The classic narrative of the phenomenal success of post-war Italian industrial design and architecture is widely celebrated. This critically up-to-date course will consider the subject within a fresh and broad social, cultural, economic, and international context. The course will cover the key figures and companies responsible for many iconic, often innovatory designs, such as Corradino D’Ascanio’s Vespa for Piaggio, Marcello Nizzoli's work for Olivetti and Necchi, Franco Albini and Poggi, and Dante Giacosa for Fiat. Significant women designers will also be covered, including Cini Boeri, Anna Castelli Ferrieri, and Franca Helg, as will important design theorists, such as Bruno Munari, and civil and mechanical engineers, including Pier Luigi Nervi and Natale Capellaro, all of whom are too easily forgotten. The publications that helped promulgate Italian design to a wider audience will be considered, including Domus and Stile Industria, as well as the important role played by the Milan Triennial exhibitions, the Italian industrial design association (ADI), the Compasso d’Oro awards, and Italy’s extensive artisanal craft networks.
Each week will largely concentrate on a separate decade, from the 1940s to the 80s. The course will consider the relevance to post-war Italian design of foreign investment, such as from the US European Recovery Program – often known as the Marshall Fund – the adoption in Italy of American-style production lines, and the development of new materials and manufacturing processes. The impact of important national events will considered, such as the formation of the Italian Republic, national politics, and the internal migration of workers from different parts of the peninsula, as well as world events, including the USA-USSR space race in the 1960s and the OPEC oil crisis of the early 1970s. The influence of renowned contemporary artists and film-makers will be highlighted, along with the professional collaboration between Italian and foreign designers and companies.
Where possible, the tutor will bring into class important examples of Italian design from the period under discussion each week, so that they can be studied first-hand. Overall, this short course will be a comprehensive, well-illustrated and highly-referenced introduction to the history and significance of Italian design and society in the second half of the twentieth century.