The first exhibition of the Milanese designer at the Triennale Milano is a deep dive into the history of good design that restores value to the technical object

Alberto Meda is not 'the gentle engineer of design'”, says Marco Sammicheli, breaking the wall of simplifications, “ Alberto Meda is an extraordinary designer”.

A few words are enough for the Director of the Museum of Italian Design to introduce Alberto Meda. Tension and lightness, the exhibition that will be on stage from 6 October to 7 January at the Triennale Milano Museum of Italian Design. “The exhibition is part of a schedule of events that our institution has decided to dedicate to the great protagonists of the history of the project”.

Here we are ready to cross the entrance to the Palazzo dell'Arte, cross the ground floor dotted with over 300 objects from the Museum of Italian Design (selected starting from 1923 , the year of the Triennale Milano Foundation) and reach the Design Platform, the space that hosts the temporary exhibitions: "from here, the work of Alberto Meda, thanks to his friend Riccardo Blumer, explodes from the two picture galleries in a carousel of surprising intuitions, emotional engagements and creative reversals that take the central staircase to occupy the mezzanine".

Tension and lightness: the story

Central to the development of the exhibition itinerary were both the experience of light and its immateriality and the world of composite materials, "which allowed me to understand and restore the physical and visual of the objects”, explains Alberto Meda.

“Physics in the sense that the experience of the project proceeds by material subtraction (reduction with technology). Visual in the sense that I have always tried to maintain a discreet approach, never shouting." Goal achieved.

“It is no coincidence that Meda is a point of reference for Jasper Morrison and many young designers. He who works with companies, in Italy and Europe, always in the same way, unique and contemporary, He who has signed and often signs together, with Irvine and Zanuso, strong> with Rizzatto and his son Francesco, is a standard bearer of industrial design and Made in Italy", and his story is a story of great partnerships, "cultivated with almost Leonardo-like dedication”, Marco Sammicheli outlines with esteem.

Like the one with RiccardoBlumer. In the exhibition there are in fact many moments dedicated to play in which the objects are called upon to entertain, each expressing their own technical characteristics: "only Blumer could transform the Physix armchair into a musical instrument”, says Meda amused.

In fact, it takes a lot of imagination to imagine making the office armchair designed in 2021 for Vitra emit harmonic sounds, "a sublime example of 'synchronous kineticism' strong>' that becomes a xylophone”, but that's how it happened.

“The idea of making materials resonate has always fascinated me,” confides the designer, retracing his intense fifty-year career, “design is the ability to enter into a relationship with matter: only if you learn to listen to it you are able to better understand and express its performances".

Alberto Meda, the example

Tension and lightness, therefore. But also revolution: "That of thought that rereads Meda's work and subverts clichés", which for too long have forced the Milanese designer into the role of project technician .

The fame he enjoys is tangible: he was in Kartell, in Alfa Romeo and with the Gaggia Brothers; he explored the product in all its forms and from different angles; he collaborated with workers and occupied hybrid spaces.

“From the material to the process, in his work there is the origin of the sustainable gesture”, says Sammicheli, citing an essay by Ezio Manzini in the catalogue, “even if Meda that he never uses the word 'sustainability',” the director points out, almost as if to underline that Meda's attention to the environment comes before all the rhetoric of greenwashing.

Alberto Meda, the trial

Anyone who thinks that in Alberto Meda's design process form slavishly follows function will be disavowed when they see his exhibition.

He himself clarifies, as far as possible, how his creative process works. Because even after over one hundred signed projects, his way of designing remains shrouded in a veil of mystery, which experience is still struggling to reveal.

“I don't have a preconceived image of the object, sometimes I have some ideas, but to make it real I had to support it with physicality”. As if to say that Titania, the lamp designed with Paolo Rizzatto in 1989 for Luceplan, did not want to be made like this, elliptical, “but it came like this. Not by chance, obviously”, explains the need to let the light source breathe.

“Matter has its own face, which cannot be contradicted: if you follow the constructive type coherence, at a certain point the form reveals itself. Spontaneously, along the way." From macro to micro: "Then there is the dimension of detail: it is the harmonious relationship between all the parts of the object that restores the sense of the organic dimension", which is the elegance that distinguishes his sign.

“Let's take the Frame chair designed in 1987 for Alias: in the lounge version it is a field of forces: the shell flexes under the weight of the human body thanks to a tension and compression system", the attention to physical, technical and material variables gives the image of a light, elegant seat.

“Having a certain level of expertise helps,” he says, alluding to his degree in engineering, “because theoretical study is preparatory to understanding the potential of the material”. Thinking is doing, it is putting matter into shape, it is verifying it experimentally.

“The design of which Alberto Meda is ambassador is never commercial, on the contrary it is a pure, research-based design. Which is what gives value to the object”, concludes Marco Sammicheli. And the reason why it is being talked about today at the Triennale.

Alberto Meda, Tension and lightness. 6 October/ 7 January 2024, Museum of Italian Design, Triennale Milano