Meda: the origins of design in a book

COVER: © courtesy BertO

In order to explain the history of Italian design, Filippo Berto, CEO of the furniture company BertO, decided to tell the history of Meda in a book: Made in Meda. Il futuro del design ha già mille anni (The future of design is already 1,000 years old).

Meda, a city a few kilometers away from Milan, the capital of design, has always been nestled into the hard-working silence of Brianza. Yet, this city was already famous for its craftsmanship way back in the Middle Ages. The birthplace of many of the stars of design (like Cesare Cassina, Antonio Citterio, Luigi Giorgetti), Meda has hosted masters like Vico Magistretti, Carlo Scarpa, Gio Ponti and Charlotte Perriand in its workshops, and its agencies and designers have won nine Compassi d’Oro.

And yet very few people know this, which gave Filippo Berto the impetus to make a book out of this story. He writes in the first pages of Made in Meda that he was pissed off that the incalculable value of city, where lots of talent gets lost because few appreciate it, is not understood.

Laura Traldi, journalist, design professor and member of the Compasso d’Oro Scientific Committee, says that it is a “powerful book”. All one needs to do is open it up to remain captivated and overcome by the volcanic energy of Filippo, the young entrepreneur who enthusiastically leads the family business and who unleashes all his empathy and spontaneity in the text. He tells us an epic, deeply rooted, youthful and vibrant, yet not haughty, Italian tale.

Made in Meda is nothing like the usual boring and academic books on design because it is direct, at times punk, full of anecdotes, excitement, hashtags and grievances. It is a book which speaks about values and the importance of sharing them; it gathers a year of research about the territory and turns it into a declaration of love for design, craftsmanship, all-Italian knowhow and the thousand-year-old culture of work which makes Meda so proud.

There was a short path from this culture to what we all know as “Italian design”, yet few make this connection. Among the anecdotes in the book, it is said that in Meda in the Cassina offices in via Busnelli, Giò Ponti threw the Superleggera from the second floor to show his flabbergasted students at the Politecnico di Milano how durable it was.

The masters of “true” design, as stated by Giovanna Castiglioni, the daughter of Achille Castiglioni and vice president of his foundation “presented their project directly to clients, going to retailers and staying in direct communication with laborers.”

This is something which has always taken place in Meda, because objects are links to the culture of design and business which is made up, most of all, by relationships. On the back of Filippo Berto’s book there is a sentence which sums it all up by saying “What we call work in Meda gets called design in the rest of the world.”