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Ennio Brion


Biografía

ENNIO BRION, Talk with LUCA MOLINARI

The history of architecture has always been marked by the presence of important clients: people qualified to choose the right architect, offer him or her a starting vision, and oversee the progress of the project, participating when necessary and respecting the architect’s choices, as one does with one’s companions on any voyage.
The results are always powerful, important projects that improve the lives of the cities and the land where we live.
To talk about some of the great clients of our day, we decided to start with Ennio Brion, the secret to Brionvega’s success from the sixties to the early eighties, an important figure in contemporary Italian design and architecture and a paradigmatic figure, to talk about the role of the client on today''s architectural scene.

Luca Molinari: Could you tell us about how you came to the world of Design, and then Architecture? I don’t think you see much of difference between the two disciplines.

Ennio Brion: I have been part of that world since I was young, because I suffered very much from the fact that consumer electronics were inspired by only two models: radios were inspired by German production, televisions by the American industry.
In 1957, when I was 17, I discovered Alberto Rosselli’s magazine Stile e Industria and he and I later became friends. The first issue I bought presented Marco Zanuso’s sewing machines for Necchi, made right after Marcello Nizzoli’s.
There was a motorbike too, the Motom, made by a company in Milan, also designed with the consulting services of Sapper and Zanuso.
I was attracted by Marco Zanuso’s soft shapes right away; I was still a very naive student, and I didn’t really know what I was talking about, but I wanted to help my parents out with Brionvega, and I wanted to find some innovative solutions, as we would say nowadays, though at that time innovation was not a very well-known concept.
After a brief parenthesis with Rodolfo Bonetto, I started working with Marco Zanuso, and I stayed with him for a long time.
The earliest products were very successful: the Antares television with its soft, curved shape, of the kind Zanuso liked so much, rather than the harder shapes of the International Style.
This gave the product an extra something on the market; it was almost sensual.
Zanuso was searching for new volumes and lines like these through cross-cutting, playful research. He had a series of references which were not to be taken for granted. I thought him a true illuminist: he came from Lake Como, and he had an intelligence that made him stand out, that had allowed him to address so many different themes during his career, all innovative: Arflex padded armchairs, Necchi sewing machines, factories, and finally his work with us.
This was the starting point, the origin of our work together, in which I became involved when still a student, and which I later brought with me to my work with other great masters who completed Zanuso’s style in other fields: the Castiglioni brothers, Franco Albini, Mario Bellini. I have always thought that a plurality of different ideas can inspire a healthy competitive spirit, making work more exciting.
Olivetti was the model as far as architecture is concerned.
I learned from Adriano Olivetti’s company the concept that everything is communication, in the broadest sense of the word. A company’s factory is communication, as are its showrooms, its designs, its advertisements; communication is differentiated by theme, very concentrated, directed toward achieving total quality in a unified way. The way a company makes things, the products it makes, the places where it makes and displays them, and its communications are all closely connected.
This unified vision brought me to architecture, one of my greatest passions, and I worked on my first important project with Marco Zanuso: the new Brionvega factory, a building that was later awarded the In/Arch Prize.
On this occasion I learned about the need for the architect to work with the landscape architect, who was Pietro Porcinai at that time; I had seen his Olivetti premises in Pozzuoli, designed by engineer Luigi Cosenza, a very high quality example of integration with the landscape. The whole place is in actual fact the product of a partnership between the architect and the landscape architect.


LM: What kind of people did you hang around with when you were a student, and where did you study?
EB: I studied Economics and Commerce in Milan, and I started working for my family’s company while still a student. Design work must always be supported by the company’s top management, because if it is not, the result will be misunderstandings between the engineers and the designers, who normally come from two different backgrounds; the engineer tends, with some exceptions, to be unwilling to consider the complexity involved in creativity. If there is no-one there to mediate between them – the CEO or company manager – their meetings degenerate into arguments and differences of opinion.

LM: What instructions did you give designers when you started work on certain products, such as your first televisions with Zanuso?

EB: There are two different stages: the first is when a product is innovative in the technological sense as well, as was the case of the Doney and the Algol, the first transistor televisions in Europe. The components were made by an Olivetti company. In cases like this technology played an essential role in product miniaturisation, and to respond to Zanuso and Sapper’s desire to make a small television, built around the cathode tube, with no frame.
But for "decorative" products, in which the frame was itself the theme, Zanuso had the ability to work on the outer skin to make the object a furnishing accessory, the product of an advanced culture of design.

LM: And what kind of dialogue did you have for products of this kind?

EB: There were no particular arguments, as the solution that Zanuso contributed was not as difficult as what technology could achieve in those days. It was just a chassis; the key was the appearance of the front panel, with the silhouette coming second.
For the Antares he had come up with rounded corners reminiscent of Luigi Caccia Dominioni’s furniture. Zanuso managed to synthesise inspiration coming from furniture, and so the unveiling was always a pleasant surprise and the engineering staff made only a simple contribution; there was some complexity, but it was under control.
Things got complicated when it was necessary to work inside the chassis, to design the inside of the apparatus, and that was, of course, when the greatest problems arose.
The purpose of my father’s presence, and therefore of my presence at his side, was reconciliation and discrete support for the architect’s proposals, because it was clear that what he was creating was something important.

LM: You asked your architects and designers to come up with something new and different. The items you made in those years represented social changes linked with the economic boom years, the desire to travel, to be modern and different.

EB: Zanuso had a great talent for creating archetypes. Such as Algol: if the thin cathode tube had not been invented, it would still be on the market; in fact some people who like modern antiques are still out there looking for it.
Zanuso loved to play around and went into other areas too; for the TS 502 radio, the one that opens up, Zanuso drew his inspiration from the Movado, a Swiss watch that was kept in a case, in which it disappeared, and could be pulled out when one wanted to see the time: this concept appears in the TS 502, for when it is closed you can’t see that it’s a radio.
When he designed the lights for the Piccolo Teatro, a theatre in Milan, I was in the studio and I could see that he was playing with a multifaceted crystal; that’s what gave him the idea for the light, which he then made with the late Gino Sarfatti and Arteluce.
He always had this playful vein in him, as in the Black television, which we might call the first Italian minimalist work. This object was practically ready-made: we had made a plexiglass box to see the internal structure and study its inside, and Zanuso got the idea from this box, which was a working model, and came up with this beautiful object.

 
LM: What kind of figures are we talking about, in terms of production and distribution of these Brionvega products?

EB: The Algol and the TS 502 were distributed on a fairly large scale – tens of thousands. Black was more sophisticated, but it was a limited run item, a thousand or so. Doney was the first, an interesting item, which is one reason why we made and sold quite a few.
The first Doney, which unfortunately I can’t find any more because we only made a few, had a completely transparent hot moulded chassis so you could see inside it; it was a magical thing. To understand how innovative this product was, just think that it was many more years before Apple made its first computer with a clear case!

LM: I can also see a strong line of contact with the contemporary art experiences of that time; many of these items are on the borderline between works of art and experimental objects; design touches on the boundary with contemporary art.

EB: Definitely! For example, Zanuso made shapes, tensile structures based specifically on the works of Agostino Bonalumi and Enrico Castellani; both of us hung around with artists all the time.

LM: I’m interested in your relationship with Olivetti. It was clearly your reference, an industrial experience you learned from. Did you meet Adriano Olivetti?

EB: Yes, I met Adriano Olivetti in 1960, just before his sudden death; later I made friends with his son Roberto Olivetti. I was young and enthusiastic, and it was a truly special encounter.
Visiting Ivrea was a very important experience for me; I believe Olivetti is a model we should still look at and rethink, and in fact leading companies in a number of fields are still studying Olivetti’s example.

LM: When I saw Gianni Berengo Gardin’s beautiful photographs of Marco Zanuso’s Brionvega factory, two things came to mind: Amacio Williams’ South American models and the continuous wall of glass of the Olivetti building in Ivrea, by Figini and Pollini; almost a citation.
What was your relationship with Marco Zanuso like during the construction of the Brionvega factory?
I think it’s interesting to reflect on these things, because we’re talking about someone who designed both objects and buildings, though the figure of the designer didn’t really exist yet, in those days. Was Zanuso familiar with your company? Had he worked with you? Was he familiar with your world, your clients, what you would have wanted for your building?


EB: He was enthusiastic about the place where the factory was built, on the slopes of Asolo, in a town near where my father was born, in San Vito di Altivole.
We decided to locate Brionvega there because it was a way of going back to our roots and bringing jobs to the area. This was in the 60s, and at that time the Veneto was still underdeveloped, growth was just beginning at that time in certain areas. There were, for instance, some footwear factories in Montebelluna.
Following Olivetti’s example, we wanted to produce a masterplan for the whole industrial zone, as there was nothing there yet, not even infrastructures; there was just the land.
We wanted to take care of the area and ensure coordinated development of the area, but it was impossible; after a short time I resigned from the Building Commission.
With Zanuso and Porcinai I wanted to create a virtuous model for development, and my biggest regret is that I did not manage to generate a major area with a new open industrial landscape.
I believe Zanuso’s factory is one of his masterpieces. He was a very modest architect, not a show-off, and he didn’t do much to promote himself.

LM: In fact history only discovered him after his death, especially as an architect!

EB: We were very good friends, and we shared a lot of common interests in art. We often went to the Biennale together in Venice, the first art shows at Fiera di Bologna.

LM: Were there artists you both hung out with?

EB: The artists we saw were the ones who worked with the Galleria dell’Ariete, a historic gallery in Milan where Pietro Cascella, Enrico Castellani, Pietro Consagra and Lucio Fontana all came together. The gallery was led by Beatrice Monti, a very important figure.
Zanuso was very closely tied to this group of artists, and in his house he had a beautiful sculpture by Consagra and a work by Fontana. Fontana had worked with Zanuso on the Nuovo Piccolo Teatro in Milan, and on that occasion he had made a hole in the ceiling to solve the problem of acoustics.

LM: I’d like to get back to the story of how the Brionvega factory was born.

EB: For the factory Zanuso went to the engineer Zorzi, one of the great Italian structural engineers, though he’s not very well-known either.
We gave him a special briefing because the factory was something he was familiar with, and it was in an open space so there weren’t a lot of problems with it. Zanuso made some really innovative installations, with hot air passing under the ground. He always wanted to innovate.
The cable structure was also something new which was done very well. It created the shed, circulated the air and provided light. Then the façade was made in Treviso by an industry called Secco, which had a section that was used to make the grid, the basic element in a modern factory.
Then there was an external layer of terra cotta. The copper structure had been chosen as a material that ages well. There was a sculpture by Marino Marini in front of it, the garden done with Porcinai, the body of water had become a little pool with water lilies, and from the windows you could see the hills and the fortress in Asolo. It was a really good place to work. There were about 150 employees, and they really liked the place.
I remember that when Gino Valle came that way he would stop his car to look at that magical place created out of a combination of different elements.
In the garden Porcinai had created a dip in the ground. It was not even; it detached the building, so that it looked suspended, far away; a whole series of differ kinds of know-how made the project truly unusual.
The building was used until 1985. After that I would have like to convert it into an exhibition hall, and it would have been very suitable for the purpose, with all the craftspeople who work around there, a number of designers moving into the area over the years and a community of young people who find it a great place to live. But unfortunately my idea never became reality.

LM: Going on to the Brion Monumental Complex: you commissioned Marco Zanuso for the factory and Carlo Scarpa for the family tomb - how did this relationship with Scarpa begin? Why did you contact him rather than another architect?

EB: My relationship with Carlo Scarpa was born out of my passion for design, which later headed in the direction of architecture. I had read an essay in Ottagono magazine which I liked a lot, about Scarpa’s Olivetti store in Venice, comparing the staircase in the shop with Michelangelo’s staircase to the Laurentian Library.
At that time I used to go to the Triennale in Milan a lot; my parents took me there. I remember Albini’s extraordinary installations. The Triennale was a very important place for me and for all designers at that time.
At the 1973 Triennale, in a particularly hot July, I met Carlo Scarpa, who had set up the Frank Lloyd Wright room.
I met him looking at his room with his wife Ninni. I was the only one there, and after a few minutes Scarpa came towards me to ask me what I did, and he said jokingly: "I can see that you carry the holy flame!" After this, it so happened that when we built the plant in Asolo, he was living right there, because he had broken off with the university in Venice and moved there. In 1968, when my father died my mother and I wanted to go to Scarpa. The choice was easy. Experience has taught me that every one of us has our own propensities. The factory was definitely not the place for Scarpa; he was good at working on small things, places of appropriateness, intimacy.
What I learned from Scarpa’s project is that a certain Italian historiography tends to ignore the client and what he has to say, building legends around architecture.
We had got the top part of the Napoleonic cemetery for the tomb, and to protect it we also bought a strip of land around it. At that time the law required a distance of at least 25 metres to build next to the motorway, and similarly, we decided to buy 25 metres of land along two sides, which Scarpa then fenced off: this is how the fences around the outside came to be where they are!

LM: What did you ask Carlo Scarpa for? A very complicated project.

EB: We didn’t ask for all this complexity. What we had in mind was a fairly simple tomb, but he got carried away with the project, and when we saw it we recognised that it was a masterpiece. It was built very quickly. Scarpa lived in Asolo and so he managed to come often to see how the work was proceeding, and the contractor was a very talented person from Treviso. All the conditions were in our favour.

LM: You have always worked with architects from Milan, but for the tomb you worked with one from the Veneto. Is there a reason for this?

EB: In Milan people viewed Carlo Scarpa with some diffidence. The only people to encourage him were Albini and Gardella.

LM: What relationship did he have with you?

EB: An extraordinary relationship. He came to Cortina with us every year for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

LM: This was in the early, almost heroic phase, with Zanuso, Castiglioni and Scarpa. Whereas in the late 60s the second phase began: in 1972 there was the exhibition Italy: New Domestic Landscape, marking a milestone in your family’s history.

EB: I wanted to emphasise that in my family too, there was an excellent understanding between me and my parents. I’m grateful because they responded positively to all my needs when I was young. I was very insistent!
The exhibition at Moma was another great experience, very educational. We accepted the challenge of Emilio Ambasz, who was very young at the time, right away.

LM: Have you travelled with architects a lot? Whom did you normally travel with?

EB: With Marco Zanuso, Gae Aulenti, Alberto Rosselli.
In 68 I had an extraordinary experience with Zanuso and Richard Sapper. At that time we had gone to see the most important American aerospace industries together; Zanuso was received as an authority, for he was already an esteemed designer, and his idea was to demonstrate that even a handcrafted product may involve highly sophisticated research.
Another important experience with him was when we went to Seattle, where the new Boeing was. On that occasion Zanuso presented a fantastic chair he had designed for Alitalia.
And then I was in New York for the Moma exhibition in 1972; I managed to get around quite a bit.
Gae Aulenti and I went to see Philip Johnson, who received us in his pavilion home, where he received his guests; he actually lived next door, in an early 20th century house made entirely of timber. The Glass House was his showroom, where he had scale models of all his buildings. They were amazing!
Then I saw the work of Louis Kahn in Yale, all buildings that were very important to me.
What was interesting was the spirit of conquest in which our designers moved around. They wanted to conquer America!

LM: In actual fact no-one was aware at the time that we were at the end of an age, not the beginning; then the oil crisis changed everything. This was the end of the first, heroic phase in Italian design. Did you start to have strong ties to Ettore Sottsass at that time?

EB: Ettore Sottsass and I were great friends. We had a mutual friend who was very important for both of us: Roberto Olivetti. At that time Roberto and I were very close, and he was also a great friend of Ettore’s.
In the 80s my living room was open for Ettore Sottsass, for Michele De Lucchi, for Aldo Cibic, for the whole Memphis group. Then I too joined Memphis. I was on the Board to help Ettore Sottsass with the financial and administrative aspects.
Unfortunately television design had stopped, because Italy was kept away from colour television; the natural evolution of black and white was into colour, and in an embryonic Europe it would have been a good idea for all the European nations, including Italy, to introduce colour at the same time. This is what brought on the end of Brionvega. We had some beautiful colour televisions to make, with Zanuso and Sapper, and the delay was purely political, which stopped us from making competitive new products.


LM: When did you stop working with Brionvega? Which designers did you work with in this second phase?
EB: Until 1985, when the company was sold. I worked with Sapper, with Bellini, and it was much harder, much slower, because the economic and social circumstances had changed entirely.
At that time I was in charge of radio and TV, in the trade association, and I fought to introduce colour TV. In the early 70s, the cause of the delay introducing colour TV in Italy was La Malfa''s refusal, because he believed in an idea that punished the excesses of consumerism.
In actual fact, when colour TV came out in Europe, this new object cost as much as a Fiat 500, and a lot of people who had ties with Fiat were worried; it was a political choice, which was very damaging to industries such as ours.

LM: You started working with Memphis in the late 70s. Can you tell me about this time?

EB: Memphis was Sottsass’ creation, partly produced on my own table. At that time Sottsass was not getting along with Mendini and his Alchimia, it was an idea Ettore had already had, that was now ready to become reality.
He was a very different character from Zanuso, who was an Illuminist in his approach to his work, whereas Ettore was a philosopher, who saw that existence also included suffering.
Sottsass has always had two souls, an industrial soul when he was with Olivetti and he designed Valentina, and another point of view in his more personal, poetic vein, closer to Scarpa.
Scarpa is the poet of handcrafts, though he didn’t like to be defined this way; Sottsass is the poet of industry, and all his projects have an industrial approach, from use of materials like plastic to construction of objects that went beyond their functions.

LM: After the 80s, when the Brionvega experience was over, you shifted your interest strongly in the direction of architecture, your second life.

EB: It was due to a combination of factors, at least partly due to chance and fortune, that I came across the Portello-Fiera opportunity, which I wanted to take advantage of, with the methods and background I had acquired over the years.
First I had the experience with James Stirling and Amici di Brera, which was exciting, at the service of the town, but unfortunately put to death by red tape and politics.

LM: In the last exhibition with which they opened Palazzo Citterio we discovered that the work was there! Everyone thought nothing had been done after the plans were made, but now, paradoxically, we have a Stirling in Milan that no-one was aware of!

EB: That was my victory, and I was moved when I saw that space, the place of a great master.
The Public Works Department and I were practically put in the dock: the previous structures had been poorly calculated in terms of the safety of the building and water had got in, so it had to be waterproofed. The Public Works Department convinced the bureaucracy to agree that to make the building safe, they would have to use not temporary but permanent tie-rods, and this was impossible because they would have to be on other people’s property.

LM: So now we have an underground Stirling, like one of Piranesi’s drawings! It’s really incredible.

EB: It was an extraordinary experience. I’ve been to Stirling’s studio in London several times, and he was another fantastic person. The way the space was organised was amazing. In the same building there were Stirling’s studio and other, more commercial architectural practices; you went into a world where the professions were recognised for what they really were, and for their differences.
In hierarchic terms too, Stirling and Michael Wilford, his partner, had equal visibility, as you could see from their desks side by side. James Stirling had a Palladio book open on his desk. This is important for understanding Stirling’s great respect for history and why, when he was asked to go to Vicenza to work on a Palladio building, he preferred to decline the offer, saying: "It’s best to leave Palladio as he is".

LM: This last adventure of yours as a client, Portello, began with Gino Valle, who came up with the masterplan, in which other architects participated. It started out with Gino Valle, and this is his last great project, an important heritage in your life too.

EB: With the Portello experience in Milan, which was my most important, I made some choices I had reflected on for a long time. Gino Valle and I talked almost every day. Only a few people in Italy were capable of supporting an operation of this kind at such a high level of quality.
The axes, Gino Valle’s foundation elements, are strong, imperious.

LM: To what point did Gino Valle oversee Portello? Because he died in 2003.


EB: Valle managed to see the entire shopping centre project through and then make changes to the office building on the plaza, which had been designed to be at an angle. In the meantime I had recommended other architects to him, Cino Zucchi and Guido Canali, and he agreed.
You can see how the project improved with time; at the start Valle’s buildings were in a herringbone arrangement, and Canali’s work improved on this initial idea. The original landscaping concept was also very different, the hill Andreas Kipar had planned was different from the one which was then created, designed by Charles Jencks.
What makes me very happy is that the whole project now has a huge amount of energy, which you can feel when you are inside the space.

LM: You progressively called on architects, first Zucchi and Canali, then Jencks for the hill, Topotek for the plaza, and most recently you’ve had a contribution from Boeri Studio.

EB: Boeri contributed to the building on the hill, which is a beautiful project, and we’ll see what can be done with it.

LM: In much of your current work, I can see how much you believe in the importance of the workshop in coming up with new projects. There’s a basic principle that is entrusted to a great master, and then he is associated with a series of architects who improve on his outline. In a sort of workshop in which different forms of intelligence and different stories interact… do you believe strongly in this practice?

EB: Very much. I worked with Valle on this project even on weekends, talking to him in my office in Brera, sometimes arguing, but they were always constructive arguments. For instance, Valle wasn’t happy to accept Jencks, because he was a post-modernist and they had different ideas; in that area we had 500,000 cubic metres of soil to move, but when the project began to take shape, Gino Valle changed his mind.
When I look at the area I can feel that positive tension created by how Valle built the office buildings, in relation to Canali’s residential buildings, which were very vertical in their design, looking out over the plaza. In the beginning Valle was very happy to have Canali and thought he would entrust him with the design of a building on the plaza, keeping two of them for himself. He later changed the design of his buildings in response to Canali’s.

LM: I get the impression that the common thread running through all your work as a client is the fact that you have an almost sacred respect for the architect. When you choose an architect, you have great respect for him, and this respect shows up again in your relationship with the architect, who tends to give the project all he’s got; if we look at all the projects built with you, we always find ourselves before very important buildings, which means your relationship with the architect generates a very positive tension!

EB: With practically all the architects I have worked with, I knew what to expect, and the proposals they made were in line with what I was looking for.

LM: Do you know the architects you choose very well?

EB: Of course. For instance, I went to see Canali''s work in Parma several times, I’ve seen Zucchi’s projects in Venice, I’ve read his books about courtyards in Milan and his studies of Asnago and Vender, and all this had given me a pretty good idea of what the architects were like.
In ’63 I went with Marco Zanuso to see the buildings Gino Valle had designed in Udine and the Zanussi offices in Porcia.
I’m proud to say that I knew what to expect from them all, and I’ve never had any unpleasant surprises, only good surprises.

LM: Are there any architects you regret not working with, because you never had an opportunity? Aldo Rossi, maybe?

EB: Definitely Aldo Rossi. I was about to do some work with him, but unfortunately he died. I had a lot of respect for Aldo Rossi and we were great friends; he would definitely have played an important role in the Portello project.

LM: You had a lot of friends in Venice. Did you go to Rossi’s Biennale?

EB: Of course, I have some of Rossi’s models and drawings. I collected a number of Rossi’s works - I have the portal made for his Biennale, which was beautiful, and his designs for Modena cemetery.

LM: You’re a great client, and all the great architects have sat down in your living room over the past 30 years. You’re a person who likes to listen, to create opportunities to meet and talk; at this point, I’d like to ask you what you think about how Milan has changed. Milan has always been your focus – how have you seen it change?
You work on designing parts of the city and you project a desire for quality in relation to architecture, but also the city as a whole; what would you like to see Milan become in the next few years?


EB: I was educated in the 60s, I was young but very curious and aware, and I read Stile e Industria magazine about design, the Milanese architecture magazines and I went to the Triennale all the time.
At that time Milan was proud to be a Capital, you felt you were at the centre of things, and then, with the protest culture and the years of lead, with terrorism, all the creative fermentation weakened, the bourgeois withdrew.
I always came to this area, Portello, with Marco Zanuso, because Alfa Romeo was here, Luraghi, De Nora, the great planners and managers who made Alfa Romeo, Mangiarotti and Zanuso brought their designs to the company.
At that time there was a very close relationship between the productive bourgeois and the creative one, which perfectly represented it; there were no politics involved, the values were acknowledged, there was a strong spirit of reconstruction.
In the Milan of the future I would like to see this positive spirit come back, because Milan deserves it; it has all the potential, but it needs clients who are proud and conscious, on all levels. Being a client is a great privilege and a great responsibility, and it must be done consciously, generously, with a desire to build something that will last in the city, something other people will be able to use, something tourists will come to see, just as we go to the United States to see their architecture.
One good example is Carlo Scarpa in Venice, with his four works: the Fondazione Querini Stampalia, the Accademia, the Biennale and the Olivetti store: he brings people in from the United States, from Germany, Sweden and Japan, and they are moved when they see them.
We need conscious clients, and they must be respected, remembered and acknowledged.

LM: Architecture needs a father and a mother: the architect and the client, for nothing can be built without the two of them!

EB: I believe that an overly ideological vision takes you too far away from the living body of architecture.
Scarpa is now recognised as one of the greatest architects of the 20th century, but he had only five clients for his works: the Cisco Magagnato family in Verona, the lawyer who defended him against the Order of Architects of Venice, the great superintendent Giovanni Carandente, Olivetti, and us.

Thanks to SPAZIOFMGPERL'ARCHITETTURA

Photo captions
Page 2, Ennio Brion with Marco Zanuso
Page 3, Brionvega, Algol television - Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper
Page 5, Brionvega, Doney television – drawing
Page 6, Brionvega, Sirius television - Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper
Page 7, Brionvega, Algol television - Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper
Page 8, Brionvega, TS 502 radio - Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper
Page 9, Brionvega, Black television - Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper
Page 10, Ennio Brion with Marco Zanuso and Pietro Consagra
Pages 11-12, The Brionvega factory
Page 13, Ennio Brion with Marco Zanuso in front of a work by Sol LeWitt
Pages 15-16, The Brionvega factory
Page 17-20, The Brion Monumental Complex
Page 21, Ennio Brion with Michele de Lucchi
Page 23, Ennio Brion with Ettore Sottsass
Page 25, Drawing for renovation of
Palazzo Citterio
Pages 26-31, The Portello district

Photo credits
Brionvega
- Raphael Monzini
The Brionvega Factory
- Gianni Berengo Gardin
The Brion Monumental Complex
Fulvio Roiter - CISA A. Palladio
- Gianni Berengo Gardin - CISA A. Palladio
The Portello District
- Federico Brunetti
- Giuseppe dall’Arche
- Studio ORCH

Entrevista

ENNIO BRION, Talk with LUCA MOLINARI

The history of architecture has always been marked by the presence of important clients: people qualified to choose the right architect, offer him or her a starting vision, and oversee the progress of the project, participating when necessary and respecting the architect’s choices, as one does with one’s companions on any voyage.
The results are always powerful, important projects that improve the lives of the cities and the land where we live.
To talk about some of the great clients of our day, we decided to start with Ennio Brion, the secret to Brionvega’s success from the sixties to the early eighties, an important figure in contemporary Italian design and architecture and a paradigmatic figure, to talk about the role of the client on today''s architectural scene.

Luca Molinari: Could you tell us about how you came to the world of Design, and then Architecture? I don’t think you see much of difference between the two disciplines.

Ennio Brion: I have been part of that world since I was young, because I suffered very much from the fact that consumer electronics were inspired by only two models: radios were inspired by German production, televisions by the American industry.
In 1957, when I was 17, I discovered Alberto Rosselli’s magazine Stile e Industria and he and I later became friends. The first issue I bought presented Marco Zanuso’s sewing machines for Necchi, made right after Marcello Nizzoli’s.
There was a motorbike too, the Motom, made by a company in Milan, also designed with the consulting services of Sapper and Zanuso.
I was attracted by Marco Zanuso’s soft shapes right away; I was still a very naive student, and I didn’t really know what I was talking about, but I wanted to help my parents out with Brionvega, and I wanted to find some innovative solutions, as we would say nowadays, though at that time innovation was not a very well-known concept.
After a brief parenthesis with Rodolfo Bonetto, I started working with Marco Zanuso, and I stayed with him for a long time.
The earliest products were very successful: the Antares television with its soft, curved shape, of the kind Zanuso liked so much, rather than the harder shapes of the International Style.
This gave the product an extra something on the market; it was almost sensual.
Zanuso was searching for new volumes and lines like these through cross-cutting, playful research. He had a series of references which were not to be taken for granted. I thought him a true illuminist: he came from Lake Como, and he had an intelligence that made him stand out, that had allowed him to address so many different themes during his career, all innovative: Arflex padded armchairs, Necchi sewing machines, factories, and finally his work with us.
This was the starting point, the origin of our work together, in which I became involved when still a student, and which I later brought with me to my work with other great masters who completed Zanuso’s style in other fields: the Castiglioni brothers, Franco Albini, Mario Bellini. I have always thought that a plurality of different ideas can inspire a healthy competitive spirit, making work more exciting.
Olivetti was the model as far as architecture is concerned.
I learned from Adriano Olivetti’s company the concept that everything is communication, in the broadest sense of the word. A company’s factory is communication, as are its showrooms, its designs, its advertisements; communication is differentiated by theme, very concentrated, directed toward achieving total quality in a unified way. The way a company makes things, the products it makes, the places where it makes and displays them, and its communications are all closely connected.
This unified vision brought me to architecture, one of my greatest passions, and I worked on my first important project with Marco Zanuso: the new Brionvega factory, a building that was later awarded the In/Arch Prize.
On this occasion I learned about the need for the architect to work with the landscape architect, who was Pietro Porcinai at that time; I had seen his Olivetti premises in Pozzuoli, designed by engineer Luigi Cosenza, a very high quality example of integration with the landscape. The whole place is in actual fact the product of a partnership between the architect and the landscape architect.


LM: What kind of people did you hang around with when you were a student, and where did you study?
EB: I studied Economics and Commerce in Milan, and I started working for my family’s company while still a student. Design work must always be supported by the company’s top management, because if it is not, the result will be misunderstandings between the engineers and the designers, who normally come from two different backgrounds; the engineer tends, with some exceptions, to be unwilling to consider the complexity involved in creativity. If there is no-one there to mediate between them – the CEO or company manager – their meetings degenerate into arguments and differences of opinion.

LM: What instructions did you give designers when you started work on certain products, such as your first televisions with Zanuso?

EB: There are two different stages: the first is when a product is innovative in the technological sense as well, as was the case of the Doney and the Algol, the first transistor televisions in Europe. The components were made by an Olivetti company. In cases like this technology played an essential role in product miniaturisation, and to respond to Zanuso and Sapper’s desire to make a small television, built around the cathode tube, with no frame.
But for "decorative" products, in which the frame was itself the theme, Zanuso had the ability to work on the outer skin to make the object a furnishing accessory, the product of an advanced culture of design.

LM: And what kind of dialogue did you have for products of this kind?

EB: There were no particular arguments, as the solution that Zanuso contributed was not as difficult as what technology could achieve in those days. It was just a chassis; the key was the appearance of the front panel, with the silhouette coming second.
For the Antares he had come up with rounded corners reminiscent of Luigi Caccia Dominioni’s furniture. Zanuso managed to synthesise inspiration coming from furniture, and so the unveiling was always a pleasant surprise and the engineering staff made only a simple contribution; there was some complexity, but it was under control.
Things got complicated when it was necessary to work inside the chassis, to design the inside of the apparatus, and that was, of course, when the greatest problems arose.
The purpose of my father’s presence, and therefore of my presence at his side, was reconciliation and discrete support for the architect’s proposals, because it was clear that what he was creating was something important.

LM: You asked your architects and designers to come up with something new and different. The items you made in those years represented social changes linked with the economic boom years, the desire to travel, to be modern and different.

EB: Zanuso had a great talent for creating archetypes. Such as Algol: if the thin cathode tube had not been invented, it would still be on the market; in fact some people who like modern antiques are still out there looking for it.
Zanuso loved to play around and went into other areas too; for the TS 502 radio, the one that opens up, Zanuso drew his inspiration from the Movado, a Swiss watch that was kept in a case, in which it disappeared, and could be pulled out when one wanted to see the time: this concept appears in the TS 502, for when it is closed you can’t see that it’s a radio.
When he designed the lights for the Piccolo Teatro, a theatre in Milan, I was in the studio and I could see that he was playing with a multifaceted crystal; that’s what gave him the idea for the light, which he then made with the late Gino Sarfatti and Arteluce.
He always had this playful vein in him, as in the Black television, which we might call the first Italian minimalist work. This object was practically ready-made: we had made a plexiglass box to see the internal structure and study its inside, and Zanuso got the idea from this box, which was a working model, and came up with this beautiful object.

 
LM: What kind of figures are we talking about, in terms of production and distribution of these Brionvega products?

EB: The Algol and the TS 502 were distributed on a fairly large scale – tens of thousands. Black was more sophisticated, but it was a limited run item, a thousand or so. Doney was the first, an interesting item, which is one reason why we made and sold quite a few.
The first Doney, which unfortunately I can’t find any more because we only made a few, had a completely transparent hot moulded chassis so you could see inside it; it was a magical thing. To understand how innovative this product was, just think that it was many more years before Apple made its first computer with a clear case!

LM: I can also see a strong line of contact with the contemporary art experiences of that time; many of these items are on the borderline between works of art and experimental objects; design touches on the boundary with contemporary art.

EB: Definitely! For example, Zanuso made shapes, tensile structures based specifically on the works of Agostino Bonalumi and Enrico Castellani; both of us hung around with artists all the time.

LM: I’m interested in your relationship with Olivetti. It was clearly your reference, an industrial experience you learned from. Did you meet Adriano Olivetti?

EB: Yes, I met Adriano Olivetti in 1960, just before his sudden death; later I made friends with his son Roberto Olivetti. I was young and enthusiastic, and it was a truly special encounter.
Visiting Ivrea was a very important experience for me; I believe Olivetti is a model we should still look at and rethink, and in fact leading companies in a number of fields are still studying Olivetti’s example.

LM: When I saw Gianni Berengo Gardin’s beautiful photographs of Marco Zanuso’s Brionvega factory, two things came to mind: Amacio Williams’ South American models and the continuous wall of glass of the Olivetti building in Ivrea, by Figini and Pollini; almost a citation.
What was your relationship with Marco Zanuso like during the construction of the Brionvega factory?
I think it’s interesting to reflect on these things, because we’re talking about someone who designed both objects and buildings, though the figure of the designer didn’t really exist yet, in those days. Was Zanuso familiar with your company? Had he worked with you? Was he familiar with your world, your clients, what you would have wanted for your building?


EB: He was enthusiastic about the place where the factory was built, on the slopes of Asolo, in a town near where my father was born, in San Vito di Altivole.
We decided to locate Brionvega there because it was a way of going back to our roots and bringing jobs to the area. This was in the 60s, and at that time the Veneto was still underdeveloped, growth was just beginning at that time in certain areas. There were, for instance, some footwear factories in Montebelluna.
Following Olivetti’s example, we wanted to produce a masterplan for the whole industrial zone, as there was nothing there yet, not even infrastructures; there was just the land.
We wanted to take care of the area and ensure coordinated development of the area, but it was impossible; after a short time I resigned from the Building Commission.
With Zanuso and Porcinai I wanted to create a virtuous model for development, and my biggest regret is that I did not manage to generate a major area with a new open industrial landscape.
I believe Zanuso’s factory is one of his masterpieces. He was a very modest architect, not a show-off, and he didn’t do much to promote himself.

LM: In fact history only discovered him after his death, especially as an architect!

EB: We were very good friends, and we shared a lot of common interests in art. We often went to the Biennale together in Venice, the first art shows at Fiera di Bologna.

LM: Were there artists you both hung out with?

EB: The artists we saw were the ones who worked with the Galleria dell’Ariete, a historic gallery in Milan where Pietro Cascella, Enrico Castellani, Pietro Consagra and Lucio Fontana all came together. The gallery was led by Beatrice Monti, a very important figure.
Zanuso was very closely tied to this group of artists, and in his house he had a beautiful sculpture by Consagra and a work by Fontana. Fontana had worked with Zanuso on the Nuovo Piccolo Teatro in Milan, and on that occasion he had made a hole in the ceiling to solve the problem of acoustics.

LM: I’d like to get back to the story of how the Brionvega factory was born.

EB: For the factory Zanuso went to the engineer Zorzi, one of the great Italian structural engineers, though he’s not very well-known either.
We gave him a special briefing because the factory was something he was familiar with, and it was in an open space so there weren’t a lot of problems with it. Zanuso made some really innovative installations, with hot air passing under the ground. He always wanted to innovate.
The cable structure was also something new which was done very well. It created the shed, circulated the air and provided light. Then the façade was made in Treviso by an industry called Secco, which had a section that was used to make the grid, the basic element in a modern factory.
Then there was an external layer of terra cotta. The copper structure had been chosen as a material that ages well. There was a sculpture by Marino Marini in front of it, the garden done with Porcinai, the body of water had become a little pool with water lilies, and from the windows you could see the hills and the fortress in Asolo. It was a really good place to work. There were about 150 employees, and they really liked the place.
I remember that when Gino Valle came that way he would stop his car to look at that magical place created out of a combination of different elements.
In the garden Porcinai had created a dip in the ground. It was not even; it detached the building, so that it looked suspended, far away; a whole series of differ kinds of know-how made the project truly unusual.
The building was used until 1985. After that I would have like to convert it into an exhibition hall, and it would have been very suitable for the purpose, with all the craftspeople who work around there, a number of designers moving into the area over the years and a community of young people who find it a great place to live. But unfortunately my idea never became reality.

LM: Going on to the Brion Monumental Complex: you commissioned Marco Zanuso for the factory and Carlo Scarpa for the family tomb - how did this relationship with Scarpa begin? Why did you contact him rather than another architect?

EB: My relationship with Carlo Scarpa was born out of my passion for design, which later headed in the direction of architecture. I had read an essay in Ottagono magazine which I liked a lot, about Scarpa’s Olivetti store in Venice, comparing the staircase in the shop with Michelangelo’s staircase to the Laurentian Library.
At that time I used to go to the Triennale in Milan a lot; my parents took me there. I remember Albini’s extraordinary installations. The Triennale was a very important place for me and for all designers at that time.
At the 1973 Triennale, in a particularly hot July, I met Carlo Scarpa, who had set up the Frank Lloyd Wright room.
I met him looking at his room with his wife Ninni. I was the only one there, and after a few minutes Scarpa came towards me to ask me what I did, and he said jokingly: "I can see that you carry the holy flame!" After this, it so happened that when we built the plant in Asolo, he was living right there, because he had broken off with the university in Venice and moved there. In 1968, when my father died my mother and I wanted to go to Scarpa. The choice was easy. Experience has taught me that every one of us has our own propensities. The factory was definitely not the place for Scarpa; he was good at working on small things, places of appropriateness, intimacy.
What I learned from Scarpa’s project is that a certain Italian historiography tends to ignore the client and what he has to say, building legends around architecture.
We had got the top part of the Napoleonic cemetery for the tomb, and to protect it we also bought a strip of land around it. At that time the law required a distance of at least 25 metres to build next to the motorway, and similarly, we decided to buy 25 metres of land along two sides, which Scarpa then fenced off: this is how the fences around the outside came to be where they are!

LM: What did you ask Carlo Scarpa for? A very complicated project.

EB: We didn’t ask for all this complexity. What we had in mind was a fairly simple tomb, but he got carried away with the project, and when we saw it we recognised that it was a masterpiece. It was built very quickly. Scarpa lived in Asolo and so he managed to come often to see how the work was proceeding, and the contractor was a very talented person from Treviso. All the conditions were in our favour.

LM: You have always worked with architects from Milan, but for the tomb you worked with one from the Veneto. Is there a reason for this?

EB: In Milan people viewed Carlo Scarpa with some diffidence. The only people to encourage him were Albini and Gardella.

LM: What relationship did he have with you?

EB: An extraordinary relationship. He came to Cortina with us every year for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

LM: This was in the early, almost heroic phase, with Zanuso, Castiglioni and Scarpa. Whereas in the late 60s the second phase began: in 1972 there was the exhibition Italy: New Domestic Landscape, marking a milestone in your family’s history.

EB: I wanted to emphasise that in my family too, there was an excellent understanding between me and my parents. I’m grateful because they responded positively to all my needs when I was young. I was very insistent!
The exhibition at Moma was another great experience, very educational. We accepted the challenge of Emilio Ambasz, who was very young at the time, right away.

LM: Have you travelled with architects a lot? Whom did you normally travel with?

EB: With Marco Zanuso, Gae Aulenti, Alberto Rosselli.
In 68 I had an extraordinary experience with Zanuso and Richard Sapper. At that time we had gone to see the most important American aerospace industries together; Zanuso was received as an authority, for he was already an esteemed designer, and his idea was to demonstrate that even a handcrafted product may involve highly sophisticated research.
Another important experience with him was when we went to Seattle, where the new Boeing was. On that occasion Zanuso presented a fantastic chair he had designed for Alitalia.
And then I was in New York for the Moma exhibition in 1972; I managed to get around quite a bit.
Gae Aulenti and I went to see Philip Johnson, who received us in his pavilion home, where he received his guests; he actually lived next door, in an early 20th century house made entirely of timber. The Glass House was his showroom, where he had scale models of all his buildings. They were amazing!
Then I saw the work of Louis Kahn in Yale, all buildings that were very important to me.
What was interesting was the spirit of conquest in which our designers moved around. They wanted to conquer America!

LM: In actual fact no-one was aware at the time that we were at the end of an age, not the beginning; then the oil crisis changed everything. This was the end of the first, heroic phase in Italian design. Did you start to have strong ties to Ettore Sottsass at that time?

EB: Ettore Sottsass and I were great friends. We had a mutual friend who was very important for both of us: Roberto Olivetti. At that time Roberto and I were very close, and he was also a great friend of Ettore’s.
In the 80s my living room was open for Ettore Sottsass, for Michele De Lucchi, for Aldo Cibic, for the whole Memphis group. Then I too joined Memphis. I was on the Board to help Ettore Sottsass with the financial and administrative aspects.
Unfortunately television design had stopped, because Italy was kept away from colour television; the natural evolution of black and white was into colour, and in an embryonic Europe it would have been a good idea for all the European nations, including Italy, to introduce colour at the same time. This is what brought on the end of Brionvega. We had some beautiful colour televisions to make, with Zanuso and Sapper, and the delay was purely political, which stopped us from making competitive new products.


LM: When did you stop working with Brionvega? Which designers did you work with in this second phase?
EB: Until 1985, when the company was sold. I worked with Sapper, with Bellini, and it was much harder, much slower, because the economic and social circumstances had changed entirely.
At that time I was in charge of radio and TV, in the trade association, and I fought to introduce colour TV. In the early 70s, the cause of the delay introducing colour TV in Italy was La Malfa''s refusal, because he believed in an idea that punished the excesses of consumerism.
In actual fact, when colour TV came out in Europe, this new object cost as much as a Fiat 500, and a lot of people who had ties with Fiat were worried; it was a political choice, which was very damaging to industries such as ours.

LM: You started working with Memphis in the late 70s. Can you tell me about this time?

EB: Memphis was Sottsass’ creation, partly produced on my own table. At that time Sottsass was not getting along with Mendini and his Alchimia, it was an idea Ettore had already had, that was now ready to become reality.
He was a very different character from Zanuso, who was an Illuminist in his approach to his work, whereas Ettore was a philosopher, who saw that existence also included suffering.
Sottsass has always had two souls, an industrial soul when he was with Olivetti and he designed Valentina, and another point of view in his more personal, poetic vein, closer to Scarpa.
Scarpa is the poet of handcrafts, though he didn’t like to be defined this way; Sottsass is the poet of industry, and all his projects have an industrial approach, from use of materials like plastic to construction of objects that went beyond their functions.

LM: After the 80s, when the Brionvega experience was over, you shifted your interest strongly in the direction of architecture, your second life.

EB: It was due to a combination of factors, at least partly due to chance and fortune, that I came across the Portello-Fiera opportunity, which I wanted to take advantage of, with the methods and background I had acquired over the years.
First I had the experience with James Stirling and Amici di Brera, which was exciting, at the service of the town, but unfortunately put to death by red tape and politics.

LM: In the last exhibition with which they opened Palazzo Citterio we discovered that the work was there! Everyone thought nothing had been done after the plans were made, but now, paradoxically, we have a Stirling in Milan that no-one was aware of!

EB: That was my victory, and I was moved when I saw that space, the place of a great master.
The Public Works Department and I were practically put in the dock: the previous structures had been poorly calculated in terms of the safety of the building and water had got in, so it had to be waterproofed. The Public Works Department convinced the bureaucracy to agree that to make the building safe, they would have to use not temporary but permanent tie-rods, and this was impossible because they would have to be on other people’s property.

LM: So now we have an underground Stirling, like one of Piranesi’s drawings! It’s really incredible.

EB: It was an extraordinary experience. I’ve been to Stirling’s studio in London several times, and he was another fantastic person. The way the space was organised was amazing. In the same building there were Stirling’s studio and other, more commercial architectural practices; you went into a world where the professions were recognised for what they really were, and for their differences.
In hierarchic terms too, Stirling and Michael Wilford, his partner, had equal visibility, as you could see from their desks side by side. James Stirling had a Palladio book open on his desk. This is important for understanding Stirling’s great respect for history and why, when he was asked to go to Vicenza to work on a Palladio building, he preferred to decline the offer, saying: "It’s best to leave Palladio as he is".

LM: This last adventure of yours as a client, Portello, began with Gino Valle, who came up with the masterplan, in which other architects participated. It started out with Gino Valle, and this is his last great project, an important heritage in your life too.

EB: With the Portello experience in Milan, which was my most important, I made some choices I had reflected on for a long time. Gino Valle and I talked almost every day. Only a few people in Italy were capable of supporting an operation of this kind at such a high level of quality.
The axes, Gino Valle’s foundation elements, are strong, imperious.

LM: To what point did Gino Valle oversee Portello? Because he died in 2003.


EB: Valle managed to see the entire shopping centre project through and then make changes to the office building on the plaza, which had been designed to be at an angle. In the meantime I had recommended other architects to him, Cino Zucchi and Guido Canali, and he agreed.
You can see how the project improved with time; at the start Valle’s buildings were in a herringbone arrangement, and Canali’s work improved on this initial idea. The original landscaping concept was also very different, the hill Andreas Kipar had planned was different from the one which was then created, designed by Charles Jencks.
What makes me very happy is that the whole project now has a huge amount of energy, which you can feel when you are inside the space.

LM: You progressively called on architects, first Zucchi and Canali, then Jencks for the hill, Topotek for the plaza, and most recently you’ve had a contribution from Boeri Studio.

EB: Boeri contributed to the building on the hill, which is a beautiful project, and we’ll see what can be done with it.

LM: In much of your current work, I can see how much you believe in the importance of the workshop in coming up with new projects. There’s a basic principle that is entrusted to a great master, and then he is associated with a series of architects who improve on his outline. In a sort of workshop in which different forms of intelligence and different stories interact… do you believe strongly in this practice?

EB: Very much. I worked with Valle on this project even on weekends, talking to him in my office in Brera, sometimes arguing, but they were always constructive arguments. For instance, Valle wasn’t happy to accept Jencks, because he was a post-modernist and they had different ideas; in that area we had 500,000 cubic metres of soil to move, but when the project began to take shape, Gino Valle changed his mind.
When I look at the area I can feel that positive tension created by how Valle built the office buildings, in relation to Canali’s residential buildings, which were very vertical in their design, looking out over the plaza. In the beginning Valle was very happy to have Canali and thought he would entrust him with the design of a building on the plaza, keeping two of them for himself. He later changed the design of his buildings in response to Canali’s.

LM: I get the impression that the common thread running through all your work as a client is the fact that you have an almost sacred respect for the architect. When you choose an architect, you have great respect for him, and this respect shows up again in your relationship with the architect, who tends to give the project all he’s got; if we look at all the projects built with you, we always find ourselves before very important buildings, which means your relationship with the architect generates a very positive tension!

EB: With practically all the architects I have worked with, I knew what to expect, and the proposals they made were in line with what I was looking for.

LM: Do you know the architects you choose very well?

EB: Of course. For instance, I went to see Canali''s work in Parma several times, I’ve seen Zucchi’s projects in Venice, I’ve read his books about courtyards in Milan and his studies of Asnago and Vender, and all this had given me a pretty good idea of what the architects were like.
In ’63 I went with Marco Zanuso to see the buildings Gino Valle had designed in Udine and the Zanussi offices in Porcia.
I’m proud to say that I knew what to expect from them all, and I’ve never had any unpleasant surprises, only good surprises.

LM: Are there any architects you regret not working with, because you never had an opportunity? Aldo Rossi, maybe?

EB: Definitely Aldo Rossi. I was about to do some work with him, but unfortunately he died. I had a lot of respect for Aldo Rossi and we were great friends; he would definitely have played an important role in the Portello project.

LM: You had a lot of friends in Venice. Did you go to Rossi’s Biennale?

EB: Of course, I have some of Rossi’s models and drawings. I collected a number of Rossi’s works - I have the portal made for his Biennale, which was beautiful, and his designs for Modena cemetery.

LM: You’re a great client, and all the great architects have sat down in your living room over the past 30 years. You’re a person who likes to listen, to create opportunities to meet and talk; at this point, I’d like to ask you what you think about how Milan has changed. Milan has always been your focus – how have you seen it change?
You work on designing parts of the city and you project a desire for quality in relation to architecture, but also the city as a whole; what would you like to see Milan become in the next few years?


EB: I was educated in the 60s, I was young but very curious and aware, and I read Stile e Industria magazine about design, the Milanese architecture magazines and I went to the Triennale all the time.
At that time Milan was proud to be a Capital, you felt you were at the centre of things, and then, with the protest culture and the years of lead, with terrorism, all the creative fermentation weakened, the bourgeois withdrew.
I always came to this area, Portello, with Marco Zanuso, because Alfa Romeo was here, Luraghi, De Nora, the great planners and managers who made Alfa Romeo, Mangiarotti and Zanuso brought their designs to the company.
At that time there was a very close relationship between the productive bourgeois and the creative one, which perfectly represented it; there were no politics involved, the values were acknowledged, there was a strong spirit of reconstruction.
In the Milan of the future I would like to see this positive spirit come back, because Milan deserves it; it has all the potential, but it needs clients who are proud and conscious, on all levels. Being a client is a great privilege and a great responsibility, and it must be done consciously, generously, with a desire to build something that will last in the city, something other people will be able to use, something tourists will come to see, just as we go to the United States to see their architecture.
One good example is Carlo Scarpa in Venice, with his four works: the Fondazione Querini Stampalia, the Accademia, the Biennale and the Olivetti store: he brings people in from the United States, from Germany, Sweden and Japan, and they are moved when they see them.
We need conscious clients, and they must be respected, remembered and acknowledged.

LM: Architecture needs a father and a mother: the architect and the client, for nothing can be built without the two of them!

EB: I believe that an overly ideological vision takes you too far away from the living body of architecture.
Scarpa is now recognised as one of the greatest architects of the 20th century, but he had only five clients for his works: the Cisco Magagnato family in Verona, the lawyer who defended him against the Order of Architects of Venice, the great superintendent Giovanni Carandente, Olivetti, and us.

Thanks to SPAZIOFMGPERL'ARCHITETTURA

Photo captions
Page 2, Ennio Brion with Marco Zanuso
Page 3, Brionvega, Algol television - Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper
Page 5, Brionvega, Doney television – drawing
Page 6, Brionvega, Sirius television - Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper
Page 7, Brionvega, Algol television - Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper
Page 8, Brionvega, TS 502 radio - Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper
Page 9, Brionvega, Black television - Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper
Page 10, Ennio Brion with Marco Zanuso and Pietro Consagra
Pages 11-12, The Brionvega factory
Page 13, Ennio Brion with Marco Zanuso in front of a work by Sol LeWitt
Pages 15-16, The Brionvega factory
Page 17-20, The Brion Monumental Complex
Page 21, Ennio Brion with Michele de Lucchi
Page 23, Ennio Brion with Ettore Sottsass
Page 25, Drawing for renovation of
Palazzo Citterio
Pages 26-31, The Portello district

Photo credits
Brionvega
- Raphael Monzini
The Brionvega Factory
- Gianni Berengo Gardin
The Brion Monumental Complex
Fulvio Roiter - CISA A. Palladio
- Gianni Berengo Gardin - CISA A. Palladio
The Portello District
- Federico Brunetti
- Giuseppe dall’Arche
- Studio ORCH

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Reinach Mendonça Arquitetos Associados nueva entrada y nuevo club social Laranjeiras Condominium Río de Janeiro

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