Projects are born from words. Exchanged, held back, sometimes shouted. Much more often they are words that form questions, or ignite the enthusiasm necessary for invention. And to try to create what does not yet exist yet it’s needed.
Achille Castiglioni had the gift of words and curiosity: an unbeatable tandem when working with forms and functions. Listening to those who know more than us or know different things. It's called interdisciplinary work, and it's much more spontaneous than it might seem.
There has been a lot of talk about it recently, but it has always been necessary for good design. Think about it: when you say ‘hospital bed’ in Italy everyone thinks of the TR5 for Omsa, Compasso d'Oro 1978. The one on which Monicelli's Amici My are lying bagging nonsense. That bed is by Achille Castiglioni. Who drew it while talking with the traumatologist Ernesto Zerbi.
Here is what emerges from a conversation between a designer and a doctor: the TR5 has wheels and is light, it welcomes the patient upon admission, follows him in every treatment path inside the hospital and, upon discharge, enters the warehouse to be sanitized. It is an object that does not belong to the environments, but to the patient, to whom it adapts and which helps in movements and with the different possibilities of inclination.
Giovanna Castiglioni says: “My father knew how to listen and not intervene in the choices of those who had skills different from his. A dialogue that also supported the relationship with his brothers and with historical collaborators such as Max Huber. Each had different passions and skills, together they did more than they could have done alone”. It is nice to imagine that even the port-breaker was born in this climate of exchange and curiosity. Or the podometer, an orthopedic instrument redesigned by Castiglioni. It should be emphasized that, in fact, collaboration is the ideal terrain for a low-profile design and for this reason perfect for pleasantly insinuating itself in everyone.
Alberto Meda’s training as a mechanical engineer is known and visible in his approach to design. “However, I have built an aesthetic background by attending other disciplines. Even literature has helped to define my way of working”. How? “Calvino's American Lessons suggested to me the importance of subtraction, of the transparency of the function and intelligence of the object. I want to read the thought that led to a solution: its beauty makes me happy”, explains Meda. And he says: “Some time ago I mentored the founders of Springa, a startup of PoliHub of thePolitecnico di Milano created to produce a numerically controlled robotic cutter: a very innovative tool. I just had to suggest making their thinking clear, removing bodies and superstructures to bring out the intelligence of the invention. Which has turned into a product”.
Goliath CNC, as the cutter is called, is an exemplary project to understand that transdisciplinary dialogue is the present and the future of the design project. Lorenzo Frangi, one of the three founders of Springa, explains: “Goliath was born from my fascination for the Maker movement and digital manufacturing technologies that allow you to easily go from 3D design to prototyping”. Trained as a design engineer, Frangi explains that the transition from an idea to its industrialization is based on collaboration between different disciplines. “We are a team of designers and engineers because a product is the result of a series of complexities and it is absolutely necessary that different skills contribute to making the object functional and reproducible”. Industrialization was in Springa's DNA from the very beginning, supported by a lightning-fast success – one million dollars in 45 days – on the Kickstarter platform. “My intention” explains Frangi “was to find a solution to the operating size limits of desktop cutters. Its success is due to the readability of functions and interface”. A result that a designer alone cannot achieve.
Another example of effective and impactful dialogue is the Hannes bionic prosthesis, which this year won the Compasso d'Oro award to DDP Studio. Gabriele Diamanti, together with Lorenzo De Bartolomeis and Filippo Poli, tell the story of the collaboration with theItalian Institute of Technology - IIT, which deals with mechatronics, and Inail. “Initially Hannes was the hand of a robot, a grasping tool. The technological innovation that has translated it to prosthesis is the adaptive grip. Our intervention first of all changed the type of movement, which became more similar to the human one after changing the rotation axes”.
The human hand has fingers that converge when closing and, reproducing this type of asymmetry was necessary to make the prosthesis more acceptable to patients. “We designed the behavior of a machine, of a technology, so that it was bio-inspired and could have its own aesthetic dimension without mimicking human skin”. Industrialization and scalability are always the other objectives of collaboration between skills: “A prosthesis of this type costs a lot. To transform it into an accessible product you need a team and structures capable of offering technology and industrialization capabilities”.
“The only team I believe in is the transdisciplinary one”, relaunches Giulio Iacchetti a commenting on the G Bottle project, two containers that store and transport water purified with the three-dimensional induction system G Plant of the Swiss impact company GratzUp. “On the contrary, I find it a relaxing way of working, where you focus on your skills without thinking you can do everything”. According to Iacchetti, the project is a good fluidifier, creates a better amalgam and supports communication between skills. “The technical aspects, indisputable data, are great stimuli. The more they are evoked, the better it is to sublimate the ballast and fly beyond the limits”. And what does the intervention of design consist of, concretely, when it comes to new technologies? “The envelope theme is fundamental. I do not mean that it is necessary to create superstructures: everything in nature tries to lighten and free itself, I will certainly not be the one to try the opposite. But it is the aspect of things that triggers the emotion, the bond, the respect for the object and its functions. Emotional performance is upstream of functional performance, especially when it comes to objects that have never existed until now”.
Mauro Gazzelli, founder of GratzUp, also confirms. “I chose to work with Iacchetti only on the basis of human sympathy. I instinctively felt the importance of intervening intelligently on the appearance and on some functions of G Bottle because it is the part of the product that comes into contact with people”. The context is that of the territories where it is necessary to purify the water to avoid the transmission of diseases. “G Plant is medicine, so to speak. It is the solution to a problem. Giulio’s work is his mother's kiss: the one without which medicine doesn't work”.
A metaphor of great tenderness to explain that the colors, shapes and functions of the G Bottle are the result of human attention that allows the technology to be made understandable and accessible. And this is really the great opportunity for the design of the present. And science too, to tell the truth.