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Pirelli, Factories and Culture

The famous editorial of 1948, entitled “This magazine of ours”, in which Alberto Pirelli announced the launch of Pirelli. Rivista di tecnica e informazione on newsstands contains a fundamental point: “In this magazine, we who work in this company will talk from own experience, just as others, who are on the outside, will talk of theirs. The very fact that they are on the outside will make it possible to avoid the fatal trap of excessive technicisms and help bring their topics to life with their art, sensitivity, and imagination.” These lines have the full force of an authentic cultural manifesto. On the initiative of Silvestro Severgnini, in 1947 the company had just opened its Cultural Centre in the Brusada factory in Milan.

The journalist Vincenzo Buonassisi talked about it in the magazine in 1953: in his analysis of the work being carried out by a number of corporate cultural centres in Italy during those early post-war years, the journalist notes that “The sole mission of the Centre is to bring the company’s employees into contact with the appointed places of cultural activities. It does not aim to replace them.” Its purpose was not to “make” culture but rather to bring workers and culture together, to involve “those who in other circumstances would never dare come close to things considered to be so sophisticated and abstruse”. The Centre was “a bridge, a shared means for keeping abreast with cultural life in its most topical, everyday aspects, out of a sincere desire to capture the highest essence of our time”. From the post-war years to the 1960s, Pirelli went through an extraordinary period of “industrial humanism”: it was a time when large Italian companies become centres of production and culture and business executives worked hand in hand with writers, intellectuals, and artists. This was the situation in 1963 when the painter Ernesto Treccani was called in by Arrigo Castellani, then editor of Pirelli magazine, to look for this “highest essence” among the vulcanisers in the Pirelli factory in Milano Bicocca. Treccani makes it quite clear that it was “an experience in the factory, with no strings attached, without being asked to paint this or that” but simply to take free inspiration for his work. The article introduces his stove enamels, with their “splendid colours, and compact, luminous material”. A very personal vision of production and work.


“I, too, visited the factory.” This is how, in 1963, the painter Giancarlo Cazzaniga responded to the request in the caption for the oil pastel work he painted on the shop floors at Bicocca. His factory is one of “highly colourful machines: yellow, red, and green pipes, strange cauldrons, whistles, smells, and smoke, belts here and there folding and unfolding, depending on the movement that the machines made them perform”. Cazzaniga went into the factory with a guide who showed him along the way, sometimes being surprised and at others telling him off for his apparently pointless stops. Art and culture made their way deep into the factory in the pages of Pirelli magazine.

The famous editorial of 1948, entitled “This magazine of ours”, in which Alberto Pirelli announced the launch of Pirelli. Rivista di tecnica e informazione on newsstands contains a fundamental point: “In this magazine, we who work in this company will talk from own experience, just as others, who are on the outside, will talk of theirs. The very fact that they are on the outside will make it possible to avoid the fatal trap of excessive technicisms and help bring their topics to life with their art, sensitivity, and imagination.” These lines have the full force of an authentic cultural manifesto. On the initiative of Silvestro Severgnini, in 1947 the company had just opened its Cultural Centre in the Brusada factory in Milan.

The journalist Vincenzo Buonassisi talked about it in the magazine in 1953: in his analysis of the work being carried out by a number of corporate cultural centres in Italy during those early post-war years, the journalist notes that “The sole mission of the Centre is to bring the company’s employees into contact with the appointed places of cultural activities. It does not aim to replace them.” Its purpose was not to “make” culture but rather to bring workers and culture together, to involve “those who in other circumstances would never dare come close to things considered to be so sophisticated and abstruse”. The Centre was “a bridge, a shared means for keeping abreast with cultural life in its most topical, everyday aspects, out of a sincere desire to capture the highest essence of our time”. From the post-war years to the 1960s, Pirelli went through an extraordinary period of “industrial humanism”: it was a time when large Italian companies become centres of production and culture and business executives worked hand in hand with writers, intellectuals, and artists. This was the situation in 1963 when the painter Ernesto Treccani was called in by Arrigo Castellani, then editor of Pirelli magazine, to look for this “highest essence” among the vulcanisers in the Pirelli factory in Milano Bicocca. Treccani makes it quite clear that it was “an experience in the factory, with no strings attached, without being asked to paint this or that” but simply to take free inspiration for his work. The article introduces his stove enamels, with their “splendid colours, and compact, luminous material”. A very personal vision of production and work.


“I, too, visited the factory.” This is how, in 1963, the painter Giancarlo Cazzaniga responded to the request in the caption for the oil pastel work he painted on the shop floors at Bicocca. His factory is one of “highly colourful machines: yellow, red, and green pipes, strange cauldrons, whistles, smells, and smoke, belts here and there folding and unfolding, depending on the movement that the machines made them perform”. Cazzaniga went into the factory with a guide who showed him along the way, sometimes being surprised and at others telling him off for his apparently pointless stops. Art and culture made their way deep into the factory in the pages of Pirelli magazine.

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