Milan since the Miracle: City, Culture, and Identity

By John Foot | Go to book overview

6
Capital of Design, Capital of Fashion

1. Capital of Design

1.1. Design and the City: Design is Everywhere

All of our daily activities … from the turning-off of the alarm clock to the making of coffee, from taking the underground train to driving the car, from looking at our watch to sitting down to lunch or on a sofa, from the turning on of a television to using the computer, from working on a production line to following street signs, have been characterised, qualified and often improved by design. This term defines and concretises the relationship between product and project, or planning and production. (Pansera 1996: 15)

‘Design is everywhere’ (Hauffe 1998: 8; Forty 1995). Yet, the history of design ‘the drafting and planning of industrial products’ (Hauffe 1998: 10) – has usually taken second place to the histories of architecture and planning. The external and visual aspects of the city have often dominated, at least intellectually, the study of the metropolis and lived space. Design, however, pervades daily life to a far greater extent than architecture or planning (even if the separation between these disciplines is not as simple or clear cut as it might appear).1 Most of our lives are spent surrounded by, sitting on, sleeping on, drinking out of, driving in, working on or playing with objects designed by designers. Design permeates the city, and not just the city. It ‘makes the world liveable’ (Branzi in Bosoni and Confalonieri 1988: 8). The architects working in post-war Milan attempted to re-design the urban environment from top to bottom – as Ernesto Rogers famously put it ‘from the spoon to the city’ and ‘it is a question of forming a taste, a technique, a morality – all terms of the same function. It is a question of building a society’ (1946; Sparke 1998: 145; Piva 1982). For Enzo Paci designers were placed

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1
The blurring of the architect-designer role in Milan was a powerful example of this interdisciplinary approach to the profession, from Magistretti (who designed chairs, book-cases, workingclass neighbourhoods, churches and luxury villas) to Ponti (tower blocks, interior designs for ocean liners, chairs, coffee-makers) to Rossi (opera houses, monuments, cemeteries, coffee-makers). In Italy at least ‘the history of modern architecture seems to coincide with that of the modern seat’ (Branzi 1984a: 8).

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