August 16, 2018

Compasso d’Oro:
Industrial Design’s Oldest Award

After years of working as an Italian architect, industrial designer, furniture designer and artist, Gio Ponti had a dream: To valorize the quality of Italian design. In 1954, the Compasso d’Oro Award was born – the first and oldest award given to industrial designers, awarded every three years. The prize is a golden bow compass and is awarded to designers chosen by an international jury composed of designers, journalists and critics who look for absolute excellence in innovation, technique and approach.

The prize is a golden bow compass and is awarded to designers chosen by an international jury composed of designers, journalists and critics who look for absolute excellence in innovation, technique and approach.

Compasso d’Oro brings to mind an abundance of iconic fixtures that forever changed the way we understand design. Among the classics is the “Eclisse” Table Lamp. Designed by Vico Magristretti (1965), this cult table lamp was inspired by the many phases of the moon and today still captures the hearts of designers and homeowners alike. It wouldn’t be the last we’d see of Magristretti – his breathtaking designs continued to take the stage. In 1979, the Compasso d’Oro jury awarded him for his “Atollo” lamp for Oluce as it featured refined geometric brilliance. During the 1970s, a multitude of other fixtures were making a lasting impression. Designed by Achille Castiglioni and Pio Manzu, the Parentesi for FLOS Lighting won the prestigious award (1979). Featuring a bare bulb attached to a thin line connecting the ceiling to the floor, the Parentesi demonstrates the epitome of elegance and minimalism. At the time of its creation, the country was suffering from an economic decline and decorative elements were few and far between, however the Parentesi struck a cord with the jury as it celebrated light in a time of despair.

In recent years, there have been a variety of winners that left audiences in awe – among them was the “OK” pendant for FLOS Lighting. Designed by Konstantin Gric, “OK” is a more modern, color interpretation of the “Parentesi.” It features an ultra-flat LED surface that can be directed over 360 degrees – the perfect addition to contemporary interiors in search of a renewed 70s feel. Following the “OK” lamp was the “Hope Pendant” for Luceplan. A collaboration between Paolo Rizzatto and Francisco Gomez Paz, “Hope” recreates the charm of the traditional chandelier, reinterpreted with sophisticated technologies and contemporary materials. The polycarbonate Fresnel lenses magnify the light, creating a truly dazzling atmosphere.

It was three years later that renowned Japanese fashion designer, Issey Miyake, up the ante with his “IN_EL” lamp for Artemide. Made from recycled materials, including plastic bottles, the fixture is inspired by traditional Origami aesthetics and praised for its mathematical analysis.

This year, June 2018, Compasso d’Oro took place in the heart of Milan. In one of the courtyards of the historical Sforza Castle, all nominated and awarded objects were on public display. The gallery consisted of varying contemporary fields, including automotive designs, bathroom accessories, lighting and differing technologies. The essence of the event was evident – a celebration of the many facets of Italian craftsmanship that began 600 years ago.

In the lighting arena, there were a couple of pieces that wrestled for first place, but it was the “Discovery Suspension” that shined brightest. Designed by Ernesto Gismondi for Artemide, the “Discovery Suspension” features a thin metallic ring which holds the “silent void suspended in space.” When on, it suddenly becomes an intensely luminescent disc, revealing the soul of the piece.

While not all pieces took home a prize, there were many notable designs. For instance, the “Nodo” – is made from a node of glass and unites a light source with the reflective body through the use of special magnets, creating a magical, floating effect. Just as elegant, the “Les Danseuses” light. Designed by Atelier Oï for Danese, the fixture is inspired by the movement of ballet dancers.

Every Compasso d’Oro event leaves us wanting more incredible, innovative designs. The location of the 2021 event will be revealed shortly before the designs are unveiled.

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