Looking good – “fare bella figura” – is the credo that determines Italian design from the 60s until today. In addition to countless light classics you will also find a young, very active design scene.
Italian design manages to combine functionality and irony – and this recipe for success guarantees the offspring of young designers in their own country.
Floor lamp Battista by Nigel Coates
This is a light sculpture (Battista) made of wood with the special material Cristalflex
From industrial design to furniture design and cars – the Italian style stands out due to a combination of imagination and rigor. The style and design history of the 60’s was marked by two different influences: first, the violent eruption of a popular culture full of symbols and metaphors, and on the other hand the belief in a design, which should be perfect with regards to its form. Italian lighting designers were the first ones around the world that were able to transform the history of light into a work of art and created interiors in which people easily feel comfortable.
From this Zeitgeist companies such as Fontana Arte as artistic division of the then leading glass manufacturer Luigi Fontana developed. In the beginning Fontana Arte manufactured stained glass church windows, which can still be admired at the Milan Cathedral or the Cathedral of Brasilia. But Gio Ponti realized the potential of glass for the production of furnishing elements and turned to the production of lamps, small pieces of furniture and accessories. This year the company celebrates its 80th anniversary.
Honey by Rotaliana
This lamp “Honey” is made of modular elements
Flos, Artemide, Luceplan
The decisive development took place during the boom years after World War II, when a large number of new companies emerged, whose aim was to establish shapely objects on the basis of solid craftsmanship. Furniture manufactures like Kartell (1949), Zanotta (1954) and Poltronova (1957) ventured into a new territory of aesthetics, and so did the lighting manufacturers Artemide (1959) and Flos (1962). In addition to emotional tendencies, rational works can be found, for example beautiful desk lamps.
Italian lighting design was primarily driven by the brothers Castiglioni, who created a number of lamps for the manufacturer Flos, which are by now some of the most famous design objects worldwide. The Italian architect and designer Ettore Sottsass was one of the most admired designers of his time. With the group “Memphis”, which he co-founded, he tried to counteract the strong prevailing consumption fetishism at the time. Sottsass designed numerous objects for companies such as Olivetti, Artemide, Alessi and Poltronova. Ernesto Gismondi, himself a member of the “Memphis” group and Sergio Mazza founded the lighting design company Artemide and contributed to the term “Made in Italy” as a design of quality in lighting design.
Planet by Foscarini
This round light fixture (Planet) made of textile creates new light accents every time
Artemide conducts research and development, laboratory and functional test in its technology centers, and thus controls the entire process chain of luminaire development. Some of the design classic made it to the design and art museums of the world, including the Tolomeo series of Michele de Lucchi and Giancarlo Fassini, which Artemide is still producing as of today. Michele de Lucci also joined the design group “Memphis”. His current project, which he founded in 1990 with headquarters in Milan and Rome and with which he realized his own design concepts for the manufacturing concept, is called “Produzione Privata”.
Luceplan has been located in Milan since 1950. Until the founding of the company the founder of the company, Ricardo Sarfatti, had already been working together with his father Gino Sarfatti in his company Arteluce. The design pieces of this company originally included not only lights but also tableware for daily use, such as furniture and typewriters, which were designed for the company Olivetti, or motor scooters in collaboration with Piaggio. The light “Hope“, which combines modern design with comfort, is not only one of the most innovative lights in recent years, but also quite rightly the winner of the prestigious Compasso d’Oro Award 2011. The designers Francisco Gomez Paz and Paolo Rizzatto are responsible for the design of the “Hope” light, a successful duo that sets new standards for creative and functional lighting design.
Oluce, Lumina, Catellani
A leading figure of Italian design was undoubtedly Vico Magistretti, who achieved world fame with such well-known luminaries such as the table lamp “Atollo”. Magristretti designed lamps and furniture for Artemide, Cassina and Kartell and worked for several years as art director for the luminaire manufacturer Oluce which still produces its classic true to original. The company was founded by Lumina Designer Tommaso Cimini in 1973. His first design was the design of “Daphine“, which can now be found in major art and design museums.
Daphine by Cimini
This lamp (Daphine) has become very popular
At the same time of the founding of the Memphis group two company owners, Carlo Urbinati and Alessandro Vecchiato, got to know each other. The newly created company Foscarini (1981) in Murano stands for experimenting with new materials. A few kilometers from the center of Bergamo lives and works the Italian designer Enzo Catellani. There you can also find the production facilities in an old mill and a generous showroom. Enzo Catellani’s light fixtures are expressive objects with their own poetic meaning. Each lamp is part of a series, but remains unique itself and always has its own creation story. Catellani already demonstrated many years ago that you can perfectly detach the design of a luminaire from lamps with tiny LED light sources.
The headquarters of Rotaliana in Trento is known as the “light laboratory” far beyond the borders of Italy. The combined know-how at Rotaliana enables productive solutions, such as “hybrid lamps”, that combine light and usefulness. The collection of lamps consists of fresh shapes and cool colors and adds a fashionable item to each living room.
Sospesa by Groppi
This pendant light (Sospesa) looks like a very thin layer of paper
Viabizzuno, Slamp, Knikerboker
The designer Mario Nanni founded the company Viabizzuno in 1994 as an expression of its project philosophy and his passion for light. Apart from numerous completed projects, Viabizzuno has now made a name for itself with its innovative lighting. Slamp was launched on the designer market in 1994. The company consists of Roberto Ziliani and a team of young, creative designers, including the architect Nigel Coates, Adriano Rachele, Luca Mazza or Stefano Papi. The lamps by Slamp are distinguished in particular by their capricious shapes and the special material Opalflex. The company Knikerboker consists of the brothers Gigi and Bebe Ranica. The creative Gigi was previously active in the fashion industry for several years. Knikerboker is known for its huge handcrafted light metal objects, many of which are produced according to customer requirements.
Italian design managed to combine functionality and irony – and this recipe for success guarantees the offspring of young designers in their own country. The Design Museum of Triennale in Milan dedicated a first-class exhibition not only to the history of Italian design, but also asked young designers to participate.