by Anmol AhujaSep 24, 2021
Since the institution of the prestigious Compasso d'Oro award back in 1954, it has, in many ways, been the pinnacle of recognition within the domain of industrial design, with its genesis attributed to the mind of prominent Italian architect, Gio Ponti. Previously organised by Milan's Rinascente department stores, it was later donated to the Association of Industrial Design (ADI), which has been organising it since 1958. In the following six decades, 350 award winners and 2,000 Honorable Mentions have subsequently become part of the Historical Collection of the ADI Compasso d'Oro award - a dedicated repository of the winning products.
To house these 2,000 objects, ADI commissioned a new design museum to function as an archival space while showcasing its historic design artefacts. Following various pandemic-related delays, on May 25, 2021, the new ADI Design Museum - Compasso d'Oro - located in Porta Volta, Milan, opened to the public. Overlooking the Piazza Compasso d'Oro - an open public square bordered by via Ceresio on its eastern edge - the museum occupies a series of restored industrial buildings that once housed a tram depot and later an electricity distribution plant. The new space boasts of 2,400 sqm of exhibition space, along with storage, offices, and service areas.
Reflecting on the significance of the museum's opening and why showcasing its extensive collection to the public is important, British-Israeli architect and designer, Ron Arad, in a conversation with STIR, remarks, "It's the same reason we like books, to look at the present and the past and to see what stands out". Arad is among the 2008 Compasso d'Oro recipients honoured for his work on the MT3 - a groundbreaking rotation moulded armchair, now part of the museum's archival collection.
He continues to add, “Rotation moulding was a very popular technology in those days because unlike injection moulding, there's only one mould, and it's like painting something from the inside. A special aspect about the MT3 is that it was the first time that an industrial piece was later translated into a studio piece".
Four times Compasso d’Oro award winner, Marc Sadler, tells STIR about his winning product from 2001 – the Tite and Mite floor lamp collection of fibreglass lamps in kevlar and carbon for Foscarini. “This year, we are going to celebrate Mite’s 20th anniversary, which is a quite unusual milestone for a contemporary design lamp,” he says, further adding that the reason the project stands relevant today is inherent in the magic of its 'design-no-design' soul.
Alternatively, Jean-Marie Massaud describes his Yale sofa - a 2011 Compasso d'Oro winning product for MDF Italia - as the "embodiment of an ambition to 'make the perfect sofa for our time': the experience and expression of comfort without superfluous manners nor materials. Nothing to remove or to add".
The French architect and designer shares that Yale was “an exercise in reduction and augmentation” as it was formulated as “a refined cage structure accommodating soft cloud-like pillows". He cites the will to add to MDF Italia’s quest of cartesian minimalism, and the idea of emotional elegance of sailboat smart engineering as one of its defining features. "I love good things we can love for long,” Massaud tells STIR.
Fondly recounting the journey of the Lab 03 countertop basin, the product that gave Milan-based designers Roberto Palomba and Ludovica Serafini their Compasso d’Oro in 2011, the former says that the work represented an important point for their career with respect to the role they had played in the bathroom sector, and innovating it in many aspects.
The co-founder of Palomba Serafini Associati describes the basin as “a freestanding that integrates the handle - an aesthetic and functional component in the same piece of great impact". Commenting on how he crafted a Compasso d'Oro worthy product, the 58-year-old architect adds, "Who said that the relationship between form and function is an outdated way? Sometimes knowing how to look at the usual things with a different eye can open the doors of the most prestigious of awards".
Moreover, Milan-based designer, Mario Trimarchi, while speaking to STIR, mentions the reason why his Ossidiana coffee maker won the award in 2016: “first because it is beautiful, second because it is unexpectedly super functional (the lid can be opened with the thumb, while holding the handle; the coffee pot is screwed and unscrewed with great ease, thanks to the hollowed-out parts that follow the positioning of the fingers; it is as if Ossidiana had founded a kind of new concept of ergonomics, becoming almost prostheses with its so unexpected shape).”
He continues, “I believe that this product will remain relevant in the next few years, because I often receive comments from people that I don't know, who look at it in the morning and smile; because the way the light caresses it at different times of the day is beautiful".
Alongside its display of the impressive Compasso d'Oro collection, the ADI Design Museum will also be a venue for temporary exhibitions, public meetings, and initiatives that are inclusive and open to the masses. As part of larger aims to propagate and amplify the culture of design at national and international levels, this part archive and part commemorative exhibition space presents an engaging new initiative to exhibit pieces of history and educate eager minds on the common threads that unite extraordinary design.