The DesignTalks series introduces Fabio Parasecoli’s research on the representation of food in films as a social and political battleground.
The students of the Master’s in Industrial Design accompanied by their tutor Valerio Sommella headed towards the Lake Orta yesterday to visit the Alessi headquarter in Crusinallo. The afternoon started at the company’s museum and finished with an inspirational meeting with the supervisors of the recently launched FoodTools! project.
The museum’s curator Francesca Appiani together with Stefania Ferrari introduced the philosophy and the purpose of the collection that includes 25.000 objects such as prototypes, current products and discontinued items, curios and pieces from other manufacturers in different fields gathered over the years. The archive gives a cumulative account of the evolution of Alessi’s cultural identity. From the rolling shelves of the museum, Mrs. Appiani extracted symbolic items that represent the different phases in the evolution of the company: from the traditional trays of the Fifties decorated with flower-themes and manufactured through cold metal pressing, to the innovative collection of containers and bread baskets that Alberto Alessi, nephew of the founder and now president the company, commissioned for the first time to a group of external designers in 1970, when he joined the family business. It has to be noted that among them there was also the already famous Ettore Sottsass. This seminal collaboration led to another project named Tea and Coffee Piazza, that represents a real turning point for Alessi. As suggested by Alessandro Mendini, the company wanted to go back to the roots of Italian design that was largely made by architects and asked to a group of international architects to created a tea and coffee set intended to be a small architecture. Despite the hazards in the manufacturing process, the initiative turned out to be really successful and marked the starting point of two long and fruitful collaborations with Michael Graves and Aldo Rossi. From the Nineties onwards the company opened up to new materials and categories and continued acting as both a talent scout and an editor for the best names on the international scene. Today the catalogue consist of roughly 1.000 products. Gloria Barcellini in charge of the meta-projects with Alberto Alessi and Martin Gerst, product manager, then illustrated the so called “successful formula” that Alberto Alessi has devised at the beginning of the 90’s: the formula represents a retrospective analysis of the key factors of success of the products and allows to derive a final score that serves a a basis for the introduction of new products and the relevant sales forecast.
Overall these guiding principles reflect the philosophy of the company whose focus is more on the language than on technology. In particular the SMI factor, an acronym that stands for Sensoriality Memory Imaginary, clearly indicates to the students where to put the emphasis when it comes to envisioning their new FoodTools! projects: it’s about developing a new language that has a grip on memory and conveys emotions.