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New design geographies. International workshops in Sicily

Abstract: 2012 seems to have been a relevant year for design in Sicily. From Giulio Iacchetti to Giovanni Levanti, the island has witnessed numerous designers who have been invited by different institutions for various projects, thereby bringing to it their own experience. What is actually going on? Why are designers starting to spend time in Sicily not only for their holidays but also for the purposes of design? Is there a new wave that is inverting general trends and the usual geography of design dynamics? Who promotes design on the island and why do they do it? The most active side has certainly been the education sector. Since 2000 the Design courses of the Faculty of Architecture in Palermo have promoted a lot of activities connected to the world of design and now other institutions have taken the initiative of starting to call designers to teach on the island. One of these institutions is Abadir Academy, a private institution authorized by the Education Ministry.

In 2010 the Academy launched Abadir Design, a new department aimed at training designers to design our contemporaneity and to develop new ideas able to shape the future and the time in which we are living.

Last year among the department special activities hosted two of the most active designers of the current panorama in Italy and Europe: Giulio Iacchetti, a designer based in Milan, awarded with the Compasso d’oro in 2001, together with Matteo Ragni for the Moscardino project, and lagranja design, an Italian-Spanish studio based in Barcelona, designer of several products for Foscarini, Poltrone Frau, Metalco, Palucco and others.

Both workshops were inaugurated with an open lecture held by the designers who outlined their professional path by talking with students, architects, teachers and other designers. These have proved to be very important didactic occasions as well as opportunities to raise the public’s awareness regarding issues of design, as well as to convey the value of the synergy between the designer and companies.

Secondo imbrunire was the title Giulio Iacchetti gave to his workshop, in homage to the homonymous song by Franco Battiato. Out [of the] Door was one of the Master’s activities in product design and it aimed to explore the possibilities of volcanic material and to experiment with its features in the production of objects. The choice to work on the material of the volcano strongly rooted the workshop to the identity of the place, its nature and its uniqueness. As in the Franco Battiato song whose lyrics enhance the charm, the colors, smells and sounds related to Mount Etna and its landscape, the workshop with Iacchetti sought to explore these places starting from the quarries, where the material is stripped from the volcano, to the craftsmen, the industrial process, the production companies and the supply chain.

In July, the activities of the design department of the Academy moved to the coast and its beaches. Vamos a la Playa was the workshop conducted by Gabriele Schiavon and José Manuel Fernandez from Lagranja Design; for Abadir they proposed a new workshop once again linked to the nature of the Sicilian territory that has become a testing ground for the design of devices for the beach, the shore and the sea.

Istanze di design was the name of the workshop curated by the Foundation Fiumara d’arte and Antonio Presti in collaboration with AIAC and Press/T factory, which was held in Tusa at the Museum Hotel Atelier sul Mare.

The topic of the international workshop was the development of a hotel room for the Atelier Sul Mare according to the wishes expressed by the Foundation: to create a permanent laboratory which combines the artistic processes with the production of everyday objects, through the mutual exchange between local artisan and the design skills of the artist-designer.

The workshop, which lasted a week, was led by Giovanni Levanti, Mario Trimarchi, Chris Kabel from Droog Design, Michael Obrist from feld-72 and Wyssem Nochi from Lebanon. Tutors assisted students between project activities and theoretical meetings, rethinking the spaces of the Tusa museum and the surrounding park, dotted with important sculptures that over the years, Antonio Presti has commissioned from artists such as Tano Festa or Pietro Consagra.

The workshop held in Caltagirone with Luisa Bocchietto and Vanni Pasca was devoted to ceramics and the tradition of some major Italian companies.

Entitled Il design del prodotto ceramico, the event was organized by the Sicilian Delegation of ADI together with LADEC and it was developed on two levels: a laboratory itself and an exhibition dedicated to Bitossi ceramics through 20 artifacts produced by the company since 60s to today, with pieces by Ettore Sottsass, Karim Rashid, Mario Ferraini and the same Luisa Bocchietto. After the workshop, molds were shaped at the Montelupo factory and then again prototypes were created in Caltagirone. Therefore, a new series of ceramic products for Bitossi took life thanks to this experience and they will be presented soon in Milan along with a special event.

In December, Giulio Iacchetti returned yet again as he was called by the Kore University of Enna, where he held a one-week workshop entitled S/Tools. Once again, it was an active laboratory that involved local craftsmen, which produced 10 real stool prototypes according to the main theme of the workshop: the stool and how to sit down.

Iacchetti and the city of Enna had already met a few months earlier. The castle of the Sicilian city hosted the show Cruciale last June. Curated by Beppe Finessi, the exhibition showed 21 crosses the famous designer has created starting from the assumption that contemporary design is no longer only related to the material sphere of our existence but also to emotional, sentimental and spiritual functions.

It is the same Iacchetti who has announced new possible geographies for design. The radical change of economic processes and the new dynamics of the market, accompanied by technology and new communication systems, have deeply upset the model in which design was related only to large industrial systems based in the north of the world. Today it is possible to produce design with few elements: a good designer and a skilled artisan or small business with technology on one side, and small-scale production on demand, web as a showcase to the whole world and powerful means of transport for shipments on the other side.

It’s already an on-going phenomenon that has given an opportunity for growth to peripheral regions unable to deal with industrial dynamics.

In this sense, Sicily, if able to acquire virtuous designers capable of creating value from its territory, could without question generate new projects and new economies. This is the mission of design schools and laboratories spread around the island: to train designers and raise awareness among entrepreneurs. Events and facts recounted here may indeed be a sign of this trend.

Lucy Giuliano is an architect and director of Accademia Abadir in Catania. She studied at the Faculty of Architecture in Palermo and at Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in Barcelona (ETSAB), obtaining a MA degree of Historia, arquitectura, arte y ciudad, and DEA degree (Diploma de Estudios Avanzados) in the Projects Department. From 2000 to 2011 she worked at the Arata Isozaki office in Barcelona, as architect in concept and design buildings. She participated to several project developed between Barcelona and Tokyo. Beyond architecture, she also collaborated to several publications. During her period at AIA office she broadened her interests in intersection between architecture, contemporary culture, territory and current issues in society. Since 2010 she is full time engaged as director of ABADIR Academy (Arts Between Architecture Design & Interdisciplinary Research) in Catania.

lucy.giuliano@gmail.com

Links

www.abadir.net
http://www.domusweb.it/it/news/art-hotel-workshop/
http://www.unikore.it/index.php
http://www.colorobbia.it/caltagironeevento_2012_colorobbia_specialties.html

About the author(s):

Lucia Giuliano is an Architect and the Director of ABADIR Academy (Arts Between Architecture Design & Interdisciplinary Research) of Catania, in Italy. She studied at the Faculty of Architecture in Palermo and at Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in Barcelona (ETSAB) obtaining a MA degree – Historia, arquitectura, arte y ciudad – and DEA degree (Diploma de Estudios Avanzados) in the Projects Department. From 2000 to 2011 she worked at the Arata Isozaki office in Barcelona, as architect in concept and design buildings. She participated to several project developed between Barcelona and Tokyo. Beyond architecture, she also collaborated to several publications. During her period at AIA office she broadened her interests in intersection between architecture, contemporary culture, territory and current issues in society. Since 2010 she is full time engaged as director of ABADIR.

giuliano@padjournal.net

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