The event organized by Riccardo Luna on 9 March at the Acquario Romano brought out a stream of infectious energy; a dense progression of stories and people that is something of a miracle.
True stories of people who have turned their hobbies into businesses outside the box and company and market rules; stories of people who invest in their future and look fearlessly to new technologies; stories of crafts traditions that can be reinvented.
World Wide Rome rendered palpable the creativity spread throughout Italy; unstoppable enthusiasm just waiting for a sign so that it can explode into infinite and unsuspected streams. Fashion, design, architecture, crafts, marketing and technology; the made-in-Italy makers move through these areas. Managers, artisans, entrepreneurs, designers and professionals of all ages: innovators and visionaries who write new success stories, who focus on creativity, who generate new products and media, especially new business models, starting from digital fabrication, open-source production and collaboration between people. The result of their progress is the ongoing redefinition of the relationship between material production, technology, design, innovation and society.
The roles of entrepreneur, craftsman, designer and customer become fluid, almost interchangeable; the consumer becomes increasingly aware and active.
In Rome, there was not the death of industry, nor the invalidation of professional designers but rather the proud rediscovery of doing and making with one's own hands and head.
From niche phenomenon for enterprising and bored nerds, DIY, in its eco and techno versions, is increasingly becoming a subject of interest shared by the entire production chain.
The Italian makers movement is strengthened by the legacy of its industrial and manufacturing districts and their excellence, often niche productions, envied throughout the world.
There is the story of Riccardo Marchesi in the textile machines business who, with the Florence-based Plug and Wear and Inntex projects, reinvented his job, creating intelligent fabrics (luminescent and water sensitive) used in a wide range of fields from interior design to fashion to medicine. Or Enrico Dini, who with D-Shape, wants to revolutionize the construction industry thanks to a 3D printer that mixes sand and salt to make rock. His dream? To build houses on the moon. For now he focuses his attention on maritime hydraulics for the protection of coral reefs.
And design? It silently pervades all the presentations.
It emerges with irrepressible force in the discussions of the leaders of this new industrial revolution; starting with Chris Anderson, editor of Wired Us as well as maker and successful 3D Robotics entrepreneur.
There is no nation in the world where the word "design" has such strong meaning as here. And this is the right time for Italy to become the bearer of democratic design, Anderson said. Even large companies should embrace the influence of the makers, accepting their open and collectivist philosophy.
Simona Maschi and Dario Buzzini, among the few representatives of the brain-drain universe in Rome, confirmed this.
The former told of her experience at CIID, the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, devoted to education, research and consultancy. Beauty applied to experience and culture permeate the projects that develop in a fruitful dialogue between students and companies. Embracing the logic of making also has its advantages for the big brands — thinning the line between thinking and doing reduces the time and costs of R&D.
Dario Buzzini, Design Director of IDEO's new New York headquarters, said that he is applying the philosophy of doing (things-people-future) to large companies that turn to the international consulting firm to change and improve their approach.
And even Arduino, the Italian heart of this revolution (according to Riccardo Luna), was born in a fertile context like the ever-missed Interaction Design Institute in Ivrea as a tool for students and designers. Over the years, the role of this tiny circuit board has changed a great deal; thanks to Giorgio Olivero and the ToDo office, Arduino (along with its packaging) has been transformed into a true design object.
Many of the projects presented at the Acquario Romano are greatly indebted to the Arduino technology and philosophy. 3D printers by Kent's Strapper; the systems of connectivity and integration between different technologies developed by Paraimpu; Openwear fashion proposed by Zoe Romano and the of social commerce platform, Blomming; all initiatives that share with Massimo Banzi's project the passion for open-source knowledge as well as the great desire to bridge the gap between design and manufacturing (Make things, not slides, is Vectorealism's motto).
During the Salone del Mobile, we will see more results of the ongoing revolution: the winners of the Autoprogettazione 2.0 competition will be on display at Palazzo Clerici in Milan from 17 to 22 April.