A bright, streamlined construction entirely clad in larch stands out on a road delimited by a disordered cluster of brick and concrete buildings, commonly found on the outskirts of towns. Luscious vegetation grows from a roof garden that terminates against a large tower at the front of the building. We have arrived at Riva 1920’s Museum of Wood, a unique bewitching location in which the history, culture, design and environmental sensibility of an entire area blends with a brand that centres on the manufacture of wood.
The museum is housed in the Riva Center, located on the outskirts of Cantù, Como, the heart of Brianza, an area known for its age-old furniture-makers, carpenters, traditional workshops and exceptional artisans. Here, in the aftermath of the Second World War, the new generations of these family-run businesses gave life to “Made in Italy design” as well as the top firms on the scene.
Riva was established, as the name suggests, in 1920. It was started as a tiny carpenter’s workshop by the grandfather Nino Romano, continued by the father Mario Riva and now run by his children, Maurizio, Davide and Anna. Riva 1920 is currently renowned on the international scene for the superior quality of its joinery and for a number of years, it has been worked in partnership with top designers such as Mario Bellini and Patricia Urquiola.
The firm’s museum, opened in 2001 and designed in partnership with the Milan-based studio Origoni Steiner Architetti Associati, is an authentic journey through the history and the evolution of wood and its manufacturing techniques that transcends the mere narration of the history of a company. The Riva siblings have been collecting, for a long time, local artefacts and tools as they gradually fall into disrepair. There are currently over 5.000 pieces put on display such as traditional machinery, often purposely built the artisans themselves as well as countless utensils that span the length of a large lateral wall (64 x 6 metres).
Centre stage, the extraordinary table “Antico”, a sole 12-metre-long slab, supported by a base designed by Renzo Piano. It is made of Kauri wood, a type of conifer from New Zealand, dated with the Carbon 14 method from 48 thousand years ago, at the time of the last ice age, when a series of cataclysms destroyed entire forests by submerging them in water and mud. As a result, the special properties of mud coupled with a lack of oxygen have preserved the trees until the present day.
On the second floor, you are able to learn about the different types of wood. Here, there’s an educational space open to local projects, Pangea Lab that houses the xylotheque, a collection of wood samples from around the world. The workshop is named after the table designed by Michele de Lucchi for the Expo 2015, inspired by the sole, primordial, terrestrial continent that generated our present continents.
The Museum of Wood is a generous, one-of-a-kind, museum. Here, the company-history of Riva 1920 is intertwined with the traditional wood culture of the entire Brianza area, opening up to the world to illustrate to future generations the intrinsic meaning of a live, authentic material. Besides, the Museum of Wood aims to convey to visitors, as well as to help them not forget, the amount of work and passion that goes into the production of a single piece of furniture and most importantly, to remember that although wood is a renewable source it’s not infinite and therefore, you should use it consciously. Dynamic and constantly promoting new projects, this space is open to anyone who wants to immerse himself in the bewitching world of wood.
WHERE: 110 Via Milano, Cantù (CO), Italy
OPENING TIMES: Mon – Fri 8.30 - 12.30 and 14.00 - 18.30 | Sat 9.00 – 12.00 | Closed on Sundays
Photos: Courtesy Riva 1920