Past winners reflect on the Compasso d’Oro collection at the new ADI Design Museum

Ron Arad, Marc Sadler, Roberto Palomba, Jean Marie-Massaud and Mario Trimarchi share rare insights of their winning works to be exhibited at the ADI Design Museum in Milan.

by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Jun 11, 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.

  • The new ADI Design Museum in Porta Volta, Milan, is housed within a collection of refurbished industrial buildings from the 1930s | ADI Museum Compasso d’Oro | STIRworld
    The new ADI Design Museum in Porta Volta, Milan, is housed within a collection of refurbished industrial buildings from the 1930sImage: © 2020 Roberto De Riccardis / Fondazione ADI Collezione Compasso d’Oro
  •  The ADI Design Museum in Milan will showcase the historic collection of the Compasso d’Oro | ADI Museum Compasso d’Oro | STIRworld
    The ADI Design Museum in Milan will showcase the historic collection of the Compasso d’Oro Image: © 2020 Roberto De Riccardis / Fondazione ADI Collezione Compasso d’Oro

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.

  • Ron Arad MT3 Driade (2005) | ADI Museum Compasso d’Oro | STIRworld
    Ron Arad MT3 Driade (2005) Image: Courtesy of Ron Arad
  • Ron Arad - 2008 Compasso d'Oro winner and recipient of 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award | ADI Museum Compasso d’Oro | STIRworld
    Ron Arad - 2008 Compasso d'Oro winner and recipient of 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award Image: 102fm, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons

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".

  • The Tite and Mite lamp collection garnered Sadler his second Compasso d'Oro back in 2001 | ADI Museum Compasso d’Oro | STIRworld
    The Tite and Mite lamp collection garnered Sadler his second Compasso d'Oro back in 2001 Image: Courtesy of Marc Sadler
  • Marc Sadler, four time Compasso d'Oro winner | ADI Museum Compasso d’Oro | STIRworld
    Marc Sadler, four time Compasso d'Oro winner Image: Courtesy of Marc Sadler

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".

  • Massaud views his winning Yale seating collection as the embodiment of an ambition to make the perfect sofa for its time | ADI Museum Compasso d’Oro | STIRworld
    Jean-Marie Massaud views his winning Yale seating collection as the embodiment of an ambition to make the perfect sofa for its time Image: Courtesy of Jean-Marie Massaud
  • Conceptual Sketch for the Yale sofa | ADI Museum Compasso d’Oro | STIRworld
    Conceptual Sketch for the Yale sofa Image: Courtesy of Jean-Marie Massaud
  • Jean-Marie Massaud - recipient of 2011 Compasso d'Oro Award | ADI Museum Compasso d’Oro | STIRworld
    Jean-Marie Massaud - recipient of 2011 Compasso d'Oro Award Image: Corentin Harbelot, © Wikimedia Commons

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.

  • Palomba attributes Lab 03’s success to its simplicity and integration of innovative design elements | ADI Museum Compasso d’Oro | STIRworld
    Palomba attributes Lab 03’s success to its simplicity and integration of innovative design elements Image: Courtesy of Roberto Palomba
  • Roberto Palomba - 2011 winner for the Lab 03 basin | ADI Museum Compasso d’Oro | STIRworld
    Roberto Palomba - 2011 winner for the Lab 03 basin Image: Massimiliano Sticca

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".

  • Mario Trimarchi compares the process behind his 2016 Compasso d'Oro winning Ossidiana coffee maker to the art of stone and marble sculpture | ADI Museum Compasso d’Oro | STIRworld
    Mario Trimarchi compares the process behind his 2016 Compasso d'Oro winning Ossidiana coffee maker to the art of stone and marble sculpture Image: Santi Caleca
  • Conceptual Sketch displaying Ossidiana’s sculpted form | ADI Museum Compasso d’Oro | STIRworld
    Conceptual Sketch displaying Ossidiana’s sculpted form Image: Courtesy of Mario Trimarchi
  • Mario Trimarchi - 2016 winner for the Ossidiana coffee maker  | ADI Museum Compasso d’Oro | STIRworld
    Mario Trimarchi - 2016 winner for the Ossidiana coffee maker Image: Courtesy of Mario Trimarchi Design

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.  

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