On Tuesday we drove up to Crusinallo di Omegna (Verbania) to visit the Alessi
factory. Alessi is the market leader in innovative kitchen utensil, and they have a museum and archive here to document the history of the company, plus all of its domestic utensils and appliances.
With its location near the Italian Alps, and its colorful headquarters full of humorous designs, it felt like being at Santa's workshop.
These are demo bathrooms on their front lawn:
They also have a lovely mosaic in their lobby that is made up of thumbnail images of their employees and reads, "Buon Lavoro" which is loosely translated to "Enjoy Working Together."
Their space is bright and quirky, like their products:
They are in constant product development, and even items that don't go into commercial production (sometimes the prototype just doesn't please the designer and they scrap it) are "frozen" and archived here, because they feel that they can learn from every experience.
So the archive is full of all sorts of colorful bowls, flatware, clocks, vases, juicers, toothbrushes, cookware, and on and on! In all, there are about 17,000 objects on floor-to-ceiling glass shelves, along with 14,000 drawings and 20,000 photos.
Included in the collection are some of their most popular items, like the Bombe teapot
designed by Carlo Alessi in 1945, the 9090 espresso coffee maker
designed by Richard Sapper (the first company piece to be added to New York's Museum of Modern Art permanent collection), and items from Phillip Starck and Salvador Dali! Here is our guide holding up a scrapbook with a photo of Dali and one of his designs:
And then there was this:
In addition to highlighting certain pieces in the collection, our guide shared the history of this family business, which was founded by Giovanni Alessi in 1921; he wanted to produce hand-crafted items with the aid of machines. His son Carlo, a trained industrial designer, went on to become CEO in 1945. In 1955, Carlo's younger brother Ettore, a technician in the business, introduced collaborations with external designers. From the 1980s onward, Alessi has been known for its designer objects - ordinary tools executed as high design (particularly post-modern). This was a recurring theme at the various studios and workshops we visited this week.
And of course we got to shop at the end of the tour, at the wonderful Alessi outlet.
Another theme of the week is bringing humor into design, and Alessi nailed it.