Turin – The Design

This is an excerpt from the book “Turin“

2014 Ford Mustang Giugiaro | The Best New Cars – photo cars4reviews.com

If you want to know something about Piedmont design, you should ask any foreigner rather than someone from Turin or Piedmont. You will not be surprised that New York was the first to understand how high the level of quality is in Piedmont design.

You will not be surprised that the New York Museum of Modern Art quickly added several Piedmont design products to their permanent exhibitions – The Rocks, the ironically designed foam rubber armchairs designed with a touch of irony by Piero Gilardi; the Olivetti Lettera 22 typewriter; and Pininfarina’s Cisitalia 202 SC, the first car put on exhibit in that museum.

The international recognition given to Piedmont design was just what made the region become one of the world centers of design. We in Piedmont might not have noticed it by ourselves

Turin offers people the chance to discover and visit the places that have become the forges of creativity, such as Bertone, Giugiaro Design and Pininfarina, which from time to time open the doors of their companies to visitors. In this way it is easier to understand why more than half the cars that are being driven along the streets of the world have been designed in Piedmont. The heritage of Adriano Olivetti can still be perceived in Ivrea.

1946 Pininfarina Cisitalia 202 at M.O.M.A. New York – Photo © C.K.H.
1946 Pininfarina Cisitalia 202 at M.O.M.A. New York – Photo © C.K.H.


Maybe you could blame our design industry for putting more on the process of production than on “pure” design. However, it was in this way that the best works originated.

First there is the thought and then there is the designer. Otherwise, objects like the Aurora Hastil and Thesi (1979) by Zanuso would not have come about. Alessi would have been a container with no contents rather than the leading worldwide firm it is today. Where else but on Lake Orta could Sapper have designed his espresso pot?

How can we forget the vases made out of synthetic materials that are a result of the dynamic industrial changeover that Serralunga was able to accomplish in Biella? Only a firm like Gufram could have stood up and thrived under the creative assault of radical architects. Studio 65’s Cactus, the Strum group’s Pratone, and many of the curious objects that monopolized the market in the 1960s are, in fact, the products of Piedmont firms.

The same is true for architecture. Mollino has remained the undisputed genius of Piedmont modernism, as seen in his opera house foyer for Turin’s Teatro Regio and his mountain lodge, Lago Nero, near Sauze d’Oulx.

Yet, there are other wonders of modern architecture to be seen at Turin’s Michelotti Park, once the site of the zoo. Renzo Piano designed the so-called light blue bubble on roof of Lingotto, the former factory building, as well as the so-called jewellery box of the art gallery there, the Pinacoteca Agnelli – structures that have changed Turin’s skyline forever.

On the other hand, there is also a generation of emerging architects who seem to have the energy to keep up with the masters who have gone before them. There is Uda, which built its elevated additions at Ilti luce. There is Granma with its cosmopolitan Parco Dora project in the Spina 3 section of Turin.

Finally, there is Elastico with its one-family houses spread over the region. Any thorough account of the heritage of Piedmont design must include graphics. There is the strong heritage left by Bodoni, the eighteenth-century Piedmont typographer. Over the years the Tipografia Nebiolo has created type characters that have been used for entire generations. Those designed by Aldo Novarese are especially memorable. There is an important Piedmont tradition of design in advertising.

Olivetti Lettera 22 – Photo © neste
Olivetti Lettera 22 – Photo © neste

There are long-established firms such as Bgs D’Arcy and Armando Testa, which has designed the by-now iconic billboards for the vermouth Punt e Mes and Carpano and Lavazza coffee’s Carmencita. There is also a newer generation of advertising agencies, such as InAdv, Phoenix, and Fore. There are emerging creative groups, such as Bellissimo, 515, BadriottoPalladino and BoletsFernando. All of these have innovative styles and international approaches. Turn is the name that has been given to a “new design community” founded in Turin in 2005 with over 100 associates. This association interprets design not only as a result but also as a process of thought and is evidence of the ferment in the local atmosphere of young people in the fields of graphics, design, architecture, and communication. Once again it seems that people in Piedmont may be quiet, but they do want to make an impression.

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