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Lake Como Design Festival, Como. Discovering the hidden pearls of the city through contemporary design

The third edition of the festival aims at showing how the past can be interpreted and exploited in several different ways by contemporary designers and brands

The third edition of Lake Como Design Festival 

After the closures and restrictions enforced by the Italian government due to the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, the calendar of cultural and artistic events dotted around the country started to revive. The third edition of Lake Como Design Festival will take place from the fifth to the tenth of October on the shores of Lake Como. Lorenzo Butti, the artistic director, launched the festival in 2018, and suspended in 2020 because of the health crisis.

For its third edition the festival – previously known as Lake Como Design Fair – expands and launches a new format. A series of events widespread throughout the city, but linked by a common theme, History Repeating. Switching from a commercial format to a cultural one, through a wordplay based on the year 2021, this year’s edition will be a dialogue between the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. At first, Butti’s idea was to focus on the re-editions of iconic pieces created by renowned designers of the previous century: «Re-editing historical design pieces can be a cultural move as it allows design enthusiasts to access the myth and, most importantly, it spreads the sensitivity and aesthetics of prominent designers. Not to mention the recent advancements in technology, which can improve the quality of the products considerably».

Marco Sammicheli is the curator of the design, fashion and craft department at Triennale Milano. He is also the Superintendent of the Italian Design Museum. Sammicheli suggested to go beyond this concept. Designers, brands and the audience are, in fact, invited to engage in a discussion on the history of design and on the role of the past. This vision represents a source to draw on but also as a driver for innovation.

Promoting the cultural heritage of Como and its surroundings

Designed and produced by Wonderlake Como, Lake Como Design Festival aims at promoting the beauties and the cultural heritage – often hidden – of the historical city center of Como and its surroundings, and at enhancing the cooperation between the private and public sector. «The idea of starting a design festival stems from a personal need: to merge my know-how and understanding of the design sector’s mechanisms with my passion for Como and its hidden potential. Also, the history of Como mixes with the history of design and architecture. Just think of Parisi or the Rationalist architects, such as Giuseppe Terragni and Lingeri», Butti states about his project.

Landmark of the upcoming edition of the festival is the exhibition Colori e forme della casa d’oggi (Colors and forms of today’s house). 1957 saw the inauguration of the exhibition in the halls of Villa Olmo, in Como. In an attempted synthesis between industrial design, architecture and art, the curatorial team invited several Lombard contemporary designers. The aim is to create environments in collaboration with artists and design companies. Ico Parisi, Mario Radice and Manlio Rho, among others, make up the curatorial team.

History repeating. Designers look at history

The first exhibition of the festival is History repeating. Designers look at history. It was curated by Sammicheli and set up by the architects Stefano Larotonda and Niccolò Nessi. It will explore the way designers and brands approach the history of design and draw inspiration from it. Nostalgic interpretations, new methodologic approaches, such as re-workings and provocation, or just source of research will be the elements characterizing it. The interpretation and exploitation of the past can take place in several different ways by contemporary designers and creatives.

Pieces by Pierre Paulin, Gio Ponti, Francesco Faccin, Ferruccio Laviani and Chiara Andreatti, among others, will be exhibited. Their frame emphasizes the contrast between old and new. Ridotto del Teatro Sociale will host the pieces. The space represents the foyer of main theatre of the city and heart of the previous editions, famed for its beautiful frescoes, the stucco decoration of the vault and the majestic chandeliers. «We also want to involve several design companies based in the province of Como. It is one of our main goals to enhance the relationship between the city of Como and the Brianza design district», Butti claims.

20/21 on Catawiki online market

On the occasion of Lake Como Design Festival 2021, private prestigious buildings of the city center will host artistic events. They are usually closed to the public. Independent designers will have the opportunity to showcase their objects and projects inspired by the previous century. Palazzo Valli Bruni will host the exhibition. The palace dates back to the Longobard era and currently hosts the Academy of Music and Dance Giuditta Pasta. 20/21 is the name of this exhibition.

Catawiki will host an online auction dedicated to the pieces displayed at Palazzo Valli Bruni. This location provides the exhibitors with international exposure. Catawik, in fact, is Europe’s most visited curated online market for collectibles, art and design, with ten million monthly visitors from sixty countries. «We have taken into consideration other online marketplaces specialized in design and luxury items. But, we wanted to give the event a more playful and humorous attitude, though Catawiki has collaborated with prominent and prestigious names, such as Maison et Objet, ELLE Decoration and Architectural Digest France, and is therefore very active in the design world», Butti claims. 

Cima, Marco Dessì

The last project of the upcoming edition: Archives

The team of Lake Como Design Festival will provide the public with the opportunity to discover some of the most important archives of the Como area. The aim is to further deepen the theme of History repeating. It will also offer a wide range of events and unique experiences.

Lake Como Design Festival will screen some of Studio Monte Olimpino’s research films produced between 1962 and 1972 by Bruno Munari and Marcello Piccardo. This is a collaboration with Accademia di Belle Arti Aldo Galli – IED. The path of Archives continues with the display of unpublished ceramic and glass pieces by Luisa and Ico Parisi. Some of the most interesting engravings edited by Lithos in occasion of its thirtieth anniversary. Sottsas, Branzi, Cucchi, Mendini and De Lucchi are just some of the designers and artists whose works will be exhibited at Torre Gattoni where, between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Alessandro Volta devoted himself to the invention of the battery.

The Order of Architects’ headquarter, Novocomum is an apartment building, built between 1928 and 1929 by Giuseppe Terragni. It represents one of the first examples of modern architecture in Italy. It will host an event dedicated to the duo of architects formed by Mario Asnago and Claudio Vender. The duo designed the renowned Moka chair for the Moka bar in Milan in 1939.

Becoming a reference point for local and international design experts

The pop-up project will focus on the evolution of the chair, produced and sold through Flexform since the eighties. «We have a rich heritage connected to the world of architecture and industrial design. People have to rediscover it, especially the young generations», Butti says. «Our main aim is to expand the cultural and artistic offer of the city of Como and to push citizens and institutions to fully understand the intrinsic value of culture and the beneficial reverberations it could have on the community and on the city itself, also from an economic point of view» Butti claims.

Lake Como Design Festival aims at becoming a reference point for local and international design experts and lovers. For this reason, it works synergistically with members of the hospitality industry. It will also help to make Como a destination for cultural and artistic tourism. Lake Como Design Festival also focuses on reducing to a minimum its environmental footprint and on sensitizing the audience to issues affecting the environment. «We try to be as green as possible. Whenever we can, we avoid the use of plastic and exploit digital tools instead of printing on paper. For example in the past years we utilized reusable and recyclable materials for the setups», Butti says.

Lorenzo Butti and his team acknowledge that the annuity of the festival imposes strict deadlines and a tight schedule. Nevertheless, they have in store several new ideas for the future editions. The heritage of the Como area, in fact, continuously provides them with new sources of inspiration.


Lake Como Design Festival 

Lake Como Design Festival was initiated by its founder and artistic director Lorenzo Butti in 2018. A new widespread format and a thematic itinerary characterize its third edition. Suggestive locations of Como city center will open to the public. From Ridotto del Teatro Sociale to Accademia di Belle Arti Aldo Galli, from Palazzo Valli Bruni to Novocomum. The aim is to explore the icons of the past century through the display of re-editions and new interpretations.

Agnese Torres

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
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Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
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