The new Compasso d'Oro Museum

The objects that have made the history of design from 1954 to today

by Lavinia Colonna Preti
The Compasso d’Oro Museum in Milan — Lombardia Secrets

The entire history of the oldest and most prestigious international award dedicated to industrial design, the Compasso d'Oro, in a unique, fascinating place of industrial archeology.

The ADI Design Museum, managed by the ADI Compasso d’Oro Collection Foundation, established in 2001 by ADI – Association for Industrial Design and located inside a former tram depot and electricity distribution plant between via Ceresio and via Bramante, tells of over 2500 projects that over the years have been awarded the Compasso D’Oro or have received an honorable mention.

The Compasso d’Oro Museum in Milan — Lombardia Secrets

All the greatest designers have confronted themselves with a chair or a lamp, here you can get to know their stories.

(Giovanni Ottonello, Art Director IED)

The history of the prestigious award is intertwined with that of Rinascente, the first revolutionary Milanese department store.
Since the late 1940s, in fact, its innovative style office, thanks to the collaboration with the greatest architects and designers of the time, from Franco Albini to Marco Zanuso, used to create its own brand lines with remarkable originality and style. In 1951, thanks to the growing media ferment benefiting the industrial design sector, Cesare Burzio, the son of the founder of Rinascente, at the suggestion of the great designers Gio Ponti and Alberto Rosselli with whom he collaborated, decided to create an exhibition with objects of his own brand and to launch an award that celebrated the creative genius of Made in Italy.

Thus in 1954, identified by the compass by Adalbert Goeringer, a symbol of the golden section based on an idea by Albe Steiner, head of the advertising department of the Rinascente, the first edition of the Compasso d’Oro award was born, the winners of which were exhibited at the Circolo della Stampa at Palazzo Serbelloni in Corso Venezia.

The Compasso d’Oro Museum in Milan — Lombardia Secrets
The Compasso d’Oro Museum in Milan — Lombardia Secrets

A beautiful video installation welcomes visitors to the Museum, making them immediately perceive the importance of the “Compasso d’Oro Historical Collection”. Titled “Design enters history”, signed by IED Istituto Europeo di Design and created by OffiCine (IED and ANTEO), it shows the close relationship between industrial design and the history of costume. What awaits us, through the various rooms, is, in fact, a fascinating journey into the Italian socio-economic culture that goes from the Swinging 60ies to the birth of mass transport, from the invention of household appliances to the advent of digital technologies.

In the first open space room, you can immediately recognize some of the most famous icons of Italian style such as the wonderful Ferrari F12 Berlinetta designed by Pininfarina and Flavio Manzoni, Compasso d’Oro in 2014, or the Fiat 500 car, winner of the Compasso d’Oro in 1959. The latter, based on a design by Dante Giacosa, was the first car designed for Italian families that, in the 1960s, strong of a great purchasing power, discovered the joys of “holidays” when, up to the Two Wars, it was prerogative of the wealthiest social classes.

The Compasso d’Oro Museum in Milan — Lombardia Secrets

Other objects may seem familiar today and perhaps “already seen” in the thousand declinations in which they have been imitated over the years, but in reality they were the absolute pioneers of many trends and styles that have now become a classic.

Suffice it to mention Cifra by Solari, Compasso d’Oro in 1956 designed by Nani and Gino Valle, the first clock with direct readout featuring the flap system created, or Grillo by Siemens designed by Richard Sapper and Marco Zanuso, Compasso d’Oro in 1967, first-ever phone with snap closure that anticipates the first mobile phones by thirty years.

Or the lamps that have made the history of light design such as Eclisse by Artemide, the first-ever bedside one to allow, through the rotation of two spheres, to modify the desired intensity of light, and Otello by O-Luce Italia, first to completely revolutionizing the classic abat-jour lamps and based on an original game of geometries that sees a hemisphere, a cone and a cylinder rest on themselves. Both were designed by the great Vico Magistretti and winners of the Compasso d’Oro in 1967 and 1979 respectively.

The Compasso d’Oro Museum in Milan — Lombardia Secrets

The birth of the most iconic Milanese industries, such as fashion, is also celebrated in the museum. Here you can, in fact, see the first dress made completely without seams by the Milanese designer Nanni Strada, Compasso d’Oro in 1979, which paved the way for the legendary 80s fashion of colorful wraparound dresses.

These are just a few examples that make us understand the central role of our country in the world design panorama. An invitation to explore the many stories and primates that lie behind the fantastic objects exhibited in the Museum, perhaps by shopping in the specialized bookshop and in the store. Here you can buy some of the items on display – such as the Parentesi and Mayday lamps by Flos, Eclisse, Tolomeo and Tizio by Artemide and the Ossidiana espresso coffee maker by Alessi – or have a drink at the Officina Design Caffè signed by Marco Ferreri, Compasso d’Oro for Lifetime Achievement in 2020.

Thanks to IED, European Institute of Design for their advanced training in the fields of Design, Fashion, Visual Arts and Communication, for the guided tour.

For further info

ADI Design Museum
Piazza Compasso d’Oro 1, 20154 Milano
(Entrance Via Ceresio 7 – Via Bramante 42 – Piazzale Cimitero Monumentale)

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