Designing possible futures: a competition, an idea, a method

The legacy of Franco Albini and Franca Helg's thinking, together with the practice of timber construction, are the starting points for a special training project for architects and designers, focusing on the concepts of co-creation and sustainability

Progettare futuri possibili – “La veduta kit”, design Veronica Pesenti Rossi
Progettare futuri possibili – “La veduta kit”, design Veronica Pesenti Rossi

Progettare futuri possibili (“Designing possible futures”) is a two-year course devised by Fondazione Franco Albini and Franco Albini Academy, promoted and developed with Rubner Haus in collaboration with Studio Albini Associati, Scuola del Design del Politecnico di Milano and Scuola di Architettura Urbanistica Ingegneria delle Costruzioni (AUIC) Politecnico di Milano. The goal: to form a new design culture in the contemporary world, experiment new construction solutions in wood and offer a platform for visibility to young talents.

Franco Albini in 1955 at the presentation of his first Compasso d’Oro award (for the ‘Luisa’ chair, now produced by Cassina) © Fondazione Franco Albini

The first step in the initiative – which enjoys the patronage of ADI Associazione per il Disegno Industriale, the Sassari Order of Architects and Salone del Mobile.Milano, as well as the support of Triennale Milano – was the launch of a competition to design a lightweight, innovative and sustainable wooden structure. Open to architects under 35 and final year students from the Scuola del Design del Politecnico di Milano and Scuola di Architettura Urbanistica Ingegneria delle Costruzioni (AUIC) Politecnico di Milano, it selected three finalists who were announced today: Carlo Farina, Veronica Pesenti Rossi and Guillermo Sanchez Cardenas.

Casa Albini in Sardinia, furnished with pieces designed by Albini: shown here are the ‘Ottoman’ pouf and the ‘Belladonna’ sofa, both from 1951 (Sika Design), and the ‘AM2C’ lamp from 1968 (Nemo) © Fondazione Franco Albini

In September, the finalists will follow a week-long workshop at Casa Albini in Sardinia, home of the Franco Albini Academy residential workshops. Here they will be led to explore a new approach to design through interdisciplinary techniques and the Albini Method, which will lead them̀ to break down individual projects into parts, search for the essence of each one and recompose them into a single collective project born in co-creation.

A prototype of the wooden structure born from this collective work will be made by Rubner Haus and will be the protagonist of an exhibition-event during the Milan Design Week 2024, and will then find a permanent location at Casa Albini.

Scale model of the project “Wunderkammer: dove il legno ha la sua anima” (‘Wunderkammer: where wood has its soul’) by Guillermo Sanchez Cardenas

“Franco Albini was an architect, designer and urban planner, and his archive contains more than 22,000 drawings that span and integrate each of these fields,” explains Paola Albini, president of the Franco Albini Foundation and founder of the Franco Albini Academy (as well as granddaughter of the famous architect). “In his work one can always read a consistency of procedure. What binds such different projects together? From an inner awareness and the five principles of a very precise working method: de-compose, search for the essence, re-compose, verify, act with social responsibility. It is the Albini Method, which with the Foundation, with the Academy and today with Casa Albini we try to disseminate as a tool for good design and good living.”

Render of the project by Carlo Farina, “On Stage”

On the subject of building in wood, Michael Rubner, the fourth generation in the company and sales manager for Italy at Rubner Haus, a partner in the project, took the floor: “Wood is essential in an era of over-consumption and climate change, thanks to its low impact on the environment and the fact that it can be easily recycled. It is also strong, tactile and aesthetically attractive. This project wants to call the new generation of architects to reflect on the need to end the throwaway culture by exploring the structural, aesthetic and sustainable performance of this material. Building in wood means taking an active part in the ecological transition and being a spokesperson for a construction method that can reduce the CO2 emissions of buildings by half: according to a study conducted by the Built Environment Department, School of Engineering, Aalto University (Espoo, Finland), the embodied energy of wooden buildings is 28-47% lower than that of concrete and steel buildings.”