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11 April 2023
Artist, theorist, designer, he has carried forward his experimental ideas, gently revolutionizing the culture of design
Brilliant, ironic, experimenter: Bruno Munari was a disruptive figure in the Italian creative scene in which he helped outline a transversal professional profile, completely new at the time. Born in 1907, he began working as an advertising graphic designer in 1929, in the meantime he also cultivated other forms of expression and in 1933 introduced his Macchine Inutili: suspended sculptures with a strong graphic profile that today we would call mobiles. From the 1940s onwards, he began a valuable collaboration with Danese company for which he designed, for example, the Cubo ashtray, the Falkland lamp (now produced by Artemide) and the Canarie desk set.
He is not a pure designer but rather a creative who navigates fearlessly through all forms of expression, with the curiosity and resourcefulness of a child. And it is no coincidence that he dedicates an important strand of his professional career to the world of childhood, above all through a series of publications that suggest a new approach to education, an approach based on learning through play rather than notions to be learned by memory. “There hasn’t been a moment, in my childhood and in my life, in which I realized that my path would have been that of an artist. There has always been a sort of ‘cross-fade’ between normal village life and one of my activities that today would be defined as ‘creative’, caused by curiosity and the desire to do something different from the usual”. These are the words with which Munari himself reflects on his path, a forerunner of the transversal approach to creativity, an approach that also transpires from the projects that still enter homes today bringing that pinch of daily wonder to which Munari himself aimed.
The Falkland lamp is the result of an intuition that only an elastic and open mind like Munari’s could generate. When he starts working on the project, for Danese, the idea is to evoke Japanese lanterns: the paper they are traditionally made of, however, is delicate and tends to turn yellow. In search of a more suitable material, Munari goes to a pantyhose factory and inspired by fishermen’s pots, begins to experiment with the effect produced by inserting metal rings inside a sock. The iconic project was born, which in its final version, now published by Artemide as a suspension and floor lamp, envisages the presence of a series of tubular metal circles of different diameters inside a sock. The alternation of circles of different sizes dictates the visual rhythm and makes it so special and recognizable, while the sock, acting as a filter, helps to create a comfortable and diffused light.
Cubo ashtray and Canarie desk set
In Munari’s vision, even small everyday objects can be designed with care to make the simplest gestures interesting and beautiful. An example of this approach is the Cubo ashtray, designed in 1957 for Danese: the idea, innovative for the time, was to create a closed ashtray, in which cigarette and ash disappear, which is easy to empty. The foil through which the cigarette is inserted has an inclination such as to cause it to go out and is inserted inside a non-flammable melamine resin cube. The Cubo concept returns to the Canarie desk set made up of an aluminum base inside which you can insert pen holders, paper clip holders and ashtrays, all with a cube shape and all composed of a melamine resin casing. From the same series is also Maiorca, the desk set made up of a pen holder and paper clip holder.
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