"An era is drawing to an end for Italian design"
Dezeen and MINI World Tour: in our second film recorded at the MINI Paceman Garage in Milan last month, MINI head of design Anders Warming describes the centrepiece installation in the space and Joseph Grima, editor-in-chief of Domus magazine, reflects on a difficult period for Italian design.
"We wanted to create a sculpture that shows the development of MINI as a design product," says Warming of the installation, which features the new MINI Paceman. "From an idea created by people in dialogue with engineers, at the end of the day [it] becomes innovation for the road."
Grima of Domus is the second interviewee in our Dezeen and MINI World Tour Studio, which we set up within the garage. He believes that Italian design is going through a period of transition.
"I think it's interesting that at the Triennale the annual design museum exhibition is very much on the theme of the great masters and the past and Italian design almost searching for comfort in its own history," he says. "I think everybody realises that possibly an era is drawing to an end and a new era is beginning."
Grima believes that Italy's economic and political problems are hampering the progression of its creative industries. "It's one of the paradoxes of Italy that on the one hand it's one of the most innovative, creative countries in the world," he says. "On the other hand the actual governmental, bureaucratic [and] economic framework of the nation… one would be forgiven for thinking it had been designed to suppress any sort of creative, vital energy."
Despite this, he detects a spirit of optimism in the city. "There's a collective hope that a new idea will be born, something new will emerge," Grima says. "The digital technologies that we talked a lot about last year, they lend themselves also to being combined with traditional knowledges regarding materials, the kind of hands-on skills of the artisans that exist in this region and are unrivalled anywhere else. I think some manufacturers are really seriously beginning to think about how they can engage a completely different model of design industry."
Unlike many cities, such as London, the education system in Milan is based on an apprenticeship model, which Grima suggests could be another reason the city is struggling to keep up with it's competitors. "The great tradition that was born here was not born from the tradition of schools, it was actually the direct contact between the masters and the craftsmen," he says. "That's something that's now in a little bit of a crisis because it is not as easy to perpetuate and the world has moved more towards the schools model."
The system has also failed to produce a new generation of great Italian designers, with the major Milanese brands choosing to import talent from around the world instead. However, Grima does not think this is necessarily a problem. "I don't think you can expect to survive by perpetuating the past," he says. "I think Milan still has an undisputed role as the design capital of the world and as long as it is able to look out to the world and capture, be the arbiter in a way of what is interesting and what is innovative in the design world, that's something that can be equally as important."
See all our stories about Milan 2013.
The music featured in this movie is a track called Konika by Italian disco DJ Daniele Baldelli, who played a set at the MINI Paceman Garage. You can listen to more music by Baldelli on Dezeen Music Project.