Company and university: USM Modular Furniture supports tomorrow’s designers

An important partnership has developed between the Swiss modular systems company, the Polytechnic University of Milan and CSAC in Parma. We talk about it with Dario Caspani, Country Manager Italy.

The partnership between universities and companies is a crucial element in innovating as well as providing guidelines to future designers. The dialogue between the two is essential so that future professionals can read, understand and adapt themselves to the needs of a design industry that is constantly and rapidly evolving. It is on these assumptions that the first edition of the project launched by the Swiss company USM Modular Furniture with the academic world has taken shape. It is USM X Politecnico di Milano – L’università come luogo di lavoro, a project realized in collaboration with the Study Center and Communication Archive (CSAC) of Parma. Architecture, Urban Planning and Construction Engineering students were given the opportunity to re-interpret the iconic modular system designed by architect Fritz Haller and imagine new uses for it. The result consists of 11 projects and was revealed last July 15: the winner is “House of Music,” developed by Filippo Ferrari, Luna Montebugnoli, Gabriele Mencattini and Giuseppe Tamborini. We caught up with Dario Caspani, Country Manager Italy, to learn more about it.

Company and education is a combination we often hear about. How important is it to build a relationship that can provide the cultural tools for tomorrow’s designers and architects?
It is fundamental to build a relationship with tomorrow’s designers, to familiarize themselves with our brand and our history, as well as with the endless design possibilities our systems offer. For us, however, it is crucial to get from students their input, perception, experience, enriched by that design freedom and ability to interpret in a completely new way what we are often used to seeing with our own eyes and our usual perceptions. Learning today how to contextualize and use USM Haller system in an original way can shape the mindset of future professionals. Getting closer as early as during university studies to a system as complex as the Haller system – which has well-defined characteristics such as modularity, versatility, and durability – makes tomorrow’s architects and professionals significantly more inclined to imagine new functionalities and renewed declinations of system insertion within the architectural design.

Which universities have you approached? Are you planning to extend the proposal to other partners?
Right now, we have addressed only the Polytechnic University of Milan. In fact, with all its departments and degree programs it allows us to range in different fields. The first collaboration was with the School of Architecture, Urban Planning and Construction Engineering, intentionally with the aim of starting from architecture and arriving at the furnishing accessory, just as was the case with our Haller system. Next year we will renew a collaboration with the same School, but we do not exclude new partnerships in the future, perhaps with other entities also related to different fields, such as fashion and art, as well as design.

How are the collaboration proposals with students structured in terms of objectives and methods? 
The main goal is to give students the tools to work to the best of their ability in order to express their full creativity. The objectives and methods of collaboration are defined with teachers who guide us in refining our proposals and approaching students, arousing their interest and giving them the opportunity to confront a real company, that is, what could represent a potential client of future assignments.

What were the outputs of the projects carried out together with the students?
Every project has enriched us with an experience, a narrative, and every design made, in the end, turns out to be a great project. The goal is not to make a new product, we are not asking to create something never seen before, but we are simply trying to understand their perception and ability to interpret the USM Haller system in a completely personal way.

What has been the response from the participants in the workshops? Is the interest rate high?
The interest rate has been great from the students in the workshops we collaborated with. We have tried to give them all the information they needed, but above all to make their task as fun as possible by creating a contest that saw them involved in a healthy and creative competition. 

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