An anecdote in the form of a haiku is doing the rounds on social media (cf. Odo Fioravanti) goes “Designer has no screen at home. He knows no-one with a screen. Never seen a home with a screen. Designer thinks about screen … Designer produces screen. Designer complains no-one buys screen.” Could something have changed recently?
Traditional Italian design are not keen on room dividers, preferring the more functional “floor to ceiling” shelving systems for separating spaces. The most famous of these was by Franco Albini for Poggi, now listed in the Cassina catalogue. There were a few notable exceptions, such as the 1986 Servento room divider in painted steel and wood canvas, part of the I Servi series by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni for Zanotta; Bruno Munari’s 1989 Spifferro for Zanotta, a clever take on his Travel Sculptures, and Luigi Baroli’s 1992 Cartoons for Baleri Italia, which deservedly garnered a Compasso d’Oro in 1994.
But in this pandemic or post-pandemic world, in which distances have suddenly become all-important, just as home and office layouts are being rethought, the concept of lofts and open spaces being dispensed with respectively, while structures capable of “zoning” floor spaces have suddenly acquired street cred. The typology stays the same: partition, screen or room divider, but the designers’ approaches are extremely varied