With Aspen, the Italian Manifesto, the event is relaunched at Dropcity as a performance of ideas: the curator Francesca Picchi talks about it

Among the many reflections on the field at Dropcity, there is one particularly unmissable: Aspen, the Italian Manifesto curated by Francesca Picchi with a project by Studio Ossidiana.

The Magazzini Raccordati in Via Sammartini are that 'common place' where, once again this year, architects and designers from all over the world meet, ready to participate in the construction of Dropcity (the project for the first center for the architecture and design of Milan, born from an idea of Andrea Caputo, together with Nhood).

Read also: what we will see at Dropcity at FuoriSalone 2023

Under the umbrella of 'Dropcity Convention 2023' — the winning project of the 'Architecture Festival II edition', promoted by the Directorate General for Contemporary Creativity of the Ministry of Culture —, for the design week the event hosts a rich schedule of exhibitions, installations and conferences, the first preview of what the structure will begin to realize as early as 2024.

Why Aspen, the Italian Manifesto is a must-see

It will be because of 'Italy: a New Collective Landscape', the under 35 design exhibition curated by Angela Rui at the ADI Museum, which explicitly refers to 'Italy: The New Domestic Landscape', curated by Emilio Ambasz at the MoMA in New York in 1972, but the air feels like a sense not so much of nostalgia as of redemption: a bit as if the entire Italian design community felt the need to reiterate to the world that Italy is the point of reference for this discipline.

What is Aspen, the Italian Manifesto

'Aspen, the Italian Manifesto', the installation curated by Francesca Picchi and designed by Studio Ossidiana of Rotterdam, will be inaugurated at tunnel 142 on Sunday 16 April at 4.00 pm.

Inspired by the legendary congress organized in Aspen (Colorado) in 1989 by the International Design Conference, the event today returns to the public: moderated by Michele Lupi the dialogue will involve protagonists and witnesses of the time including Antonio Colombo, Alberto Saibene, Francesco Dondina, Franco Raggi together with Andrea Zagato, Elena Dalla Piana, Giovanna Castiglioni, Giovanni Cutolo, Giulio Iacchetti.

The new Italian idea

"That of 1989 was a second episode", says Francesca Picchi, protagonist of today and yesterday. But also a university lecturer, a fine intellectual, highly cultured, and mother of all design curators, "the first, from 1981 entitled 'The New Italian Idea', was much ahead of the actuality of the era.

The Aspen event, born from an idea by Domus magazine together with Olivetti, wanted to take stock of the Italian design system at a time when Italy was a protagonist on the international scene.

It is no coincidence that the appointment involved chefs and personalities from the fashion world, precisely as evidence of a significant expansion of the language", recalls Francesca, invited as a student of the Politecnico.

A conference under a tent

“There was an extraordinary organization, each of us was assigned a house”.

My imagination, at least mine, runs to that small and exclusive ski resort in Colorado ready to welcome some of the most visionary Italian designers in a summer July at the end of the eighties: Achille Castiglioni, Ettore Sottsass, Andrea Branzi, Mario Bellini, Gae Aulenti, Italo Lupi.

“Among them was a very young Steve Jobs,” she recalls.

“It was a very convivial dimension. You used to go to dinner and wait for Achille (Castiglioni, editor's note), lost in some supermarket looking for anonymous objects. Then there was Italo Lupi, Ettore Sottsass, let's say that the theatrical dimension was very present”, not only because the conference took place under a tent designed by Eero Saarinen (model revisited in Milan by Studio Ossidiana).

Building ideas, but not definitively

"But because, quoting Sottsass, 'Italians have in mind the model of the commedia dell'arte', as if to say that they improvised". The choice of an extemporaneous architecture therefore favored the relationship dynamics: “The tent is the starting point. Because that kind of structure, free, not definitive, allowed things to happen spontaneously. And that's exactly how it went.

Today together with Andrea Caputo, we have decided to evoke that historic moment not only to historicize it, recover all the material composed mainly of soundscapes (recordings, editor's note) and archive it here, for the centre".

The happening as a performance of ideas

“The aim is also to try to question the traditional way of conventions”, continues Picchi. “And go back to the mode of happening as a performance of ideas. For me this aspect of ideas is important: back then there was a crazy experimental dimension". Of course, today times are different...

“For example, we fell in love with the word 'radical', but be careful. Andrea Branzi says: 'there is an attitude in Italian design which is that of going to zero degree'.

In other words, radicals are those who question everything, break down conventions and go back to the origins. Well: this design attitude is not for everyone. So let's pay more attention to the use of terms”, and study.

This is why it is important to recover the experience of Aspen: putting energy into circulation sets us free. “Achille Castiglioni with a very young Paola Antonelli, but also Ettore Sottsass who introduces Elea and Emilio Ambasz who goes back to the roots of the craft, talked about design through thought and ideas.

In other words, they told all that part that exists before focusing on the points of the project: research, exploration, the tension towards the unknown. And this is precisely what was shared in Aspen, that part that grows the idea, accompanies it to give it back to us as a project".

What a beautiful story.

“The ideas that animated the projects of the masters of that time can nourish those of tomorrow”, concludes Francesca Picchi. “Aspen teaches us this: that the dimension of ideas is timeless”, and it is the legacy to be preserved and treasured.