features
#121 / 2023
exteriors of Triennale Museo showing external fence

Triennale Museo: personal perspectives

Isolated from a public park by a long fence, and charging up to 25 euros for admission and offering few seats inside for guests to rest, Milan's Triennale museum won't win many egalitarian awards. (Those in the know enjoy the Triennale's enclosed gardens for free — paid museum admission not required to enter the gardens.)

ADI Museum, Milan's other major design museum, charges similar fees, with the added bonus of a free, past exhibition poster for every guest. Both museums display the works, thoughts and ideas of modernist industrial designers and architects.

Pioneering progettistas (Italian for designers) sought local solutions to collective problems. The museums display work mainly from the 1930s to mid-1970s. This period of (relatively) benign capitalism favoured collaboration between designers at smaller enterprises that used innovative production methods and new materials. These Italian designers experimented free from today's predatory (neoliberal) form of capitalism that exploits intellectual property laws, monopoly and globalization to quash threats to lucrative and closely-guarded markets.

Free of current social media junk and narrow academic regimens, they used the creative duality of their left/right brain hemispheres: detail vs. breadth; brain vs. hand; private vs. public; order vs. anarchy. Furniturelink encourages funding inclusive museums so non-designers can understand and implement the modernists' approach to design-thinking (not today's self-serving corporate-friendly version).

To avoid human-caused climate change and collapsing democratic institutions, humankind must reverse out of the capitalism constructed 1970s dead-end alley and return to a broader, more equitable right-of-way. We should follow a path that breaks down elitist fences and adopt mature design methods to reconcile our needs with the Earth's ability to sustain.

Pioneer products

For those still attached to viewing works on pedestals (see After words below) furniturelink includes a selection of chairs from Triennale's permanent collection of home-grown talent and designs with German and Scandinavian influence.

chrome steel tube stacking chair with seperate laminated veneer seat and back

1933

Stackable chair 31C
Produced for: 5th Triennale cafe, Milan
Manufacturer: Ufficio Tecnico Columbus

Milan-based A. L. Columbo developed the Columbus brand in 1933 to produce early tubular chairs listed under Razionali di acciaio in the company's original catalogue.

chrome steel tube children's furniture with red finish tops and seats

1937

Children's desk and chair
Produced for: Istituto Giannina Gaslini, Genoa
Manufacturer: Ufficio Tecnico Columbus

A. L. Colombo often licensed designs from famous German and Scandinavian producers and also commissioned original designs from Italian architects Giuseppe Pagano and Piero Bottoni.

archchair with laminated side frame and moulded plywood seat support

1946

Tre Pezzi armchair
Designer: Vittoriano Vigan
Manufacturer: Compensati Curvi

Pre-war Scandinavian production techniques inspired Vigan to produce a body-hugging armchair with laminate veneer side frames and moulded plywood seat.

very lightweight wooden stacking chair

1953

Model 683 stacking chair
Designer: Carlo De Carli
Manufacturer: Cassina

Constructed with brass hardware and an under seat cam-lock frame, the chair's solid wood finger-jointed frame supports the moulded ash plywood seat and back.

moulded veneer shell dining chair with steel rod legs

1954

Medea 120 armchair
Designer: Vittorio Nobili
Manufacturer: Fratelli Tagliabue

Black lacquered steel legs support a moulded plywood teak-veneered seat (with or without arms).

After words

Ironically the museum's current exhibit (July 2023) La Parole (The Word) prominently displays a quote (translated and edited here for brevity) on Ettore Sottsass's attitude to museums and the works they tend to display:

. . . only life is what matters, not works . . . Works are roaming corpses . . . That's why I never visit museums and when I do go I'm overcome by boundless melancholy: I think of all that must have been behind the works I see.

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