Service Walkthrough#1 – Triennale Design Museum


The Design Museum of Palazzo dell’Arte (known also as Triennale) is the most famous and known Italian design museum. First of all for its location, Milan, secondly also for its long and glorious story: the building was the location for the main modern furniture and architecture fairs of Italy, between 1933 and 1968.

Last time, December 2012, I decided to do a quick walkthrough analysis of Triennale facilities and exhibitions, with photography documentation, in order to draft an overview of the visitor experience.
The three exhibitions analysed are L’Architettura del Mondo, TDM5: Grafica Italiana and Karma: Sesso and Design.

After you purchase the ticket (Triennale has usually good deals, especially for cumulative tickets) everything starts with this:
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A A4 B&W with the map of just one exhibition, Karma,using a plan probably dating to the first project for the building. Quite useless map, which provides just the indication of entrance/exit and the list of the people who created the installations, without any additional information. Basically, you throw it away as soon as you get it.
L’Architettura del Mondo
The first exhibition is the richest and better organised. It deals with the projects of infrastructures to give a shape to the world, divided into four sections: historical, international, italian, and then the global one, showing projects aiming to change the shape and characteristic of big environment.

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As already said, the topic is very interesting, and the materials presented too. But there is no any path or guide to go through all this content, and provide different point of view and knowledge about it. Visitors are simply given this huge amount of images, data, explanation, and they are left alone in front of it. Considering that not all visitors are experienced architects, what can they receive out of their visit?
Also the “interactive” devices (mainly screens) don’t give any real interactive way to manipulate, filter or interpret the information.
TDM 5: Grafica Italiana
The TDM is the area of Triennale specifically focused on Italian Design, with exhibition lasting one year on a specific topic. The current one, ending in February, it’s about Italian Graphics.

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The universe behind these two words is endless. And the effort to build a coherent and interesting exhibition about it completely failed. Here all the limits of how Triennale has been thought come together again: it looks like a museum storage, with very interesting pieces but without any elaborated view and interpretation of them. Visitors are simply told: “Look we (graphic designer) did a huge amount of super cool crap”. That’s it. You leave the show hopefully remembering two or three pieces. But you won’t get anything more about the nature, story, political and social context of italian graphic design.
Karma: Sesso and Design
And finally the provocative masterpiece: bringing sex into a museum. I must say, Italy is still quite conservative about this topic, much ado about nothing, considering that objects and installations were absolutely moderate and relaxed: nothing vulgar, neither horny.

The only poetic piece was this:
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Cups of silicone vibrating when caressed by the air of a fan. A great visual experience of what sexual pleasure can be. Of course touching and manipulating it was completely forbidden.

Triennale Café
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A cosy café is a feature no modern museum can skip.
Triennale decided otherwise. The café is cold and not welcoming, people working there try and fail to adopt a professional attitude, maybe more suitable for a Cipriani bar, than for the café of a creative museum.
The offer is average, not so many fresh products, the standard of an italian bar in a small town.

My previous opinion of the museum did not change.
There is not a vision behind this museum: it’s not a focal point for knowledge and creation about design, it does not offer services for students, an accessible and free archive, its exhibitions are simply Wunderkammer made up by some archistars that cannot create any value out of the objects exposed.
In my opinion, the Triennale has become the funny toy for the creative elite of a provincial town once know as the “Capital of Italian Design”.


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