Trust + Design

Viva l’Italia - The Long Life of Design In Italy. B&B Italia 50 Years and Beyond, edited by Stefano Casciani, with contributions by Ferruccio de Bortoli, Renzo Piano, and Deyan Sudjic; published by Skira, 360 pages, $70

October 2016
Along with the opening of a new showroom in Mayfair, London, the family-run company is launching a book that retraces 50 years of its history. In 1966, Cesare Cassina joined Piero Busnelli to found C&B, encouraging the latest mass-produced furniture products. It gathered together an important generation of Italian architects and designers, such as Mario Bellini, Vico Magistretti, and Tobia & Afra Scarpa (who also designed the polyurethane research laboratory that opened in 1969). Intellectuals like Alain Resnais and Raymond Queneau, and inventive creators like Oliviero Toscani, Enrico Trabacchi, and Gaetano Pesce enhanced the innovative and glamorous image of design, not to mention providing a provocative tool that forwarded the cause of social freedom. In 1973, Busnelli managed to buy all the shares and involve his son in the various spin-off businesses, such as Maxalto and other new manufacturing companies – and the firm became B&B, thus inaugurating a new Italian design story. Richard Sapper and the very young Antonio Citterio and Paolo Nava were enrolled in the new adventure as well. In 1974, Piano and Rogers designed the company’s famous office building in Novedrate, a precursor of the Pompidou, and steadily, each member of the family introduced new competences and invented new divisions. B&B’s corporate identity spread around the world as did as its branches.
The main interest of the book lies in its linking the legacy of B&B and the history of materials it experimented with, which changed the course of international design. To trust invention is the best way to improve human welfare. From the 1980s onwards, B&B invested in new technology for a ‘Marina division’ and hosted the new generation of designers whose first steps were widely developed there, as is illustrated in details, drawings, and photographs. We are shown how much the connexion between technical research and form thrives on the company’s legitimate success. James Irvine, Marc Newson, Zaha Hadid, Naoto Fukasawa, and Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby inherited the best of B&B’s strengths and those of prestigious Italian designers.