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25 years, 25 books: Lezioni Americane

Itali Calvino, Lezioni Americane

In 1985, Harvard University invited Italo Calvino to impart the "Charles Eliot Norton Poetry Lectures", a prestigious series of lectures in which had already participated prominent figures as TS Eliot, Igor Stravinsky or Jorge Luis Borges. Calvino prepared for the event six lessons on the values of literature which he felt were important for the coming millennium:


Unfortunately, death overtook him a week before traveling to Harvard. The conference was never pronounced, but the texts prepared for the first five lessons were collected in a book published posthumously in 1988. Architects, designers and art critics welcomed the book not only as one of the most lucid and inspiring visions of the coming changes, but also as a guide to the attitudes and values that should drive the creativity and the material culture in the new millennium.

Diremmo che dal momento in cui un oggetto compare in una narrazione, si carica d’una forza speciale, diventa come il polo d’un campo magnetico, un nodo d’una rete di rapporti invisibili. Il simbolismo d’un oggetto può essere più o meno esplicito, ma esiste sempre. Potremmo dire che in una narrazione un oggetto è sempre un oggetto magico.
Rapidità, p. 35

Calvino proposed a severe mental discipline, tempered by irony and by awareness of partiality and provisionality of any method of research and knowledge. The implicit poetics in his lessons is not prescriptive, but driven by dialogue and creativity. «All life -said Calvino, and his words resonate today as a true manifesto of design- is an encyclopedia, a library, an inventory of objects, a sampling of styles, where everything can be continuously remixed and rearranged in every way».

More than thirty years after them were written, the six memos for the next millennium are an excellent starting point for discussions about the beginning of this fascinating, complex and turbulent millennium.

Italo Calvino, Lezioni Americane: Sei proposte per il prossimo millennio, Garzanti Editore, Milano, 1988.

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of ADN DESIGN (1990-2015), we want to share with the community of designers and with anyone interested in design, creativity and material culture, a series of commentaries on the books that have most influenced our reflections and our creations. "25 years, 25 books" is a passionate and intimate tour of texts that somehow have shaped our understanding and our way of doing design.

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