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Upper secondary school
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University
Pirelli Foundation Educational Courses

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please call +39 0264423971 or write to visite@fondazionepirelli.org

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Roberto Menghi
and his “good design” for Pirelli polyethylene containers

The discovery of isotactic polypropylene in 1954 by the chemist Giulio Natta, who later became a Nobel laureate, gave rise to a completely new industry of plastics and synthetic materials. Pirelli, which has always had a close eye on research into materials and into their industrial applications, started manufacturing items in polyethylene. “The glass of the future will be like rubber”, announces the title of an article in Pirelli magazine devoted to this extraordinary material, “a resin that can be blown like glass but with the advantage of being unbreakable”. The Pirelli plant in Monza turned out polyethylene containers for industrial uses but also for everyday life. Towards the end of the decade, the architect Roberto Menghi was called in to design new lines of products. In 1956 he had already won the Compasso d’Oro with a bucket made of polyethylene, manufactured by Smalterie Meridionali. With his petrol canister of 1959, Menghi achieved the perfect balance between form and function. The canister was presented to the public with the words: “good design is what is created for mass production by the closest cooperation between factory engineers and expert designer-artists”. Honours were showered upon it: the Oscar for packaging at the Fiera di Padova in 1959 and a place in the exhibition on packaging held by MoMA in New York.

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The discovery of isotactic polypropylene in 1954 by the chemist Giulio Natta, who later became a Nobel laureate, gave rise to a completely new industry of plastics and synthetic materials. Pirelli, which has always had a close eye on research into materials and into their industrial applications, started manufacturing items in polyethylene. “The glass of the future will be like rubber”, announces the title of an article in Pirelli magazine devoted to this extraordinary material, “a resin that can be blown like glass but with the advantage of being unbreakable”. The Pirelli plant in Monza turned out polyethylene containers for industrial uses but also for everyday life. Towards the end of the decade, the architect Roberto Menghi was called in to design new lines of products. In 1956 he had already won the Compasso d’Oro with a bucket made of polyethylene, manufactured by Smalterie Meridionali. With his petrol canister of 1959, Menghi achieved the perfect balance between form and function. The canister was presented to the public with the words: “good design is what is created for mass production by the closest cooperation between factory engineers and expert designer-artists”. Honours were showered upon it: the Oscar for packaging at the Fiera di Padova in 1959 and a place in the exhibition on packaging held by MoMA in New York.

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