Triennale Design Museum presents “Dream Factories” @ Milan Design Week 2011

Triennale Design Museum presents “Dream Factories” @ Milan Design Week 2011

For the 50th anniversary of the Salone del Mobile, the Triennale Design Museum devotes its fourth edition to the men, companies and projects that have contributed to create the Italian design system from the postwar era to the present, and the worldwide success of the Salone del Mobile via its exhibition  “Dream Factories: People, Ideas and Paradoxes of Italian design” ( curated by Alberto Alessi )

As Italian design enters its new Renaissance, we look to Italy as a trendsetter, producing some of the greatest furniture designers in the world. The likes of Gio Ponti and Ettoire Sottsass have international recognition around the world and further highlight how Italian design successful embodies the great skills and abilities of its craftsmen and artisans, while simultaneously juxtaposing a sense of deep rooted heritage with functionality and innovation.


‘Dream Factories” aims to open up the eyes of its visitors by allowing them to discover this and other periods of design that are significant to the development and legacy of Italy as the leader in industrial design.

Through a selection of iconic objects a narrative develops to illustrate, on the one hand, the particular activity and deeper nature of what Alberto Alessi calls the “Factories of Italian Design”, which move along a line that winds between functional value, semantic value and poetic value of the things produced.

On the other, the overview narrates the great capacity and ability of these “research laboratories”, which also attract foreign designers who decide to work in Italy, acknowledging the excellence of the country’s production.

Alberto Alessi’s vision also aims at explaining the so-called practice of the “Borderline” – the idea that a company must exist on the cusp of what is popular and what is considered a risk in order to be successful.


An extraordinary opportunity to discover, from new viewpoints, some of the most famous objects of Italian design.

martí guixé & alessandro mendini ( image courtesy of designboom )

alberto alessi

In the exhibit and catalogue for the show on Italian design factories at the Milan Triennale, Guixé turns the illustrated face of curator Alberto Alessi into the vehicular host. A talking head, a visible audio guide, with you at every step; even his handwriting has been digitalized into a typeface. Discussing, cajoling, convincing. The person generating the exhibition thesis backs his narrative while bringing the visitor into the interpretive circle. But as a cartoon character, a comfortably human hollow man untroubled by the void.

albert alessi curator ( image courtesy designboom )

The story is told by Alberto Alessi, president of  Italian company Alessi , who has curated the exhibition. He brings together an overview of iconic objects, illustrating the activities and nature of ‘factories of italian design’ as he calls them.

He tells this narrative by moving along a line of the functional, semiotic and poetic values of the products being manufactured, while also displaying the great abilities and skills implemented in such ‘research laboratories’ which have attracted foreign designers to choose to work in Italy since they are aware of the quality of Italian production.

marti guixe

The overall design of the exhibition space has been conceived by spanish designer Martí Guixé, who envisions the show as one of the adventures narrated in ‘Alice in Wonderland’, developing a dialogue between objects, designers and the histories of great entrepreneurs in combination with the artistic and fictional imagery of authors Lewis Carroll and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The objects establish a dialogue with the designers, while the stories of great entrepreneurs intertwine with their personal biographies in a playful atmosphere, full of emotions and suggestions.

Marti Guixe —

“When Alberto spoke to me about the Design Museum exhibition, just before Christmas 2010, I thought I liked the idea of talking about design from the perspective of industry—in the way that as designers we are dependent on manufacturing companies—as it plays a highly relevant role in collaboration with creators or designers. Usually the character and attitude of a brand or industry is perfectly visible in the produced goods. In this case, industry perspective is very personal, set between experience and theory, but all very Alberto Alessi.

For that reason a drawing of Alberto’s head is present everywhere. He explains, quotes, and tells us about his design world both in the catalogue and in the exhibition. He is not only present as a picture; we also find his handwriting digitalized and composed in a script, the “Alb Script.”

A given condition was to create a sort of fabled world, he said, between Alice in Wonderland and The Little Prince, a place you enter into through a hole or a cave, the world of the dream factories. I imagine the idea is to emphasize that these kind of factories are not really dealing with real, banal functions but with ideal dream worlds and perceptions; and also, in my opinion, that they should thus not be so boringly technical with all their marketing and technical theories and content.

Finally, as a morale and endpoint, there is Alberto’s theory of the good gardener, which uses the garden metaphor to refer to the owners of the design manufacturing companies, the designers being the plants and the designed objects and goods, the fruit, thus once again playing with the objects of the exhibition. We used the Pratone to visualize the garden along with a head of Arcimboldo: the design pieces are seen as a reference to a figure made by the fruit of the Italian Design Factories, representing them iconographically, and as a symbol of the possibility of entering into the exhibition through its mouth.

The “captains,” the entrepreneurs, are displayed in full-size totems along the line of pieces. These totems show a portrait of the person with a drawn body (manifesting their shining aura and presence), while on their backs we find basic important data about the history and relevance of the company, including an intuitive graphic symbol about turnover.

More layers in the layout of the exhibit are related to the borderline theory, which is Alberto’s idea of considering flops and bestsellers at an equal level of importance, with sometimes flops being better than bestsellers. In fact, both of them help build an imaginary line, the borderline, which is present in a subliminal way in the exhibition. The orientation of the pieces exhibited, their position in relation to the walls, defines the status of that piece in relation to the borderline theory.

There is an alignment made of mostly furniture pieces that creates a kind of huge lounge of the Italian dream factories. Most of these pieces are there free to sit on or touch. Only small pieces are under glass protection, while prototypes are placed on a podium.

Thematic areas are grouped by means of an icon in the form of monsters or, let’s say, big figures, which create a rhythm of twelve zones. This is transferred into the catalogue by chapters which organize and structure the different thoughts of Alberto.

All the content and the selection of pieces and companies was made by Alberto Alessi. My work consisted in communicating as well as possible the attitude and the spirit that Alberto transmitted to me in relation to his knowledge and theories, and all I did was shape them into an exhibition and a catalogue.

The catalogue is the compilation of all the texts and theories, the pictures of the exhibited pieces, and the files of the entrepreneurs. The images in the catalogue also show the relevance or success of a piece in a subliminal way, as a repetition or not of its picture. Texts and diagrams are represented as a sort of manuscript, or sketch.”

triennale design museum entrance

About the Triennale Design Museum

The Triennale Design Museum  opened in late 2007 .

It was designed by Michele De Lucchi,  and has an exhibition space of 2,000 square meters in total.

The innovative architecture of the Triennale Design Museum is the entrance through a bridge that allows the museum to be both inside the Triennale and autonomous body and visible in its function.

The Design Museum is designed to be renewed periodically, was established as a museum-laboratory, a place of research and experimentation, which will change appearance every 12-18 months

The redesign is based on new themes and keywords, with a rejuvenation to be be made regularly.

Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, Joe Colombo, Vico Magistretti, Alberto Meda, Gaetano Pesce, Gio Ponti and Marco Zanuso are some of the designers featured in the collection, the objects from the collection of the Triennale, integrated with the network of public and private collections and national museums.

Inside the project and the installations, iconic pieces like the Dieter Rams 606 shelving, the Susanna armchair and the Framura nest narrate the history of Italian design that has also been written by De Padova

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