Italy is, without any doubt, one of the countries where the high craftsmanship has reached its highest peaks. This is due mainly to a couple of factors. On a side, there is an outstanding manual dexterity in the manufacture of objects, even the most common and humble ones, which is an inheritance of a centuries-old tradition (it dates back to the Roman Empire era, and it went through a series of significant modifications and refinements as it was crossing the different ages, from the Middle Age to the Italian Renaissance). On the other one, we have the last stage of this tradition, the one during which the mere and “simple” craftsmanship turned into actual art.
The glorious season of Italian design dates back to the late Fifties and lasted until the Eighties of the last century. Dozens of designers became real celebrities, gracing the covers of many magazines all over the world (and we mean not just those ones specialized in design and similar topics). Among them, we can remember, at least, the following four “masters of Italian design”.
- Ettore Sottsass. In 1949, he and his wife Fernanda Pivano (a writer and, most of all, the most important popularizer of contemporary American literature in Italy) were celebrated by People as one of 10 most brilliant couples of the world. His influences range from the historic avant-garde movements to a fierce political radicalism, that he’s always claimed and never disavowed. He’s been one of the first computer designers of the history, thanks to his long-term collaboration with the brand Olivetti.
- Gae Aulenti. In Milan there is a popular square named after her, just to exactly understand how seminal and influential her work was. She was one of the first female architects and designers to become a star, not just in Italy. Some of her works from the Sixties of last century remain among the most popular and iconic objects of our modernity.
- Bruno Munari. Painter, writer and designer, when he was inspired, he was able to shift from an activity to another onr with extreme agility. This versatility allowed him to impose its name as one of the most significant Italian contemporary artists. His cinematographic experiments, from which a series of avant-garde short movies came out, date back to the early Sixties of 20th Century.
- Giorgetto Giugiaro. Another genius of design, he became famous for the huge number of car models that he was able to create, revolutionizing the concept itself of family vehicle. Besides some important Italian car brands (FIAT, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Maserati), he worked assiduously for Volkswagen: for the German company, he realized the project of some of the most internationally recognized models, like for example the notorious Golf.
If we evaluate the importance and the revolutionary scope of these artists, we cannot help but wondering what kind of legacy they could have left. The answer is, once again, in the most common objects, like for example an internal door of our house. Only a few people, in fact, know that the Italian doors and windows manufacturing company Cocif has asked – many years ago – some giants of Italian design and culture to realize a series of internal doors projects. And among them there were also the above-mentioned Ettore Sottsass and Gae Aulenti: their “signature doors” are still on sale on the company’s website, and this is just one of the many examples we can find about the persistence of Italian design in many aspects of our everyday life.