Pio Manzù


Italy / Italy

Pio Manzù, the pseudonym of Pio Manzoni, was born in Bergamo in 1939. He was already a promising design talent when he lost his life in a car accident in 1969, at the age of 30. Nevertheless, his brief but intense career in industrial design left its mark. As the son of the renowned sculptor Giacomo Manzù, he grew up in a context where art, crafts and the alchemy that transforms materials were part of his daily life. In 1960, after his classical studies in Milan, he moved to Ulm, Germany to study industrial design at the Hochschule für Gestaltung. The young Pio immediately distinguished himself for his prodigious talent, winning the international competition organised by Année Automobile magazine in Geneva at the age of 23 with the design of the Austin Healey 3000 car. The prototype, built by Carrozzeria Pininfarina and exhibited the same year at the Turin and London Motor Shows, partly reveals Pio Manzù's visionary and innovative approach to design. His continuous research sought to combine technical innovation with formal values in a quest to produce original yet functional and ergonomic vehicles.

Between awards, prizes, writing articles, and as a university assistant, Pio Manzù prepared his degree thesis entitled 'Design of an 80 hp tractor', for which he developed an innovative safety system. After graduating in 1964, he established the Autonova design group, which researched materials and production processes. With Autonova, he created the Autonova GT prototypes and the Autonova Fam MPV, characterised by its generous interior volume and 5 doors. This last project attracted the attention of FIAT engineer Dante Giacosa, designer of the New 500, which had won the Compasso d'Oro ADI award in 1957. It was the beginning of Manzù's collaboration with the Turin-based company, despite top management's policy that barred outsourcing. From 1967, the year he joined the Compasso d'Oro jury, until his untimely death in 1969, he designed prototypes for FIAT including City Taxi, Autobianchi Coupé and FIAT 127, which went into production posthumously in 1971.

In the field of product design, Pio Manzù collaborated with well-known brands designing iconic objects. In addition to consulting for Piaggio and Olivetti, he created a multi-accessory plastic desk container for Kartell, now highly sought after by collectors. His Cronotime clock (Alessi) was the first Italian transistor clock, now in the permanent collection of MoMA in New York and still in the company's catalogue. Some projects that had remained on paper as sketches and prototypes were later modified and produced posthumously. These include the famous Parentesi floor lamp. Achille Castiglioni, then art director of Flos, received the drawings from the young designer's widow. Castiglioni modified the lighting body, maintaining the innovative concept of the ceiling-suspended cable stretched by a weight hooked to the base. Flos launched Parentesi on the market in 1971, bearing the names of both designers. Winner of the Compasso d'Oro ADI award in 1979, the Parentesi lamp is still a Flos best seller. Some projects in the archives of GAMeC (Galleria d'arte moderna e contemporanea di Bergamo) caught the eye of Renato Stauffacher, head of Alias Design. The Manzù collection at the Bergamo-based company includes Manzù Black, a version of an ergonomic car seat designed by Manzù in 1967, and the Manzù 08A, Manzù 08B and Manzù 08C tables, originally intended for the Agnelli home in Rome. ... More ... less
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