Isaac Newton discovered gravitation when he realised that an apple was being pulled to earth. And Denis Papin allegedly had his eureka moment while looking at steam push up the cover of a kettle. Could the sublime and the ridiculous really be coexisting at all times?
Where architectural developments are inseparable from societal evolution, the aesthetics of the home are determined by minor cultural revolutions. Of course, today’s globalised world poses a paradox. Either a design gains international popularity by skilfully standardising taste, or it naturally evokes our gregarious instinct, newly apparent in this interconnected world market, that precludes individual taste.
The kitchen is one of the cultural markers of a society. In most nature-bound communities (from native Americans, to Siberian tribes, passing by Hungarian peasants), the kitchen is the centre of the home. In our western culture, however, we have had some difficulty in placing it in the home. Arclinea is a brand that has successfully traversed the murky waters of our sociological indecision to reach the competitive new world. In 1925, Silvio Fortuna Senior founded the company in the provincial town of Caldogno, Italy. Building its capacity as a series producer of kitchen furnishings, the enterprise eventually took on the name Arclinea Cucine Compobibili’ (Rational Modular Furniture) during the futuristic design era of the 1960s.
Established industrial design architect Antonio Citterio has worked closely with Arclinea since 1986, and has coordinated their collection and corporate strategy since 1998. Citterio, a two-time recipient of the prestigious Compasso d’Oro award, has produced part of the permanent collection at New York’s famous Museum of Modern Art, as well as pieces for the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. Since 2006 he has been an Adjunct Professor of Design at the Academy of Architecture at the University of Italian Switzerland (Università della Svizzera Italiana).
The resulting design portfolio incorporates innovative solutions for traditional problems. The f lagship attribute is the artful and efficient use of space to solve functionality issues. For example, Citterio’s “Italia” design turns the kitchen into what it always was back in the days when family life meant something: a buoyant hub. Large worktops and efficient accessory storage facilities ensure a lot of visibility. The whole thing is built on a steel base, which is both hygienic and sturdy. The later “Artusi” design allows for personalisation, i.e., it delivers the kind of f lexibility that evolving fashion sometimes demands. Wood, lacquers and laminates join forces with stainless steel to give a wide range for design maneuver, without compromising strong functional performance. The “Convivium” model offers the same efficiency, but with an elegance through which Citterio rethinks the individual elements of the kitchen.
Nowadays, of course, with work having become the main determining factor of daily life, kitchens have degenerated in certain classes to tiny functional affairs where the human being can make a quick coffee or microwave some frozen foods. Nevertheless, Arclinea’s place in the contemporary market should survive the cultural revolutions of today. Testimony to this is the company’s recent progress in incorporating ecological priority into their designs. Their commitment to reduce both formaldehyde emissions and the use of non-recyclable materials shows a modern, intelligent respect for sustainable development – a generational firm that holds a generational view, as well as vested interests in the future market.
Arclinea products are available at: Ambiance Cuisine, 4, route des Jeunes, Geneva-Acacias Misura Design AG, Forchstrasse 225, Zurich
Article by Kyle Packer