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12 April 2011

An older sibling to the furniture fair – the venue has hosted exhibits dedicated to industrial design since the 1940s – the site is a welcome respite due to its small footprint and neatly curated rooms. It’s no surprise given the anniversaries being celebrated by Salone and Italy that Italianness was high on the Triennale’s agenda this year.

Anyone looking to understand Italy’s intricate design heritage would be advised to visit “Dream Factories: People, Ideas, Businesses and Paradoxes of Italian Design”, curated by Alberto Alessi (CEO of the eponymous tableware brand). The comprehensive exhibition celebrates the companies, many born in the postwar period and family run, that ushered in the country’s second Renaissance, one revolving around well-made furnishings destined for use at home and in the office.

Martí Guixé’s exhibition design turns the space into a crowded Wunderkammer packed with award-winning products (Tolomeo lamp, Brionvega TVs, Olivetti typewriters et al). At the entrance Guixé has assembled a sculpture of a human face inspired by the portraits of Giuseppe Arcimboldo that makes use of sofas, bookshelves, lights and chairs from the likes of B&B Italia, Cassina, Danese and Flos.

Downstairs, larger-than-life objects made with 24k gold Bisazza mosaics were on display from veteran designer Alessandro Mendini, who recently turned over the editorship of Domus magazine to the next generation. Also celebrating an anniversary this year was Italian manufacturer Olivari, which documented a century of crafting door handles with a retrospective of models designed by names such as Franco Albini, Piero Lissoni and Gio Ponti.

Among those looking forward is lighting brand iGuzzini, who unveiled innovative LED designs such as Michele De Lucchi’s La Venaria project for a Turin palace – part of a larger effort aimed at improving illumination for public streets and squares.

Despite the heavy emphasis on all things Italian, the Triennale has also made space for a small selection of foreign brands. Japan’s Maruni Wood Industry presented a beautifully understated collection of old and new pieces. The brand featured a double billing of Jasper Morrison (the first foreign designer to work with Maruni) and Naoto Fukasawa, who last year was appointed creative director. The former has designed an elegantly simple chair in birch and the latter is presenting his Hiroshima extendable oak table that came paired with seating in beech. Next to the celebratory rooms of Italian exhibits the pared down craft of the Japanese furniture was a welcome, though sobering display.


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