Books to read in 2024: designer homes, "talking objects” and young designers

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“Sette case sette storie” edited by Alessia Delisi (LINEA edizioni) 

The month of beginnings and resolutions par excellence, January can be the ideal time to catch up on some reading left on the bedside table before the holidays, or to find out about upcoming publications

Books published in the last months of 2023 include a monograph devoted to a master of Italian design, Gianfranco Frattini. Perhaps not valued at his true rate in the past, he is now being rediscovered together with the collection of the most iconic interiors designed in Milan in the period between 1928, the year of the foundation of authoritative magazines such as Domus and Casabella, and 1978, just before the advent of postmodernism. Other titles delve into the dialogic relationship, and a certain Socratic method established between architect and client, or reinterpret the history of women through their objects. Among new issues in coming weeks we find the collection of pieces designed by Massimiliano Locatelli over the years, now brought together under a new label, a photographic journey to discover the interior design project of the Byblos Art Hotel curated by Alessandro Mendini in the early 2000s, and the catalogue of The City of Lights, in which Beppe Finessi retraces the exhibitions and cultural events at the last edition of Euroluce. We've selected a few titles that architecture and design enthusiasts will love. 

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"Gianfranco Frattini. Design 1955/2003" edited by Emanuela Frattini Magnusson (Silvana Editoriale) 

An architect with a passion for craftsmanship and manual skills, particularly woodworking, Gianfranco Frattini was born in 1926, before design had received this name, and moved among the workshops and factories of Brianza in a golden age, the fifties and sixties, which brought far-reaching changes to the Italian economic and social fabric. His figure, at the center of renewed interest since last spring and the inauguration of an important exhibition presented in the seventeenth-century Palazzo Arese Borromeo at Cesano Maderno, is celebrated in a volume edited by his daughter Emanuela, herself a designer, for Silvana Editoriale.   

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"Massimiliano Locatelli Editions" by Locatelli Partners 

Massimiliano Locatelli Editions is the name of the new design brand launched by the Milanese architect and designer, who has accumulated long experience in the creation of tailor-made furnishings and custom-built products for clients and galleries (Nilufar above all). In conjunction with the presentation of this new brand, his studio has brought together in a volume the whole range of these pieces, the result of careful consideration of the context and above all of sensitivity to the specific qualities of materials, often used in original or surprising ways. The outdoor  chairs in the Alpina collection, for example, inspired by bar chairs of the Sixties, are upholstered with a hand-woven mountaineering rope, while several other products embody portions of building site mesh. 

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“Sette case sette storie” edited by Alessia Delisi (LINEA edizioni) 

It is said that every home has a story to tell. Certainly, behind the finished design of a house, the floor plans and glossy images, there is a phase that is usually unseen: the dialogue between the architect and client, in which the professional seeks to imagine in detail the life and needs of the people who will inhabit the spaces.  Sette case sette storie, devoted to the first two decades of activity of Filippo Caprioglio, a Venetian architect with several awards and publications in important specialist magazines, focuses precisely on this aspect of the work, delving into a handful of case studies, from the center of Venice to Romania. 

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“Nelle case. Milan Interiors 1928-1978” by Enrico Morteo and Orsina Simona Pierini (Hoepli) 

Again on the subject of homes, the start of 2024 can be a good time to catch up on reading a hefty volume that came out at the end of last year. From the Veneto we move to Milan, and from the twenty-first century to the heart of the twentieth century, when the future was built in the city and the pages of the magazines published here, with contributions by masters such as Piero Portaluppi, Luigi Caccia Dominioni, Gio Ponti and Nanda Vigo. Nelle Case. Milan Interiors 1928-1978 brings together more than 200 Milanese interiors designed over a period of 50 years and can be read in two ways: by appreciating the rich  body of illustrations or by seeking a reflection of the changes that have taken place in the lifestyle of their inhabitants.  

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“Una storia delle donne in 100 oggetti” by Annabelle Hirsch (Corbaccio) 

Annabelle Hirsch is a Franco-German art historian and journalist and hers is not a book about design in the strict sense. Despite this, it has all the potential to interest those who in various ways deal with the world of design, because it reinterprets the history of women through the prism of material culture. Among the hundred objects we encounter on this journey, often unsigned (products of anonymous design, we would say today), and as the author explains not belonging “to so-called great history, but a more intimate sphere, that of the subdued and the unseen”, yet still eloquent, there is a glass dildo from the seventeenth century, the infamous thumb crusher, the instrument of torture used in medieval and modern times in trials to validate the testimonies of women accused of witchcraft, as well as rape victims such as the painter Artemisia Gentileschi, and the menstrual cup.