Lecturer and critic, consultant for numerous Italian and foreign design companies, collaborator of sector magazines including INTERNI and curator of exhibitions and cultural initiatives, Vanni Pasca left us after teaching us to read the history of design with new eyes. Identifying it in its complexity as a “multilinear” historical process.
Vanni Pasca, architect, was full professor of History of design and theories of industrial design , teaching in various public and private Faculties (Faculty of Architecture of Palermo, Politecnico and IULM of Milan, ISIA of Florence), combining teaching with a continuous critical activity declined in strategic consultancy to companies of design, in a cultural research dedicated to the curation of exhibitions and conferences, and to writing books, and in precious collaborations with sector magazines (from Casa Vogue to INTERNI just to name two).
This fruitful intertwining of curiosity, historical knowledge and operations, observation of the present has defined a method of historical analysis of a 'militant' type, where 'the stories of design' became material to act in the present through discoveries, rereadings and reflections able to outline a complex methodology.
So, just to give a few examples, Vanni Pasca has rediscovered the tradition of artifacts typical of the American community of Shakers (dedicating a book to it, "The culture and furniture of the Shakers" Milan 1984 and a successful collection for Maddalena De Padova). He reread with Lucia Pietroni the ' case of the English designer Christopher Dresser' (1834/1904) indicating him polemically and programmatically as "the first industrial designer": in open contrast to the thesis of Pevsner which, placing the figure of Dresser on the sidelines in a monolinear historical reading path, saw in William Morris the true protagonist of the design of England invested by Industrial Revolution. And he 'discovered' young architects like Steven Holl by publishing his first interior projects in Italy (Casa Vogue).
Author of books on Italian architects with an independent and personal profile such as Vico Magistretti and Toni Cordero, Vanni Pasca has always revealed a curiosity pushed towards themes and figures capable of 'unhinging' the canonical line of the history of modernist architecture and design decided a priori and of an ideological nature (from Pevsner to Zevi and Benevolo) in which 'heroes' and 'betrayals' were indicated in a process of deliberate continuity.
Rather, the interpretative effort that we find in Vanni's writings was that aimed at enriching the scene of the history of the project and its criticism.
Vanni taught us with his stories, which we always liked to listen or read, that history - and above all that of design - has a "multilinear" character. A story capable of uniting and comparing “in a perspective capable of involving a multiplicity of levels, the history of technical objects and technological innovations with the more general history of artefacts; that of artifacts or systems of industrially produced artifacts with that of communicative and informative artifacts; that of anonymous objects with the history of the culture of the project”.
Taking up the famous indication of Tafuri-Dal Co "of the many beginnings for our many stories", Vanni, listening to Le Goff, replaced in the problematic analysis of the many stories of design "the idea of genesis, dynamic to that, passive, of the origins ".
The recent "History of Design Manual", written with Domitilla Dardi (Silvana Editore 2019), collects and summarizes the effort to propose a new way of reading events of design that Vanni Pasca has conducted over many years of research, discussions and debates, with all of us, always with generosity and passion.
The Compasso d'Oro ADI for Lifetime Achievement received by Vanni Pasca last September sums up his figure in the jury's motivations: "It represents a fundamental link between architecture and design, disciplines that in the constant university commitment they are confronted and integrated in a vision that goes beyond the usual disciplinary approach, to give us back also through his rich essay work a complex vision of a project of civil modernity".