Book Reviews - Masterpieces of Italian Design

Friday 16 October 2015

As something of a petrol head on the side, the title of this book screams Lamborghini Miura and Riva Aquarama. It's hard to conceal the things that I first associated with design and a foreign country, but fortunately my outlook has broadened since my first set of Trump cards. So much so that it's hard to even begin to define Italian design. Maybe it's because I am first and foremost a user and not a designer of these goods. OK, so I haven't got a Miura in the garage, but Italian design is surely as much of a visual experience for the world as it is a consumer driven entity?

Many of the objects listed in Masterpieces of Italian Design are of mythical status but you kind of need to know what they are first before you pass them over. Take the Laleggera 301 chair, for example: 2.3kg of maple (Acer campestre) or ash (Fraxinus excelsior) veneer and polyurethane. If you weren't aware of the technological achievements behind its development, then you probably wouldn't give it a second glance. On that basis, then, neither would you fall over yourself to get a glimpse of the Olivetti Praxis 20 electronic typewriter. This book is full of icons that most of us will at some point have either used by default or longed for all of our lives. The sleeve notes sum up in a few sentences why Italian design has had such an impact on the modern world: a strong engineering focus, the embodiment of style and substance and an intellectualised design press. Those three lines alone set you up for what's to follow and they don't disappoint. It doesn't matter if you make furniture at the weekend on your kitchen table or pitch ideas to corporations via video link, you'll gain inspiration from just flicking through this book. If you need to dig a little deeper into the psyche of Italian design, then there's plenty here to get your teeth into, whether it's tables or table-top accessories you're after. Remember, though, that you need to enjoy some of these items within the context of the times they were created. Then again, you may find a few of them creeping back into this century from the last. Take the Fiat 500 Nuova, for example - what goes around, comes around.


ISBN: 9781847960474

Price: £30