“The question of gender is not only a biological and natural fact, it is a cultural question that opens up interesting prospects for what design can become after design”. DESIGN AFTER DESIGN was the theme of the entire exhibition, which offered new points of view and paths on the discipline for the next three years. The exhibition and the book Women in Italian Design, edited by Silvana Annicchiarico, proposed the female as a subject of research as a new creative subject of a design less asseverative, less authoritarian, more spontaneous, more dynamic.
The Museum of Design in Friuli Venezia Giulia, MuDeFri, a virtual museum founded just that year thanks to a crowdfunding, took this opportunity to deepen the topic locally in a way that only in the network is possible to do: an exhibition in progress, always online, visible globally, which is updated as new figures of women designers emerge, from the past and the present.
There were nine women designers from the region selected for Women in Italian Design (Lella Vignelli, Gae Aulenti, Anna Aurora Lombardi, Gertrudi Muller Patriarca, Cristina Celestino, Monica Graffeo, Paola Paronnetto, Elisa Gargan Giovannoni, Neera Gatti). To these have been added others with a set of reflections ranging from why the oblivion in which even great professionals fall to the question of whether or not the place of origin of a designer is relevant when success and career are reached elsewhere.
The case of Luisa Morassi from Gorizia is emblematic: surprising how little is known about her. Yet she was a leading professional: first female architect who graduated in architecture from the Milan Polytechnic in 1928, assistant to Gio Ponti, active supporter of quality craftsmanship in her city. No woman designer from Gorizia was present in the Triennale’s research. Yet Barbara Fornasir, cultural animator and author of important interior design projects, installations and renovations, was also born in Gorizia. On the contrary, everyone knows Gae Aulenti, assumed to belong to the group because she was born in the province of Udine. But can it really be said that she is a Friulian designer? On more than one occasion she herself said that she did not feel Friuli was her homeland, preferring Calabria, her mother’s homeland. Milan was her professional and human homeland.
Also Lella Vignelli, from Udine, spent most of her life in New York, working side by side with her husband Massimo Vignelli. But how much of her success is due to her initial experience with her father Provino Valle and her no-nonsense nature, which in Friuli is a fundamental value?
Perhaps not everyone knows that Cristina Celestino and Elisa Gargan, better known as consort and partner of Stefano Giovannoni, are both natives to Pordenone. They have broken through thanks to their courage to move to Lombardy. Paola Paronetto, Monica Graffeo and Anna Aurora Lombardi, who is also the founder of MuDeFri, have chosen to stay in Friuli, the first in Pordenone, the second, after an experience outside Italy, in Udine. The world of ceramic research, which has a great tradition in Pordenone, of industrial design and design communication, respectively, is well represented.
Neera Gatti was born in Trieste but brought to Venice all her professional life as a ceramist and teacher of this discipline. In Trieste, on the other hand, worked for her entire short life Marina Cons, an exuberant designer and architect first in the prestigious studio Celli Tognon, then as a freelancer. From Trieste is also Emanuela Marassi. Her work, over time, has developed in the direction of art, but how can we forget her first steps in the world of naval furniture alongside Augusto Cernigoj, a pupil at the Bauhaus? Marassi represents a red thread that links Friuli Venezia Giulia to the great history of design, and tradition to the current contaminations of ArtDesign. Always in Trieste works Lodovica Fusco, a very young jewel maker chosen for her curious elaborations with materials and workmanship apparently unsuitable for the idea of jewellery which, moving away from the world of goldsmith craftsmanship, enters the world of design.
The research promoted by MuDeFri, Women Designers in FVG (Friuli Venezia Giulia), allows us to think about the areas in which their professionalism is absorbed: craftsmanship seems to be a field where women move more easily, often flanking it with a permanent job as teachers of art or design.
Many of them are architects and design custom-made furniture for renovations for which they have been commissioned, while few are the designers employed in the technical offices of the companies, and decidedly in the minority are the freelance professionals. And again: we have found that it is a characteristic of moving freely between design, installations, renovations, new buildings, interior architecture, with trespassing in fashion, art, philosophy and technology, and in writing: is it a feminine peculiarity or proper to the designer? The debate is open.
Women Designers in FVG is structured in virtual rooms, each of which is dedicated to a designer. The order is alphabetical, to avoid embarrassing categorizations. In line with the curatorial choice of the Triennale, MuDeFri’s research has focused on designers in the field of industrial and artisanal design. There were no women who worked in architecture, graphics or art who were the subject of research. In the last room of the exhibition there are the first results of the census activated with a first list of designers, a list that the MuDeFri promises to update with the relevant fact sheets or external links.
An important moment was Udine Design Week 18, during which two women’s exhibitions and a photo mapping were organized, which allowed to deepen the research in the province of Udine. Similar events in Pordenone, Trieste and Gorizia will allow to have a wider vision of the world of design in Friuli Venezia Giulia.
(thanks to Anna Lombardi for the text and for the precious work)