Italian design industry leader B&B Italia celebrated its half-century anniversary with a series of events including a film, a book – The long life of design in Italy – B&B Italia: 50 years and beyond, edited by Stefano Casciani – and an exhibition designed by Migliore+Servetto Architects in the Impluvium of La Triennale di Milano.
Unsurprisingly, given the architects’ track record for creating innovative displays, the exhibition eschewed the ubiquitous traditional furniture show format, instead providing an immersive cinematic installation interpreting ‘density’ in a very broad sense through a series of fleeting glimpses of the material product, designers and conceptual ideas.
At the centre of the compact rectangular space were eight high vertical cages with swirling ribbons of images, digital screens and beams of light that reflected intersecting stories of the key people and products; though these were almost upstaged by images of the fascinating industrial manufacturing processes conducted in B&B Italia’s Renzo Piano-designed workshop at its headquarters in Novedrate, Como.
The company, founded by Piero Ambrogio Busnelli and continued by his sons, has collaborated with some of Italy's most lauded design stars, including Antonio Citterio, Mario Bellini and Pierluigi Cerri, along with a host of international designers and architects such as Piano, Patricia Urquiola, Naoto Fukasawa, and the late Zaha Hadid.
Glamorous designers and technological innovation aside, the exhibition’s highlight were two sidewalls featuring long bands of video, showing an intriguing series of micro-stories of the company's distinctive communications. We were particularly taken with the original, but timeless, photo shoot by legendary photographer Oliviero Toscani of a bare-breasted Donna Jordan posing seductively on the 'Le Bambole' sofa collection designed by Mario Bellini in 1972.
‘The company was founded in the late 1960s but has always been about innovation,’ says monograph author Casciani.