The city of Milan has a history of entrusting even its most mundane elements to the hands of designers. The best example is the concrete traffic bollards designed by Enzo Mari that are found practically everywhere. Referred to locally as “panettone,” their rounded forms discreetly keep cars at bay, demonstrating both Mari’s design principles and successful “un-design.”
Two young Italian designers, Matteo Ragni and Giulio Iacchetti, recently received a Compasso D’Oro (the prestigious Golden Compass awards program, now in its 60th year, is run by the Italian Association of Industrial Design) for a similarly humble urban furnishing project. Ragni and Iacchetti had been collaborating with the foundry Montini for several years before launching Sfera, their award-winning series of cast-iron manhole covers and grates, in 2012. The Compasso d’Oro jury commended Sfera for interpreting in an expressive and ironic way a functional element of urban furnishing. The series might also qualify for an award as an “urban mood elevator”, since its charm will have most effect on those Milanese whose view is directed mostly to the ground.