the ability to tailor the project and the attention to the details on one side, the industrial aspect on the other. Let’s think of the Varedo Villa. As told by Ambra Medda, it’s enough to walk its rooms, to feel the care for the details and the materias, both inside and in the garden. The one in Varedo is the house of an architect, “practical, balances and yet sublime. You really have the feel of how Borsani never gave in to compromise in his work, neither on quality nor on purpose”.


At Dimore gallery, the homage to Borsani takes place setting all the pieces of furniture on a big platform, focusing the attention on each piece and making it protagonist of the scene, while the original sketches counterpoint them. All of it inside an author’s scenography, signed by the duo that more than anyone recently has been able to set the pieces by the Lombard genius in a dreamy and more visionary world.








Ph Silvia Rivoltella for Dimore Gallery