Italian design school Domus Academy has recruited leading creatives – including Patricia Urquiola, Joseph Grima, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Alice Rawsthorn – to form a panel that will help the school « revolutionise » its teaching.

Launching tomorrow, the Domus Academy Metaphysical Club is named after an influential academic philosophical group formed in the 1870s in America, and will meet twice a year at the school in Milan.

« Basically it’s a salon that gathers twice a year in Milan and thinks about and conceives themes, subjects, and ideas – and those themes, subjects, and ideas will drive the school more than disciplines and classes, » explained Gianluigi Ricuperati, who was appointed creative director of the school earlier this year.

The group assembled by Ricuperati is described as including « some of the most important and innovative international personalities in the modern world of culture and education ».

Among its members are designers Patricia Urquiola, Italo Rota and Clemens Weisshaar; curator and director of London’s Serpentine Gallery Hans Ulrich Obrist; publisher Jefferson Hack; botanist and landscape designer Gilles Clèment; illustrator Leanne Shapton; and curator and researcher Joseph Grima.

Architects Manfredo di Robilant and Benedetto Camerana, writer Adam Thirlwell, and Cristiano Seganfreddo, artistic director of Italy’s Marzotto Prize for « intellectual activity » complete the group.

All the participants will deliver lectures and workshops at the school on top of their « salon » duties.

« In addition to their presence, the club’s members also bring an entire network of opportunities and ideas, as well as collaboration with some of the most prestigious institutions and companies in the world, » said the school.

The institution will also establish a complementary group of 35 young designers called Tomorrow’s Club to work with the more established names and help teach students.

Ricuperati said that he had focused on recruiting individuals who were still « in the battlefield » with their careers and that the overhaul of the school’s academic infrastructure would « revolutionise » its teaching.

« This salon concept is also a way of injecting possible diversions from what the school is supposed to be. So it’s also a sort of virus in a way, » Ricuperati told Dezeen.

« We chose to be experimental but also very focused on the fact that we have, in this particular moment, to invent new jobs. So it’s theoretical, it’s experimental, but it’s also focused on students’ outcome, » he added.

























Ricuperati is also relaunching Domus Academy’s visual identity, and has worked with web design firm Pomo to develop a site with two characters – a Memphis-themed nighttime version and a calmer Gio Ponti-themed daytime version. Ricuperati said the themes referred to « two icons of Italian design which are in the DNA of the school. »

Domus Academy was founded in 1983 by Maria Giovanna Mazzocchi, owner of the Italian design magazine Domus, with a group of Italian design industry professionals and critics. It was intended to be a unique institution, focusing on postgraduate education and academic research, with an international student body and teaching staff.

Mazzocchi appointed Italian architect Andrea Branzi as the school’s first director. Teachers included Postmodernist designer and Memphis Group founder Ettore Sotsass, designer and architect Alessandro Mendini, industrial designer Vico Magistretti and Bruno Munari, and over 500 visiting lecturers and professors.

In 2010 the school was sold to American education firm Laureate Education Inc in a deal worth an estimated €10 million (£7.9 million) that also involved the acquisition of Milan’s NABA (New Academy of Fine Arts).

Ricuperati said that the school is now making an active decision to be more daring – both as a return to its roots and to counter an « over consumption » in design education.

« There is a crisis of over production, probably, of over consumption [in education], » said Ricuperati. « Crisis means choose. A school has to choose what it wants to become. »

« [Domus] was one of the best schools in the world. And my ambition is to make it more cross-disciplinary, more daring and again relevant. »

« The real struggle now – the real challenge – is to be daring in a system that has to make money and, at the same time, make culture – create culture – and create education. »

Ricuperati added that schools and teachers had a responsibility to their students to give them realistic expectations of the industry.

« When you see people betting and paying and investing part of their lives, you have to tell them that, probably, they won’t be designers like the kind of designers that they worship in Milan Furniture Fair, » he said. « They will be another kind of designer. And this is very important – to be responsible. They have to invent their own jobs, and inventing your jobs is also a very visionary task. »


Date of publication: 16th December 2014