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“Design Worlds: Interactions between Italy and America”



“Design Worlds: Interactions between Italy and America”

xxi triennale milano




On the occasion of the XXI Triennale di Milano International Exhibition "21st Century. Design After Design", the Embassy of Italy and the Italian Cultural Institute invite you to the panel discussion “Design Worlds: Interactions between Italy and America” featuring:


  • Prof. Jonathan Mekinda, Assistant Professor, Department of Art History & School of Design, University of Illinois, Chicago
    "From the Beautiful to the Useful (and Back?): A Brief History of Italian Design."

  • Arch. Paola Lugli, American Institute of Architects International Associate, Washington, DC 
    "The Italian approach to Design: a personal experience."

  • Prof. John Dunnigan, Head of the Department of Furniture Design, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island
    "The Influence of Italian Design on American Design Education."

  • Ms. Stephanie Felice Yoffee, MBA, Graphic Designer and Panel Moderator, Rockville, MD
    "The Influences between Italian and American Visual Systems and Visible Languages"




(Monday to Friday from 10am-12noon/2pm-4pm)

TO MAKE AN APPOINTMENT: email reservations requests at

When you email your reservation request, please provide the following:

  1. date
  2. time
  3. name of each guest 

PLEASE NOTE: the date and time you request may not be available. You will receive a confirmation email. Not open on weekends or holidays. 




Embassy of Italy - Auditorium
3000 Whitehaven St, NW
Washington, DC 20008







In 2016, after twenty years, the Triennale di Milano International Exhibition makes a comeback. The event, born in Monza in 1923, to examine the most pressing issues of society moved to Milan in 1933. Its historic venue, Palazzo dell’Arte, is now a benchmark in the cultural life of Milan: it houses the Triennale Design Museum, temporary international exhibitions, a specialized library, a theatre and entertainment spaces for visitors of all ages. The XXI Triennale di Milano International Exhibition is an event acknowledged by BIE (Bureau International des Expositions) and is subject to the restrictions and privileges of its Convention. The International Exhibition “21st Century. Design after Design” With this theme, the Triennale di Milano launches a challenge to the apparent collapse of the contemporary world, its contradictions, inconsistencies and uncertainties. It aims to propose new “cardinal points” and explore the foundations of culture in the future. To do this, it focuses on projects and on designers to analyse and identify all possible signs of real innovation.



From the Beautiful to the Useful (and Back?): A Brief History of Italian Design.

By Jonathan Mekinda, Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of Art History and the School of Design

The presentation will offer a focused survey of the history of Italian design through the lens of the Triennale di Milano. Founded in the early 1920s, the Triennale was the first major national platform for the exhibition of design in Italy and also provided a vital stage for interaction and exchange between Italian designers and those from abroad. In reviewing the history of the Triennale, I will consider two issues that are central to both the practice and popular conception of Italian design today: first, its particular combination of high-quality craftsmanship and avant-garde aesthetics, and second, its long-standing status as a coherent national design tradition. Significantly, the Triennale itself was one of the primary media through which these characteristics of Italian design were articulated and disseminated. From this perspective, the focus of the current Triennale on “Design after Design” raises important questions about the future of Italian design—and design more generally—in an age of digital technology and globalization.

Jonathan Mekinda is an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago with a joint appointment in the Department of Art History and the School of Design. His research focuses on the history of architecture and design during the middle decades of the twentieth century, particularly in Italy and the United States. Prof. Mekinda has received grants from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, and the Terra Foundation for American Art, and his writing can be found in various journals including the Journal of Architectural Education and Design Issues. Chicagoisms, which he co-edited with Alexander Eisenschmidt, was published by Park Books in 2013, and in 2014, they curated a related exhibition of the same name at the Art Institute ofChicago. In addition to several on-going projects related to Chicago, Prof. Mekinda is currently at work on his book, Building the “House of Man”: Design and the Modern Home in Milan, 1933-1957.

The Italian approach to Design: a personal experience.

By Paola Lugli, AIA International Associate, Washington, DC.

Being an architect from Italy, working abroad helped me understand the connection I have to the Italian approach to design. The creative effort behind any good design is about the act that will progress in the mind of the designer every time he encounters a challenge. Our strength as Italian designers and architects is the ability to draw on our rich cultural background, strength to work within the context and history, appreciation for artisanship to connect with new technologies and rapid manufacturing.  Architects and designers working at the intersection of different cultures have a special role in envisioning future ways of living.

Paola Lugliborn in Rome, has always been fascinated by the architecture of the “Eternal City”. She started to work in her uncle’s design studio and art gallery when she was very young. She graduated from the University of Rome “La Sapienza” with specialization in adaptive reuse. She practiced in the South of France where, in 1990, she became a register architect. There, she worked on residential and commercial projects before coming to the US to design the boutiques for the “Vespa” brand, the famous Italian scooter company. For many years she had her own company and collaborated with various architects and design-build firms in the Washington DC area. Early this year, she won The Arlington Design Award for a modern remodeling of an historic house. Today her interest in adaptive reuse and for larger projects in historic neighborhoods brought her to work in a Washington, DC-based architecture firm specializing in urban design and mixed-use residential projects. She resides in Arlington, VA.

The Influence of Italian Design on American Design Education.

By John Dunnigan, Head of the Department of Furniture Design, Rhode Island School of Design

Before design as product and practice was segmented into theoretical camps like product design, systems design, speculative design and discursive design, a generation of Italian designers created works that provoked thought and proposed social commentary while simultaneously existing as products.  Ideas were made into things that could meet the imperatives of industry, which included the necessity of being made and used.  The work of design luminaries such as Colombo, Castiglione, Aulenti, Sotsass and Pesce pushed the boundaries of the design world. The relationship between thought provoking design and industry is one of the significant aspects of Italian design that has exerted a particular influence on international design and it has served as a model of flexible practice that has inspired a new generation of American designers.  One important impact of this influence is in the area of design education.   My presentation will introduce the work of a few students and alumni from the Department of Furniture Design at Rhode Island School of Design in the context of this influence and show some of the RISD exhibits presented in Milan since 2000 including the current participation in Triennale XXI.  In this way I hope to demonstrate a legacy of broad critical thinking, a pedagogy based in critical making and the value of experiencing design culture.

John Dunnigan is a designer, maker and educator.  His practice involves a range of contexts, materials and processes but it is driven by a consistent interest in things as an expression of the interdependent relationships among culture, technology and identity. His studio work is included in several private and public collections such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC.  He has authored several essays including “Thingking” for the recently published book The Art Of Critical Making ed. Somerson and Hermano by Wiley Press.  In addition to his studio practice, in 2005 he was a founding partner in DEZCO furniture design llc, a company dedicated to socially responsible practices in design for mass production.  His teaching interests and research involve furniture design and history of furniture design.  Dunnigan has been a member of the faculty at Rhode Island School of Design in the Departments of Industrial Design, Interior Architecture and Furniture Design where he is a professor.   He is the former Co-PI for NSF EPSCoR at RISD.  He is the current Head of the Department of Furniture Design and former Interim Dean of the Division of Architecture and Design at RISD. 

The Influences between Italian and American Visual Systems and Visible Languages

By Stephanie F. Yoffee, Maryland Design Excellence and Innovation Commission

Daily we encounter numerous visual systems to assist us in our every daily lives, sometimes without even giving it a second thought. As we drive on the highway, ride on public transportation from one place to another, and even cook a meal in the privacy of our homes, visual systems are a visible language that is all around us. Design is at its core a visible language. The language of design includes color, shape, form, line, scale, and function. When these elements of the design language are used together to create a series of symbols, this is considered a visual system. One question to ask based on the XXI Triennale Concepts: How can we design visual systems with visible language in a globalized world? The influences between Italian and American Visual Systems are numerous. Two examples of Italian-American influences visual systems are here in Washington, DC: the signage system for the Washington, DC Metro System, and another in New York City: the subway map, both designed by Massimo and Lella Vignelli. My talk, as a panelist, will define further the meaning created by merging of Italian and American influences on visible languages and visual systems to provide further understanding of design in our current world around us, and the possibilities of a global visual language, and the emergence of design thinking and design policy in the EU and US as the next generation of  “design after design” the major theme of the XXI Triennale di Milano.

Stephanie F. Yoffee is currently working to establish the Maryland Design Excellence and Innovation Commission to serve as an intermediary between the sectors of design, state government, non-profit and business. She is collaborating with policy makers on MarylandbyDesign, a design policy platform. Her research and writing about Design Policy has been published as part of The SEE Project: Sharing Experience Europe: Policy Innovation Design, a program of The European Commission’s European Design Innovation Initiative coordinated by Design Wales, UK and the Design Management Institute’s Journal: DMI Review. Stephanie is a leader in the field of design policy in the State of Maryland. She is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design (BFA, Graphic Design ’89), The George Washington University (MBA, ’98) and was a Fulbright-Schuman Fellowship alternate nominee in 2013. Her professional experience includes 13 years in the private sector practicing graphic design and as a small business owner, and 12 years in public service. She been a resident of Maryland for 49 years, and currently resides in Rockville, Maryland.



Date: From Tuesday, June 28, 2016 to Friday, August 26, 2016

Time: From 9:00 am To 4:00 pm

Organized by : Embassy of Italy/Italian Cultural Institute

Entrance : Free


Embassy of Italy - Auditorium