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La Triennale di Milano: Osvaldo Borsani (1911-1985)

| Designbest editorial staff


he Triennale di Milano pays a tribute to Osvaldo Borsani with the first comprehensive retrospective on this architect, entrepreneur and designer from Brianza (1911-1985).

Tables, chairs, cupboards, as well as sketches, prints, archival material, original projects and photographs: the over three hundred exhibits go from one-of-a-kind pieces to mass-produced furniture and combined with the five hundred images on display, they illustrate Osvaldo Borsani’s fifty year-long career. Although often overlooked, the versatile Osvaldo Borsani is one of the forefathers of architecture and design, as well as a visionary artist and entrepreneur.

Curated by Tommaso Fantoni, Borsani’s grandson and the archistar Norman Foster, the exhibition Osvaldo Borsani is a chronological itinerary that begins in the late twenties with furniture that created a visual link between the Art Decò and early Rationalism in Italy.

It was then that Borsani took over the family furniture business (ABV Arredamenti Borsani di Varedo) and totally transformed the company, thanks to his forward-thinking ideas and collaborating with different artists. In 1953 Tecno was born, a company that manufactured mass-produced furniture and that between the fifties and the eighties gained international acclaim.

The long corridor in which the exhibition takes place is instilled with Borsani’s passion and innovation, as well as his intellect and attentive eye, capable of staying ahead of the changing times. Without a doubt, Osvaldo Borsani is one of the most original designers in the history of Italian design: from handmade furniture he moved to mass-production, he seamlessly moved from charcoal sketches to digital drawing, from joiner to technical precision, from matching décor to the modern idea of freestanding furniture, from bespoke design to mass-produced industrial design.

The exhibits complete the narrative: Graphis, the modular series that in 1968 completely changed the approach to office furniture, the archival images of Villa Borsani in Varedo (this family home is a striking example of Borsani’s modernism, open on appointment only throughout the exhibition), the pieces he oversaw as the art director of Tecno (he was the brand’s director and designer as well) such as Nomos, the table designed by Norman Foster, winner of the Compasso d’Oro ADI award in 1987 and the last product manufactured by Osvaldo Borsani for Tecno.

Osvaldo Borsani’s career isn’t only linked to the world of design, in fact it equally touches modern Italian art and several of its key players such as Lucio Fontana, Fausto Melotti, Arnaldo and Giò Pomodoro, Roberto Crippa and many more besides. With enthusiasm, Osvaldo Borsani involved these leading personalities in his work, bringing out a new, forward-thinking approach to design.


Where: Triennale di Milano, 6 viale Alemagna, Milan, Italy

When: until 16 September 2018


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