The thoughts on design and life collected in ten years at the helm of Domus Academy in Milan by Mario Trimarchi


40 years after the foundation of Domus Academy, Mario Trimarchi – who directed the Master in Design of the prestigious school for 10 years – has reopened his notebooks and collected phrases and thoughts collected in that period. Here they are…

The first master’s degree in design and fashion at the Domus Academy was opened on 3 October 1983: forty young professionals from all over the world met on a foggy morning in Milan and “the happening became reality”. 

What was the original Domus Academy concept?

Maria Grazia Mazzocchi, Alessandro Guerriero, Sandro Mendini and Valerio Castelli are the founders of this entirely new experiment, “destined to last only ten years and to train a new type of designer, the self-taught designer” (Andrea Branzi, “spiritual” guide and director of the school).

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The concept for the new Domus Academy was revolutionary.

No tenured professors, just established designers working with an international group of students; an intense year without the pretense of offering solutions, but with the pride of formulating new questions.

In short, a new paradigm of teaching and design research was being experimented, which at that time was truly lateral to the consolidated education system, which still underpins design education models all over the world.

In front of us students (I was among the forty, and I was very excited) there were Sottsass, Bellini, Clino Castelli, Gian Franco Ferrè, and the younger Alberto Meda, Ezio Manzini, Francesco Morace

Over the years they would be joined by many others, with a pluralism of views that during endless meetings would have involved, among others, Mari and Santachiara, Marzano and Magistretti, Restany and Pettena, De Lucchi and Hosoe, Bonetto and Citterio.

Phrases on design collected over 10 years in Domus Academy

I didn’t think then that at the end of the course Branzi would ask me to stay in Domus Academy as his assistant, and that a few years later I would direct the master myself, precisely until the fateful date of the tenth year.

I found my notebook, a partial and syncopated photograph of a mixture of many visionary intelligences who passed through Domus Academy. I like to group together below clips of dazzling or prescient or simply naive phrases, and I hope that all together they make us want to do our job as designers better.

Domus Academy - Mario Trimarchi
The thoughts on design and life collected in ten years at the helm of Domus Academy in Milan by Mario Trimarchi

If a man sits on the ground, the whole world is his chair/

The unit of date is constituted for the first time by decades, and no longer by centuries, the world today travels faster / society is developing in the name of discontinuity / Italians do design well, because they don’t have schools; therefore, they have learned nothing about constraints / loving design is opposed to functional design

The city can no longer be defined as a place, but as a model of behaviour/

Thinking about the hypothesis of an earthly paradise / the city as a behavioral model is no longer represented by architecture, but by goods / the great revolutions have always been quantitative / the floor is in itself something dirty; for the Japanese, it is forbidden to walk with shoes on the floors of the house / designing a computer is more complicated, designing a door is more complex /

Our culture is not ideological, it is a culture of comfort /

Only in prison does a man sit alone / the theme of domestic dwelling is unavailable in the history of architecture / integration is the key / today no one gets excited because a product works well / in Gothic cathedrals many of the statues are not visible; the important thing was to have built them /

The thoughts on design and life collected in ten years at the helm of Domus Academy in Milan by Mario Trimarchi

The designer is the one who asks the right questions /

All the European courts conformed to French fashion, and by dressing in the French style they sanctioned the political superiority of France / the great revolutions have always been quantitative / since 1785 there has been a boom in stripes in clothes / nostalgia for the definitive / in the Arab house there is no we sit in the courtyard, we sit on the porch to look at the sky, which does not belong to us: we are only passengers /

A product of very high aesthetic pretension is the desire to live the present intensely /

Italian design has always represented a critical sign towards industry / the Japanese sublimate the idea of objective quality, seen almost as a religion / a good heating technician heats the house better than Wittgenstein; but Wittgenstein draws heat / fashion is in fashion today, it has become very democratized. Everyone can draw their own image / some ABS furniture was not put into production because of the noise it made / street furniture is fashionable today because it lowers the signs; takes them away from stone architecture and transfers them to neon /

The concept of progress is a concept that we have only had for two centuries. We can hypothesize, in the future, a society without this concept /

In the history of humanity, apart from wars, nothing really happened until the 18th century / what happens from the third floor up has practically no reality, it is just a mathematical extrapolation, beyond the third floor the urban scene is finished / to understand the acoustic functioning of an object you have to punch it / the French revolution is a very historically relevant fact, but at the level of material culture nothing has changed /

The thoughts on design and life collected in ten years at the helm of Domus Academy in Milan by Mario Trimarchi

Delaying is a trend /

This year for the first time the Japanese used the same colors for cars on the domestic and US markets / a polychromatic scheme on an object represents its semantic autonomy / additive synthesis was forced to recreate the colors of reality, but he can’t; today the colors of reality are forced to get closer to those of television / difference between sand color and wet sand color / at the end of sintering, the body is isotropic (unlike, for example, forging) / the only revolutions were that of Neolithic, the Industrial one, and perhaps today we are at the beginning of the Telematic one / over time the cultures that manage to impose their lettering always win /

Designing means hearing the sound of water falling over the surface of the river /

In thermodynamic terms the city is an event far from equilibrium / we are interested in bradyseism: changing a small detail but on a very large scale gives crazy effects / It’s bad in hotels because they try to imitate homes / the only alternative to home is the clinic, to avoid the danger of feeling like someone else’s home / 19th century factories are camouflaged farms; the only invention is the chimney / nostalgia for the definitive / there still exist demigods, heroes; this is the impression when faced with Christo’s works: we can dream.

Forty years ago. Amen

Text: Mario Trimarchi / Read the article in Italian on