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Pirelli and the Compasso d’Oro Award

Created in 1954 from an original idea of architect Gio Ponti, the Premio Compasso d'Oro ADI is the first, most influential and recognised award in the field of industrial design

Home life Pirelli and the Compasso d’Oro Award
Pirelli and the Compasso d’Oro Award

Organised for years by the La Rinascente department store, since 1964 it has been hosted and organised by the Associazione Disegno Industriale. The history of Compasso d’Oro Award converged with Pirelli from the beginning: the first edition of the award went to Zizì, the toy monkey made of foam rubber created in 1953 by the legendary Bruno Munari. At the end of the Nineteen-forties, Pirelli called Munari to investigate new applications foam rubber, an innovative material patented by the company in the Thirties. The result was a collection of foam rubber toys reinforced with a jointed metal wire: the first was Meo Romeo the cat, in 1949, followed by Compasso d’Oro winner Zizì the monkey, awarded for its “formal essentiality” and for the “happiness arising from being able to assume an infinity of postures”, made possible by exploiting a ”typical use of the material”. These creations are perfect expressions of Munari's artistic production. In his own words: “An artist must leave behind all romantic aspects and become an active man among men, informed on current techniques, materials and working methods...”; These poetics are perfectly in tune with the “industrial humanism” of Pirelli, that is the strong connection between scientific research, humanistic sciences and technology which has always characterised the company and is at the base of his vocation for experimentation and innovation. When Munari was designing Meo Romeo the cat, Fermo Solari, the descendant of a family of 18th century clockmakers, established Solari & C. in Udine for making electromechanical flip clocks on industrial scale. Designed by architect Gino Valle, the Cifra 5 clock won the Compasso d’Oro award in 1956 and become the forerunner of a range of products like the split-flap board for airports and railway stations, which was also designed by Gino Valle and won the Compasso d’Oro in 1962. Solari became a Pirelli subsidiary in 1964 and the boards are used in airports and railway stations worldwide, from Tokyo and London to Beirut and Australia and was even used to mark the countdown at the Cape Canaveral Space Centre. Solari clocks were fitted on the famous Queen Elisabeth II, the first Cunard Line transatlantic to be furnished with modern materials such as plastic, aluminium and plexiglass, radically breaking with the traditional Art Deco style which had characterised the company's luxury steamers until then. Further confirmation came from the cinema: the Cifra 5 was a telespace device in the James Bond film “You Only Live Twice”. In 1966 it was the turn of the Cifra 3, the smallest clock with direct readout, also designed by Valle in collaboration with Massimo Vignelli for the lettering: it is one of the most recognisable examples of twentieth century Italian design, an integral part of the permanent collection of design objects of MoMA since 1968 and was displayed at the New York Metropolitan Museum in 1999. 
Today, the iconic objects illustrating the bond between Pirelli and “Compasso d’Oro” Award are on display: Fondazione Pirelli is at the “Le Vie del Compasso d’Oro” exhibition (Milan, 2 April - 12 September), promoted by ADI Lombardia in the scope of the  XXI Triennale International Exhibition in Milan entitled “XXI Century. Design after design”. The exhibition is styled to spark curiosity and wonder and to reflect on how sixty years of design has changed our everyday life.  The relationship of Pirelli with the world of design continues today with other prestigious international awards, like the Red Dot Grand Prix, won in 2013 by the exhibition entitled “Rubber Soul. Aesthetics & Technique in Step with Fashion” (Milan Triennale, 21 June - 24 July 2011): over one century of industrial and fashion history under the sign of research applied to materials and processes through the sketches of the Pirelli Historical Archives and multimedia installations.

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