Summarising B&B Italia’s many achievements might seem like an impossible feat, yet filmmaker Didi Gnocchi has managed to do it in fifty minutes with the documentary film ‘B&B Italia. Poetry in the shape. When design meets industry’. Debuting in conjunction with the group’s 50th birthday, the film tells the story of B&B Italia founder Piero Ambrogio Busnelli and his incredible legacy, one that continues to drive the company’s commitment to spread the culture of design to the world.
A true titan of contemporary furniture design, Busnelli’s ‘prodigious curiosity’ took him on a journey that would see him unite the innovation of industrial manufacturing processes with a deep understanding of design expression. Over the resulting fifty years, this journey has seen B&B Italia endure as an innovative yet timeless design foundation – in fact, many of the group’s early ideas continue to remain as intriguing and sophisticated as when they were first released in the 1960s.
The documentary takes a deeper dive into both Busnelli’s personal history and the founding of B&B Italia (as some of our readers will know, originally called C&B Italia in partnership with Casare Cassina), the design and manufacturing processes popularised by the group, and its unique headquarters designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, including the onsite R&D centre – one of the industry’s largest in the world. Along the way, we also hear the stories behind some of B&B Italia’s most memorable designs, such as the Up series by Gaetano Pesce, Le Bambole series by Mario Bellini and the Harry collection by Antonio Citterio. In each interview, the designers and collaborators of B&B Italia share their stories of using technology to open up new possibilities for design exploration, or as Citterio puts it, ‘the continuous exchange of ideas’.
While there’s no doubt the film leaves plenty to chew on, B&B Italia weren’t satisfied celebrating such a milestone birthday without more to enjoy. In accompaniment to the film’s release, they have also published a book, ‘The long life of design in Italy. B&B Italia 50 years and beyond’ by Stefano Casciani and exhibition designed by Migliore+Servetto Architects, with further celebratory initiatives planned for the year ahead. Suffice to say, the next fifty years look just as bright for B&B Italia – and we look forward to following along.