The Venice Carnival ended quite recently and if designer Alessandro Mendini had been able to realise his Ponte dell’Accademia project (Biennale 1980), it would have been like a rococo whorl across the lagoon waters, or like a mask in a film by Fellini. Mendini reminds us of those scenographers who wrap things in fabric, following the hidden thread of a suggestion, dainty and tongue-in-cheek at the same time. We find such a suggestion in his Proust armchair (1978) which invites us to sit down, as if we were the Sun King, on Paul Signac’s dots.
Instead, let’s walk down to Vulcan’s forge (as it were) where, more or less in the same years, another designer was convinced that work itself (conceived as a hotchpotch of materials, textures and noises), could enter, lock, stock, and barrel, into a new world of design; literally, like a snail into its shell. Here, then, is Marco Zanuso with his Lady, the armchair padded with the polyurethane of those cars that, in 1951, Italians were already hoping to buy.
Two radically different concepts of living and of the home. For Mendini, all stilettos and lace, it’s a place where one is allowed to be “lazy only on Saturday mornings”: this is what he writes in the songs of Architettura Sussurrante, a record produced with Italian pop group Matia Bazar in 1983, and of which it seems that MoMA has a copy… Zanuso, on the other hand, just couldn’t fathom the thought of home that was sluggish in zeal and in 1956 received the “Compasso d’Oro” industrial design award for his Borletti sewing machine. Between the two of them, the tailor and the costumer, they went on to win ten such awards.
Tomorrow, Saturday morning, we can choose whether it’s going to be a postmodernist, or as yet a still a modernist, weekend. The opportunity to square the circle is given to us by an exhibition that opened a few days ago at the ADI Design Museum. Obviously, under the protection of blessed laziness.