Aldo Rossi Design 1960–1997 provides an immersion into Rossi’s craftsmanship


Aldo Rossi. Design 1960–1997
Novocento Museum
Milan, Italy
Open until November 6

Scale is important if you want to design something useful: you can’t build a coffee maker as big as a Duomo and sell it to Rinascente, nor can you create a village the size of a espresso cup and get a commission. of the province of Lombardy. But you can consider objects of different sizes as similar concerns during the early stages of design. This is, in an exciting way, what Aldo Rossi did in his work, a process that you can digest exhaustively at Aldo Rossi. Design 1960–1997 to Novecento Museum In Milan.

There have been other Rossi exhibitions in recent years: Aldo Rossi and the city at Pratt in 2017, Aldo Rossi: The Architectvsture ad AAnalog City rtat Princeton University School of Architecture in 2018, and Aldo Rossi. The architect and the cities at the MAXXI in Rome in 2021. But whereas those shows focused on architecture and the city, Design stages a broader understanding of Rossi’s work.

Aldo Rossi. Design 1960-1997Installation view at the Museo del Novecento (Francesco Carlini)

Organized by Chiara Spangaro in partnership with Fondazione Aldo Rossi and Silvana Editoriale and designed by Morris Adjmi, Aldo Rossi. Design 1960-1997 showcases over 350 objects offering excellent immersion into Rossi’s design processes and a skillful tribute to his craft.

The exhibition vaguely follows time, but the themes more closely. Curator Spangaro explained, “The timeline has been subverted to show nine very different groups of works: his icons and their prototypes; an ideal bedroom and its personal space; the architect’s research on solid figures, and the resonance of his architecture in his objects and the furniture he designed for his buildings. The idea is to immerse oneself in Rossi’s creative, magical and playful universe while perceiving its complexity and links.

Design starts small before it grows. You’ll find design sketches next to objects at any exhibit, but usually not designs of palace-sized percolators, or clustered in guest-sized parlors. Shacks trail on the beach in sketches, they don’t just line up in rows. Morris Adjmi said A that “many of Rossi’s sketches look like buildings, but they are actually objects and vice versa; he blurs the lines between object and architecture using drawings, paintings and sketches to render these things to scale and imbue them with anthropomorphic qualities.

line sketch pink walls and shelves line coffee maker objects
Aldo Rossi. Design 1960-1997Installation view at the Museo del Novecento (Francesco Carlini)

There’s an active Alice in Wonderland quality to the exhibit, which comes from Rossi’s pieces. After all, he designed a service literally called the Coffee and tea square for Alessi. The whimsical and imaginative feeling continues in other objects such as his line of Il Faro ceramics for Rosenthal, another lighthouse-inspired coffee service, and sketches in which designed objects appear as large or small as anything. on paper.

This may all sound fanciful, but it presents a coherent take on Rossi’s actual thinking on design, not just the musings of Lilliput and Brobdingnag. Rossi wrote in L’officina Alessi, Alberto Alessi and Alessandro Mendini: dieci anni di progetto 1980-1990, published in 1989, “In this sense, by another path, I came up against the functionalist and narrow idea of ​​design: I thought of the image, that the image of the object was as or more powerful than that of architecture; and that again the image contained the function.

large architectural model in exhibition space
Aldo Rossi. Design 1960-1997Installation view at the Museo del Novecento (Francesco Carlini)

Adjmi testified to this imaginative source common to all of Rossi’s work: “Perhaps we could consider him a Renaissance personality because he was multimodal and worked with several media and in several disciplines, but I don’t think that he really separated one of these works – they all kind of co-existed.

For Rossi, the design of domestic objects was not a deviation from architecture or theorizing – it was the same track. He wrote that he was “drawn to household objects: coffee pots, kettles, crockery, clocks and lamps constituted a kind of abandoned house of childhood or senility, a time never present where things were built to last forever” . Rossi’s neo-rationalism has always had an emotional quality to it, but that sentiment is particularly emphasized here. DesignThe wall text quotes Rossi referring to the furniture as “objects of affection”, obviously some distance from Le Corbusier’s influenced invocation that “an armchair is a machine for sitting down”.

bright pink and yellow painted doors
Aldo Rossi. Design 1960-1997Installation view at the Museo del Novecento (Francesco Carlini)

There is obviously a bit of humor in Rossi’s borrowings, but the reliable effect is to elevate household objects, not debase larger ones. A French press wrapped in columnar fluting radiates dignity, not a joke about columns. Coffee pots that look like medieval bassinets are not Renaissance Fair kitsch but evocative and intriguing: imagine Calvino’s non-existent knight appearing caffeinated right on your table.

As disdainful as Rossi may have been to the idea of ​​functionalism as the proper place for design, objects must obviously function, and it is fascinating to reliably witness practical evolutions of objects through sketches and prototypes. The watches are particularly fascinating to observe. Adjmi recalled Rossi holding a simple washer on a watch face as a eureka moment on the path to iconic simplicity.

red chairs in a pink exhibition space
Aldo Rossi. Design 1960-1997Installation view at the Museo del Novecento (Francesco Carlini)

Adjmi’s exhibition design increases the appreciation of the exhibited artifacts. Its aim was to “reinforce this idea of ​​axes and connections” inherent in Rossi’s work. Objects are invariably framed forward, with intriguing corners; even the door frames have been modified to conform to the design vision.

The wall colors are taken directly from Rossi’s playbook. Adjmi had wanted to use an assortment of blues for the walls, but it turned out to be too similar to a Mario Sironi exhibit upstairs. He opted for a streak of roses, also a Rossi favourite, which he remembers from many visits to his mentor’s house on Lake Maggiore. “The concept was to start with this very pale pink and then go darker and darker towards an almost terracotta color, which is reminiscent of this Cimitero cube,” Adjmi said, referring to Rossi’s San Cataldo cemetery.

A gallery gives a sense of Rossi’s family life, mixing his furniture (including a table inspired by his grandfather’s) with older pieces and Luigi Ghirri’s photos of Rossi’s domestic spaces, including his apartment on Via Maddalena in Milan.

“I literally wanted to recreate the feeling of being in his kitchen; before making it his office, it was his apartment,” explained Adjmi. “It was a place that was central to his production of drawings and his reflection on everything he did or did. His products were influenced by his daily life but also by his idea that history and contemporary life somehow coexist.

dining room inspired by that of aldo rossi
Aldo Rossi. Design 1960-1997Installation view at the Museo del Novecento (Francesco Carlini)

“It’s been 25 years since Aldo died, and my experience working with him gave me a foundation that I tried to build on,” Adjmi recalls. “It was another way to get insight into the process and his way of thinking, which transcended the silos of ‘I’m an artist’ or ‘I’m an architect’ or ‘I’m a designer’.” For Adjmi, the design exercise Design helped him see Rossi “as a whole person”. He continued, “It was satisfying to create a space to house all these objects in a way that told the story of the objects, but also of the man, of the person.”

Anthony Paletta is a freelance writer in New York. He contributed to The architect’s journal, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Metropolis, Architecture file, CityLaband other publications.


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