"Andrea Branzi, architect and designer, born in Florence in 1938, where he graduated in
1967, lives and works in Milano. From 1964 to 1974 he was a partner of Archizoom Associati,
first vanguard group internationally known, whose projects are preserved at Centro Studi e
Archivio della Comunicazione in Parma and at Centre Georges Pompidou in paris. Since 1967
he works in the fields of industrial and research design, architecture, urban planning,
education and cultural promotion. He is Professor at the Third Faculty of Architecture and
Industrial Design of Politecnico di Milano."
— excerpt from www.andreabranzi.it
Andrea Branzi is a strong proponent of 'invisible quality' in design — design that is culturally aware, spiritual, poetic, and artistic. The systems that must be put in place to achieve the invisible quality will be weak systems, imperfect systems, reversible systems, things that will change 'without shocking'.
He believes that Italian design is revered not solely for the aesthetic quality, but for the 'philosophy of life'. There is also an element of virtuosity in the Italian designer where, like an Italian engineer building a bridge, the designer will challenge the solutions that have come before. The designer will create new problems, in addition to the new solutions, and new languages — new ways of thinking.
This is in a way very poetic, that is also sensible to the theoretical part of design. It is in general a characteristic of the Italian way of design, that is not only subordinated to the company's problems. Professor Branzi believes that this particular position is also a characteristic of the general position of Italian design.
In general, the professional way of Italian design is the collection of 2 different worlds that can collaborate, as little companies and productive companies and the position of professional designers. They can collaborate but are not strictly committed to that.
And this is probably the reason why many different activities around the design was raised up from the intellectual world — for examples so many reviews of design and architecture and many theoretical schools like Domus, and movements like Alchimea and Memphis ... can propose to the producer many new ideas.
[I hope] that Canada can find a different way from Germany and US in particular — an academic way... a more theoretical way. In Canada there are many European connections that are living and very important. So maybe the opportunity that Canada will be in a position on the North American continent that will be of more intelligence and, I think, cultural in the true sense of the word. So maybe Canada will have a role with more impulsive ideas, and not so connected to the companies as in the United States. Then they can suggest to the US and the world in the whole, a more European or modern way to think about design.
The topics are not thought of for the market, but only for a cultural and conceptual way of thinking about the object — not to belong to the market —and to explore the possibility to have new languages and new points of view. And this is a typical way of thinking of the Italian design, that near the industrial production, there are that kind of production that are more theoretical, more conceptual — also experimental — and they are also more artistic, by the way, and also spiritual or poetic. That way of working — of industrial design — is really useful for industry, because by using that theoretical research, the industry gets a lot of information. Because the designer works in society, in the culture, but not in the industry. That difference between the industrial and the cultural way of proceeding is very important, and very separated.
There are two important points: the image of the internal part of the architecture is more important than the external part of the architecture, and the other one is to make new relations between music and space. And they are looking at the new kind of music that now is trying to emerge — that kind of music that has no starting point, but no ending point. It's something like a structure that's still expanding without starting and stopping. That is a new kind of way of thinking, because old concert hall are very closed and very strict. It's a new kind of thing because it's very open. Music in that kind of work goes inside all the structure and it expands to all of the area that belongs to the theatre, and it goes outside. So it's a new kind of construction that tries to see and interact with the new kinds of music that are forming. Because in music now they try to not see the end of the work, it is something that swells. That is an idea that the theaters say there is no big difference between the parts — this is why we have to use the new way of thinking. You can see that there are such different words that exist in the architecture of the city, in the tools, that design can take all the parts. Design is research that can take a lot of aspects, not only something specific. In my work, I give to all the small things big concentration. I concentrate in all the small things because those are the things that go to make a good project. If attention doesn't go into the small things, then the big things will be a disaster, because the city now is something that is made by a lot of small things.
Now, today, there is a big question of quality, but also of invisible quality. Something more spiritual and poetic. And that theme, in not a lot of time, will be going in the market. Because there is no offer, but there is a lot of asking for a lot of things of that invisible quality. Our cities are full of visible signs of those kind of things. But, there are no elements of big quality — right now, we don't have them.
I will show you right now what I am working on that is collaboration, but also very private against the industry. And, in that way of thinking, not only me but that is a little bit of all the Italian design, that does not have structure, that can interact with the industry, but also can work alone. It's a weak kind of structure, the one of Italian design — incomplete, imperfect. But that is why it is very able to expand, to find new solutions, and to adapt to the new realities that we have. And that's also a new kind of way to be in the 21st century. That view is completely separate from the one of our past, because the 20th century had tried to have perfect and definitive solutions, and made always very defined and restricted projects. But now we work in a time that we don't need more of that kind of project, but we are trying to make projects that could be reversible. So, projects that can adapt themselves to the change, to the economy, to the society. That's why I think that the 21st century will be very original, but also very stimulating. Also, because we are trying to make a fusion between the natural energy and what we are trying to bring. So, that kind of energy that will make a big change, but without shocking society. I mean, the moon that every night brings up the oceans of the world without making any kind of sound. That's why I think that the 21st century will be a time where the energy we are talking about will take the place of the old one, and will also give something new to the quality of man.
Italian design, as you have seen in all your visit, is made of a lot of different realities. And also realities that are not the same — that are one against the other. I think that it's true that in Italy, design is very important — is very known — but is also a reality that is not very good, not very defined. The things that you can learn, to make a summary of Italian design, is not to only solve problems, but to make new ways of thinking, but also new problems.
[I]f you go to Germany, if you go by car, there are a lot of things that are always the same. And they ask "why did you make all the things the same?", the answer was "because we found something that was very good, very cheap, perfect, that gave the best solution. That's why we made all of them." If you go in the Italian one, and you make the Autostradde, you can see all different elements. All the bridges are different, because all the engineers ask themselves "maybe I am the best, and I can make something better than all the others." You have to evaluate all the realities and choose the best one. And that is not only the type of competition but is a way of thinking in which you are very critical every time of what is important. And that is why every time you can find new solutions.
RYAN: In the readings i've done of yours, you talk a lot about notions of quality, and how the notion of quality in Italy is very different than that of North America. And then you were just saying about the bridges and really asking the question "Can I do this better". In Italy, the notion of quality is different and everyone is trying to figure out what quality is in relation to their community. Do you think that debate over quality is something that is useful in developing innovation in North America?"
Andrea: "Maybe, in Italian design is internationally appreciated maybe not only for the aesthetic but for the philosophy of life."