Compasso d’Oro brings the history of Italian design to China

A new exhibition in Shanghai celebrates the award that was conceived by Gio Ponti back in 1954 and still represents the essence and quality of Italian design in the world.

On Thursday, November 9, the Compasso d’Oro Award: Seventy Years Leading Italian Design Trends exhibition was inaugurated in the central historic area of Shanghai – the Bund. Curated by Francesca Balena Arista, Giovanni Comoglio, and Maite Garcia Sanchis, with Ling Min and an exhibition design project by Aldo Cibic, the exhibition is produced by the ADI Design Museum, in collaboration with Treccani and the Italian Cultural Institute in Shanghai twinned with Milan – capital of Italian design – since 1974. The exhibition is dedicated to seventy years of Italian design as told by the Compasso d’Oro award and will be open until February 25, 2024.

Divided into four sections, the exhibition unfolds on the second floor of the centennial Bund18, recognized as a UNESCO heritage site since 2006. Covering an area of over 800 square meters, a selection of more than 100 Compasso d’Oro award-winning designs illustrates the history, value, and purpose of this important award, representing the essence of Italian design. From objects to public spaces, services to graphics, the exhibition offers visitors a diverse experience that concretely reflects the many facets contributing to the profile of Italian design.

The Golden Section, through an animation created specifically for the exhibition, introduces the visitor to the concept of the golden section as a criterion of beauty, understood as harmony and balance, the proportion and relationship between organic and artificial forms that underlie the Italian design concept. The journey continues with A Journey through the Compasso d’Oro, narrating the history of the award through images, documents, and testimonies from the past, highlighting the dual role of designers as both planners and producers.

In the main gallery, the Timeline unfolds, presenting a wide selection of projects awarded from 1954 to 2022, showcasing the evolution of Italian design. The fourth section, Insights, gathers seven thematic paths, presenting more than 35 award-winning objects as concrete examples of the quality of Italian design in seven different categories: Arts and Crafts, Limitless Domesticity, Invention, Turning Point, Communication, Commons, and Families.

Among the objects on display are Gio Ponti’s Superleggera chair; Gino Colombini’s KS1171 dish rack for Kartell; creations by Bruno Munari, such as the Abitacolo for Robots and the foam rubber monkey Zizi for Pigomma; the Luminator lamps by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni; Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper’s Doney television and Grillo phone; up to the very recent awards given to social design projects like Food for Soul and devices related to the pandemic experience, such as Isinnova’s Easy Covid. There are also works by Gae Aulenti, Cini Boeri, Anna Castelli, Joe Colombo, Giulio Iacchetti, Alessandro Mendini, Matteo Ragni ed Ettore Sottsass, produced by major companies such as Artemide, Boffi, Cassina, Fiat, Flos e Piaggio.

Luciano Galimberti, president of ADI, emphasized that the intent is not merely celebratory; the focal point of the exhibition is sharing, giving life to a common territory on which to build a culture of peace and responsible coexistence. This is made possible by beauty and design attention, which is an attention to the form of our lives and those of others.

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