Posts Tagged ‘Olivetti’

Design | Olivetti’s Anti-Machine Ethos

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Poster for the Valentine typewriter,
Designed by Walter Ballmer, 1969
Courtesy Associazione Archivio
Storico Olivetti, Ivrea, Italy



Olivetti: Beyond Form and Function
ICA Fox Reading Room
London | UK
25 May > 17 July 2016



Olivetti Showroom, Venice, Italy
Designed by Carlo Scarpa, 1958
Both photos Marco Ambrosi
Courtesy of Navone Associati, Milan



My first typewriter was an Olivetti Praxis 20 Electronic Typewriter, designed by Mario Bellini in 1983. At the time I couldn’t type. I bought it because I admired its sculptural beauty. Even now, having used computer keyboards for some 30 years I remain a one finger typist. If not for Olivetti’s pioneering and beautifully designed products and their attention to the environments in which they were sold and used – hailed as the precursors to the user-friendly Apple products that began to appear in the late 1990s and and the Apple stores that followed – it’s possible that the world may not have taken up desktop and personal technology quite so swiftly or as readily as it has over the past three decades.

Polymath Ettore Sottsass, who was responsible for designing the bright red Valentine portable typewriter (above) – produced by Olivetti from 1969 to 1975 – once remarked: ‘When I began designing machines I also began to think that these objects, which sit next to each other and around people, can influence not only physical conditions but also emotions. They can touch the nerves, the blood, the muscles, the eyes and the moods of people. Since then I have never designed a product in the same way as I would design a sculpture, and I have been utterly obsessed with the idea that by designing an object or a machine I would be setting off a chain reaction of which I understood very little.’

Poster for the Divissuma 24 calculator
Designed by Herbert Bayer, 1950s
Courtesy Associazione Archivio
Storico Olivetti, Ivrea, Italy



Olivetti Lettera 22, poster
Designed by Giovanni Pintori, 1954
Courtesy Associazione Archivio
Storico Olivetti, Ivrea, Italy



Adriano Olivetti had established the importance of design as a pillar of the company founded by his equally forward thinking father in 1908 in Ivrea, Italy, that was growing at a phenomenal rate. As the company expanded and occupied more and more space within the city, hiring some of the country’s leading architects, the philanthropically-minded Adriano built carefully planned new neighbourhoods with abundant green space and compact apartment blocks to accommodate the expanding workforce. Arguing that because workers inside must see the mountains and valleys where they come from, and that people outside the factory should be able to observe what was going on inside, the new factory buildings were built almost entirely of glass.

In the 1950s designer Australian designer Gordon Andrews and FHK Henrion, a key figure of British post-war design, were asked to create the Olivetti London Kingsway showroom, and in 1957 Adriano commissioned architect Carlo Scarpa to design the showroom in Venice – opened in 1958, restored in 2011 – on the basis that it would be a space designed to show the products, but also to showcase Scarpa’s talent as an architect.

Sottsass was brought on board as a consultant in 1958, and in 1959 Adriano’s son, Roberto, insisted that he be allowed to design the Tekne, which would transform the typewriter into the first systematically conceived business machine. That same year Olivetti won the prestigious Compasso d’Oro with the Elea 9003, the first Italian electronic calculator (computer). Under Roberto Olivetti’s aegis, with the engineer, Mario Tchou, and using his ‘anti-machine machine’ approach, Sottsass’s relationship with the company thrived and he went on to create a series of technically innovative products that thanks to his love of pop art and interest in beat culture looked and felt very much of the moment.

Olivetti Showroom, Barcelona, Spain,
Designed by BBPR, 1965
Photo F Català Roca
Courtesy of Navone Associati, Milan



Numerous other well-know designers, architects and artists including Gae Aulenti, Louis Kahn, Le Corbusier, Mario Bellini, Milton Glaser, and Herbert Bayer were commissioned by Olivetti, who had also established a commercial art department within the company in 1937. From 1940 to 1967 this was led by the innovative and versatile Giovanni Pintori whose approach and aims: ‘I have always believed in the strength of simple ideas and the demand for clear, immediate language that is accessible to everyone. This doesn’t mean that the language of graphics is downgraded to the most common taste. Just the opposite: it means that the language intends to improve average tastes,’ sum up the progressive cultural ideals at the heart of the company’s ethos: a model that still resonates today.

Olivetti: Beyond Form and Function at the ICA Fox Reading Room presents Olivetti’s design work from the mid-20th century.

All images courtesy the ICA


Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us that we think might interest you.

The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier


Share this post
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Design | Forgotten Swiss Lamm that Roared in Italy

Friday, June 26th, 2015

Fashion 1960, for professional travellers, la Rinascente, 1960
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Poster Collection



Lora Lamm – La vita è bella
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich
Zürich | Switzerland
Until 16 August 2015



The garden – the house in the country – the city terrace, la Rinascente, 1956
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Poster Collection



The celebrated department store chain, La Rinascente, founded in 1917, (in Thai ownership since 2011) remains little known outside of Italy. With the exception of Switzerland, the same can be said of Swiss polymath designer / illustrator / art director, Lora Lamm.

La Rinascente was one of a number of innovative companies, including the tyre manufacturer, Pirelli, that during the post-war period latched on to the idea – pioneered by Olivetti – of establishing in-house advertising and PR departments that would develop a rapport with a new breed of designers with whom they collaborated to produce highly-creative advertising and promotional material.

Lamm, though often previously overlooked – she doesn’t rate a Wikipedia entry – whose work was synonymous with La Rinascente’s success during the period, was a major contributor to Italian design in the 1950s and 1960s. This month, in recognition of her contribution to the advancement of Swiss design both nationally and internationally, the Swiss Federal Office of Culture has awarded her the annual Grand Prix Design Award 2015.

Sales, 1957
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Poster Collection



Fashion spread, la Rinascente, c 1960
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Poster Collection



Roles, Pirelli, 1961
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Poster Collection



Lamm (b 1928), studied graphic design from 1946 to 1951 in Zürich under, among others, the former Bauhaus master Johannes Itten, and was afterwards drawn to flourishing Milan, which was enjoying an economic boom. After gaining a foothold at Studio Boggeri, where well-regarded Swiss designers were already working, she later moved to Panettone Motta Milano as a packaging designer. In 1954, on the recommendation of the Swiss graphic designer Max Huber, who was already an established designer at La Rinascente – he had designed their logo – Lamm was taken on by the company, where she was soon made responsible for the design and production of the store’s in-house magazine, Cronache.

Inspired by the latest graphics produced for international department stores in New York and Tokyo that she mixed freely with the rational, modernist influences she brought from Switzerland, Lamm rapidly imposed her own design vision that served the management’s purpose of attracting female clientele to La Rinascente.

Schools department, la Rinascente, 1958
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Poster Collection



After Huber left the store in 1958, Lamm was put in sole charge of the creative department, producing the company’s catalogues, posters, advertisements, invitations, mailers, packaging and other publicity, but still found time to carry out freelance work for Pirelli, Elizabeth Arden and Olivetti.

The light, positive feelings embodied in her work for the store characterised by illustrations of charming, child-like simplicity, and by fluid and elegant typography, was carried through to her posters for Pirelli. Here she juxtaposed whimsical illustration against perfectly-drawn black, scraper-board images of tyres, and often used photography.

In 1963, Lamm returned to Zürich, where she still lives and continues to work.

Lora Lamm – La vita è bella, currently showing at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich’s Schaudepot is an exhibition concerned almost exclusively with the designer’s poster work. A limited selection of original Lora Lamm poster designs is available to buy via the Swiss gallery, Artifiche.

All posters designed by Lora Lamm, © the artist, courtesy of Museum für Gestaltung Zürich



Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you.

The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier



Share this post
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Design | Italy in Paris

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Osvaldo Borsani
Model at16 coatstand
in leather, brass and walnut
Produced by Tecno, 1961
Est €6,000 > 8,000



Italian Design
PIASA Rive Gauche
Paris | France
Exhibition: 10th April > 14th April 2014
Sale: 15th April 2014

In the 1980s London fell in love with design. It was cool to kit out your home with slick and beautifully made contemporary Italian furniture and lighting from Zeev Aram and newly-established shops, such as Atrium, and The London Lighting Company. From its launch in 1983, the names of architects and designers Vico Magistretti, Achille Castiglioni, as well as that of Ettore Sotsass, figured regularly and prominently in the British magazine Blueprint. At about the same time, and although I and other like-minded Londoners spoke no Italian, we began subscribing to, and each month poring over, great-looking Italian architecture and design magazines. Domus was one, Abitare another – the latter art directed and edited by the legendary Italo Lupi (former art director of Domus) in which the work of the designers mentioned above would also feature, alongside that of Carlo Mollino, Gio Ponti (Domus’s founder) and Piero Fornasetti – each still relevant but more representative of an earlier era. However the list of lots in PIASA Rive Gauche’s forthcoming auction, reveals other important Italian figures, who are perhaps less familiar, or were lost in translation, and also includes anonymous pieces.

After training as an architect and designer, Osvaldo Borsani (1911 >1985), see image top, joined the family furniture-making business Atelier Varedo (later Arredamento Borsani). Very prolific as a designer of storage furniture and seating, in 1953 with his brother Fulgencio, Osvaldo founded the technology based company, Tecno, which still exists and is a well-known producer of innovative furniture for offices and public buildings.

Unknown designer
Sofa in wool and brass, c 1950
Est €18,000 > 25,000

Ico Parisi
Suite of six chairs
in painted wood
and leatherette
c 1955
Est €6,000 > 9,000

Ico Parisi’s (1916 > 1996) style epitomised the modern Italian look of the 1950s. Trained as architect, he spent time in the 1930s as a film-maker and went on to design everything from interiors to jewellery, sometimes working with his wife, Luisa, a former student of Gio Ponti.

Pucci de Rossi
Rocking chair
in steel, prototype, 2001
Est €10,000 > 15,000

Born in Verona, Italy, artist, sculptor and designer, de Rossi (1947 > 2013) lived and worked in Paris from 1979. Post-modern by nature, rather than producing useful functional objects and furniture, he sought to imbue his creations with imagination, humour and irony.

BBPR
Trolley in metal and wood
One-off piece, designed for a
Milanese apartment, 1959
Est €4,000 > 6,000

Set up in Milan in 1932, BBPR was a studio of modern movement architects, planners and designers, composed of Gian Luigi Banfi, Ludovico Barbiato di Belgiojoso, Enrico Peressutti and Ernesto Nathan Rogers, who were responsible for the post World War II reconstruction of the city. They produced chair designs for Arflex – now back in production – and BBPR’s Olivetti showroom on Fifth Avenue, New York City (1954), is regarded as among the most innovative small-scale projects of the period.

Pierre Cardin
Table lamp in metal and glass
Produced by Venini c1970
Est €3,000 > 4,000

Significantly, because the Italian approach to production of furniture and lighting has always been crafts-based – which attracted designers from around the world to produce work for or with Italian companies – the PIASA Rive Gauche Italian Design sale features pieces by non-Italians, including, appropriately – it taking place in Paris – Frenchman Pierre Cardin (1922 >), who happens to have been born in Italy.


Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

Share this post
Facebook Twitter Linkedin