Franco Albini’s austere, impassioned world is just a mouse click away

Seventeen videos will recount Franco Albini's work and method. In this way his heirs and the staff who preserve the Lombard master’s memory are filling the void left by the closure of cultural institutions, including the Albini Foundation.

Much thought is now being given to ways of reopening museums and cultural institutions, starting on 18 May, gradually, with safety measures in place and in a guise completely different from what we are used to. Meanwhile, the Franco Albini Foundation, gradually and methodically, is floating a series of new videos entitled “I racconti di…” The aim, for the duration of the lockdown, is obviously to keep Albini’s work and method alive and accessible by transmitting them through the interpretations that his heirs have given of them since 2007, 30 years after Franco Albini’s death. In that year the Foundation was established in the premises on Via Telesio, where the master worked for many years. The staple of the 17 videos is obviously the material in the Albini Archive, declared a National Historical Asset, while the technique chosen by all the speakers in the videos is storytelling: personal, anecdotal, always impassioned, by those who work day by day to preserve Albini’s memory.

Albini Archives

It’s clear that the intense soul of a place like this can only really be discovered in the old way, slowly, by exploring things and people at first hand. But it’s also true that the format of these videos is a good virtual embodiment of them. It’s great opportunity that will help viewers immerse themselves in the austere and impassioned world of the Italian master of architecture and design and his many projects for Milan. Virtually, you enter the rooms of his office, where you can still breathe that dedication and vision, touch some of the masterpieces of design that decreed the success of Italian design and gaze at the documents and drawings kept there. Ultimately, what is offered is a surrogate visit to his studio, a useful way to replace a real visit of the sort you could have made before the lockdown. The new guidelines for admission to cultural venues will rule this out for a long time to come, because enforcing rigorous measures in small and delicate settings like these will certainly not be simple or economically viable.

Amid the confused overall picture, already from March, Marco and Paola Albini – Franco’s son and granddaughter, the Foundation’s president and vice president  – have decided to become
involved personally and brought all their closest staff members into the production of the videos. The programme will start on 13 May and continue till 14 October, backed up by six videos less closely related to architecture and design and centred on the Albini method used with an interdisciplinary approach.

The series starts with Marco recounting Albini’s life and telling us how he joined his father in his work. Then Paola tells how the stories concealed in the more than 22,000 drawings in the archive are brought to life in the theatrical shows she creates. The head of the archive, Elena Albricci, is given the task of describing the discoveries made during the study of the documents preserved in the office as well as the lessons embodied in Albini’s works. This foray into research is supplemented with two videos by Giampiero Bosoni, who has studied the numerous design projects, mostly unpublished or little known, and one by Chiara Lecce, who recounts the impact of Albini’s innovations worldwide and the evolution of his method of product and exhibition design. Laura Dondi is responsible for activities related to the guided tours organised by the Foundation. She explains how to share the works, the working method and ideas of a designer of this calibre. Also involved in the tours is Giovanni Luca Minici, whose video guides us to discover the history of the Milan Metro and its impact on other subways around the world. The last two videos on the programme before summer focus on architecture. Albini’s grandson Francesco, who directs Albini Associati with his father Marco, speaks of the continuity with the Albini method. Anqi Zhan, head of relations between Italy and China, tells us that China needs the example of an architect whose method focused on the essence and turned it into objects and architecture.

From 13 May to 14 October

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