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Design and Play: With the Pirelli Foundation at the new ADI Design Museum

The ADI Design Museum – Compasso d’Oro was formally opened this morning. The Museum is home to the historical collection of objects that, since 1954, have been awarded the Compasso d’Oro prize, which is one of the oldest and most important in the world in the field of industrial design. The occasion called for a story to be told, and it came in the form of photographs, covers and articles from Pirelli magazine, taken from the company’s Historical Archive. The works include Pirelli toys and the monkey Zizì, made of Pirelli foam rubber to a design by Bruno Munari, which won the prestigious award in its first edition. The jury acknowledged its “formal essentiality” and its “characteristic use of the material” – foam rubber around a wire frame – which allowed for “the enjoyment of an infinite number of poses”.

Already in the late 1940s, Pirelli had asked the multi-talented artist, graphic artist, and designer Bruno Munari to study new ways of using foam rubber, an innovative material patented by the company in the 1930s, but which until then had mainly been used as padding for mattresses and armchairs. As Munari himself recalled, his study of the material and its characteristics – above all its softness – “which feels like the sensation you get when you hold a kitten or some little animal in your arms”, inspired him to design a series of animals for children. This led to his foam rubber toys with an adjustable reinforcement wire inside: first and foremost, Meo Romeo the cat, which was patented in 1950. The original work, which is part of the heritage of the Pirelli Foundation, is on display in the exhibition.