Italian Design and the Invention of Made in Italy: a talk by Prof. Elena Dellapiana

Italian Design and the Invention of Made in Italy: a talk by Prof. Elena Dellapiana


March 23, 2023, 6:00 PM

General admission: $15. Members and Students: Free


Professor Elena Dellapiana will examine the concept of Made in Italy in its various meanings and iterations: from an indication of provenance for products to a definition of an entire lifestyle, from a signifier of prestige to a label at the center of legal battles, from an indicator of innovation in industrial technologies and design to an anchor of tradition and craftsmanship.

“Made in Italy”, indeed,  is  above all, the realization of an intangible yet powerful aura shared all over the world and synonymous with elegance and the magical alchemy between innovation and tradition. 

The discourse concerns how the formula that has communicated and amplified Italian products since the universal exhibitions of the 19th century has been arrived at focusing, also thanks to regulatory and propagandistic actions, on categories that enrich the simple meaning of “made in Italy”: Mediterraneanism, craftsmanship, artisticity, ingredients that, in turn, define the elusive category of design. And design, in its transition between artistic craftsmanship and industrial product, has prompted reactions, mostly favorable if not adoring, in the international markets and public, which have helped to shape a veritable category of the spirit in a continuous game of cross-references between cues from Italian designers and companies and replicas matured in countries with a high level of debate on design culture. 

Elena Dellapiana, Architect, PhD, is Full Professor of Architecture and Design History in the Department of Architecture & Design at the Politecnico di Torino (Italy). She is a scholar of architecture, town and design history of the nineteenth and twentieth century. She is one of the authors of Storia dell’architettura italiana: L’Ottocento, ed. A. Restucci (Milan: Electa, 2005); Made in Italy. Rethinking a Century of Italian Design eds. K. Fallan and G. Lees Maffey (Bloomsbury: 2013). Among her publications: Il design della ceramica in Italia 1850-2000 (Milan: Electa, 2010), Il design degli architetti italiani 1920-2000, with F. Bulegato (Milan: Electa, 2014), Una storia dell’architettura contemporanea, with G. Montanari (Torino: Utet, 2015-2020). She recently edited Museographie. Musei in Europa negli anni tra le due guerre, with M.B. Failla and F. Varallo (Sagep: Genova 2020) and Bruno Zevi. History, Criticism and Architecture after WWI, with M. Cassani Simonetti (Franco Angeli: Milano 2021; her latest book is Il Design e l’invenzione del Made in Italy, (Einaudi: Torino 2022). She is the director (with Giampiero Bosoni and Jeffrey Schnapp) of the magazine “AIS/Design Journal”, focused on design History and organ of the Italian Design Historians Association (AIS/Design) 

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