What Alberto Alessi Is Cooking

PRATOLUNGO, Italy — Overlooking the majestic expanse of northern Italy’s Lake Orta, Alberto Alessi was taming four pans filled with orecchiette pasta. “This kitchen was designed by Alessandro Mendini. He didn’t even cook,” he joked, recalling the late Italian designer who had a lasting impact on the Alessi brand’s image — one that Alberto Alessi is working to propel into the future.

Alessi, the grandson of Alessi founder Giovanni Alessi, gathered about 30 guests in the garden of his home to present the latest from his recently launched trademark Il Tornitore Matto by Alessi (The Mad Turner).  In collaboration with Italian industrial designer Giulio Iacchetti, Alessi presented the Conca container called Coppa Camuna, an artifact-like bowl made by means of an ancient artisan process, an ironworking method from the Central Alpine region.

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Sculpted into a bowl, brushed with beeswax in rapid gestures, a technique that prevents it from rusting, it is heated to 400 degrees Celsius, or 752 degrees Fahrenheit, until it is incandescent. The special shape designed by Iacchetti is derived from a childhood memory, when the caretaker of his elementary school found relics from World War II abandoned in a basement of his school. The woman placed the German helmet in the school’s entrance with a geranium, transforming a war symbol into a graceful object.

Gaia Anselmi Tamburini
Alberto Alessi

“I really like this possibility… amid these days in which we live… that we can reconsider certain objects and bring them back to a meaning of peace. The helmet contained the heads of the soldiers and the [meaning] of this helmet has been reversed and becomes instead something devoted to peace,” Iacchetti told the group.

Part of the Alessi brand’s refresh unveiled in April during Milan Design Week involves embracing experimentation, which also means the company is testing new materials. In addition to the various metals, wood, porcelain, glass and plastic it traditionally has used, the company continues to test materials with an increasingly reduced environmental impact, such as new biopolymers derived from renewable sources, Alessi said at the time. A new, sleek Menhir coffee maker by Cypriot-born, London-based designer Michael Anastassiades was on show, as were the Toru tea kettle by Japanese design Studio Nendo, the Eugenia glassware, and service wear by Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa with 102-year-old Japanese dyer Samiro Yunoki. These all highlighted the 103-year-old company’s more relaxed yet clean and focused design approach.

Reflecting on the artistic choice and the simple nobility of the design, Alessi commented on the powerful storytelling behind the Coppa Camuna.

“It’s almost like saying that the cup has finished its story. We try, as you know, to work above all on expressive languages, on aesthetic considerations and this is the reason why we took this strange old typology into consideration,” Alessi said.

Coppa Camuna
Coppa Camuna by Alessi.