The International Exhibitions of the Triennale di Milano

Place: Milano, Country: Italy
Triennale di Milano
The international Exhibitions of the Triennale di Milano
Text by Inexhibit
Images courtesy of the Triennale di Milano


11th TRIENNALE DI MILANO, 1957. The United States pavilion by Walter Dorwin Teague and Paul McCobb.

The International Exhibitions of the Triennale di Milano

The 21st International Exhibition of the Milan Triennale will take place from April 2 to September 12, 2016. With the support of the BIE – Bureau of International Expositions, after 20 years from the latest edition in 1996, the Triennale has decided to reinstate the historical International Exhibition; the title of the 2016 edition is “The 21st Century. Design After Design”.

A brief overview of the Triennale’s International Exhibitions

The International Exhibitions were introduced in the 1920s, aimed to foster a unitary vision of all forms of art and creative expression, and in close relationship with the social and economic development of the young Kingdom of Italy.
The new International Exhibition of Decorative Arts was initially organized within the activities of the ISIA – Istituto Superiore di Industrie Artistiche and housed in the Royal Palace of Monza, where the first four editions took place in 1923,1925,1927 and 1930. The first three editions were primarily dedicated to graphic arts, ceramics and decorative arts in general, while the fourth edition, entitled “International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts”, focused also on architecture.

Biennale-Monza-1923-sala futurista

1st Biennale di Monza 1923. Italian Futurist Room, Fortunato Depero.

Biennale-Monza-1927-sala labirinto

3rd Biennale di Monza, 1927. “Sala del labirinto” (Labyrinth Room), Ponti, Lancia, Venini, Chiesa.

Biennale-Monza-1930-casa elettrica

4th Triennale di Monza, 1930, “Casa Elettrica“ (Electric House), Edison Company, architects: Figini, Pollini, Frette, Libera, Bottoni.

After the completion, in 1930, of the new Palazzo dell’Arte designed by Giovanni Muzio, the exhibition relocated to this new prestigious venue and the Triennale became an independent institution.
Architecture was the centerpiece of the “5th International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Arts, Industrial Arts and Architecture”, curated by Mario Sironi, and the Palazzo dell’Arte, enriched by a decorative ensemble of wall paintings and low reliefs, was the core of an exhibition which also extended into the adjacent gardens, where forty experimental temporary buildings were built to designs by architects such as Figini & Pollini – authors of the already-mentioned Electric House presented at the 1930 edition – Giuseppe Terragni, Piero Portaluppi, Pietro Lingeri, and studio B.B.P.R. Overall, the 5th Exhibition was a survey of European modernist architecture and Italian rationalism, which was adopted by the Fascist Regime as a symbol of technical and cultural advancement, in the framework of the process of forced modernization of Italy that Mussolini was carrying out.

triennale Milano-1933-sironi

Left: 5th Triennale di Milano 1933, Impluvium, fountain by Mario Sironi. Right: the official poster of the 1933 exhibition, designed again by Sironi.

triennale Milano-1933-scuole-architettura

5th Triennale di Milano. Left: pavilion La Scuola 1933, showcasing the classroom prototypes conceived by architects Ambrogio Annoni and Umberto Comolli. Photo Crimella, from the magazine “La Rivista illustrata del popolo d’Italia” – special issue V Triennale di Milano 1933. Right: 1st Italian Gallery at the International Architecture Exhibition, photo Crimella, from the official catalog of the 1933 Exhibition.

Immediately after the end of  World War II, the Triennale focused on Italy’s post-war reconstruction effort, promoting the project by Piero Bottoni – developed in collaboration with Vittoriano Viganò, Marco Zanuso, and Ernesto Nathan Rogers – for the QT8 district experimental development, presented in 1947 at the 8th Triennale.

triennale Milano-1947-QT8

8th Triennale di Milano 1947, A diorama of the planned QT8 district, made by Marcello Nizzoli, Cesare Pea, Angelo Bianchetti and Gian Luigi Giordani.

In 1954, the 10th Triennale concentrated on Industrial Design, a subject already featured in the 1951 edition, through thematic exhibitions focused on both the industrial production of goods – from cars to typewriters, from light fixtures to plastic household products, and on the definition of new standards for residential units and dwellings. From the mid-Fifties, a new generation of designers, including, among others, the Castiglioni brothers, Marcello Nizzoli, Alberto Rosselli, Franco Albini, and Marco Zanuso, played a fundamental role in the industrialization of the nation and contributed to the fame of the then-called “Made in Italy”.

triennale Milano-1954-mostra design

10th Triennale di Milano 1954. International exhibition of Industrial Design: Castiglioni, Menghi, Morello, Nizzoli, Provinciali, Rosselli, Pepe, Reggiani. The exhibition ceiling was made with colored hand-blown glass discs to a design by Giuseppe Capogrossi.

triennale Milano-1954-mobili-standard

10th Triennale di Milano 1954. Left: chairs by Gio Ponti, Charles Eames, Georg Leowald, and Alberto Rosselli presented in the exhibition dedicated to furniture. Right: living room prototype on view in the exhibition of the residential design standards.

triennale Milano-1960-acciaio-vetro

12th Triennale di Milano 1960. Installation view of the “International Exhibition of Glass and Steel” by Franco Albini, ceiling by Gianni Dova.

The 1960 edition was the first International Exhibition focused on a single theme, which in that case was “Home and School”. Many projects were presented by international institutions, as a prototype building for primary schools, realized by the United Kingdom in Parco Sempione.

In 1964, during the so-called “Italian economic miracle”, the theme of the 13th edition was that of leisure, with an introductory section curated by Umberto Eco and Vittorio Gregotti. The outdoor exhibition was installed in the green area in front of the main entrance of Palazzo dell’Arte and connected to it by a steel pedestrian bridge designed by Aldo Rossi and Luca Meda.

Triennale Milano-1964-tempo libero-ok

13th Triennale di Milano, 1964. Left: steel bridge by Aldo Rossi and Luca Meda. Right: the entrance of the section “City, county and free time” at the exhibition “Organized leisure: public and private activities”. Publifoto. 

In the “radical” late-Sixties and the Seventies the Triennale, along with other cultural events, such as the Venice Biennials of Art and Architecture, became the stage of a harsh, sometimes even violent, political and social protest. In 1968, the opening of the 15th Triennale was postponed for a month due to an occupation by the students of architecture, who deemed the event a reactionary one and were requiring a free space in the exhibition to express their opinions. That year, the Triennale was entitled “The Great Number”, with exhibitions and events focused on themes like the macro-transformations of the landscape, the design for mass production, and the role of creativity in the mass society, and showcased the work of emerging international architects, like Archigram and Arata Isozaki, among others.

Triennale Milano-1968-grande numero

15th Triennale di Milano 1968. The role of creativity in the mass society, Saul Bass and Herb Rosenthal.

In 1979, the 16th “International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Arts, Industrial Arts and Architecture” introduced subjects like fashion and audiovisual design.

From that edition, the event spanned three full years (thus remaining open through 1982), and the Triennale was transformed into a permanent center for the promotion of design. Therefore, on that occasion, the Triennale offered a large program of exhibitions and events, divided into three series and covering seven thematic areas entitled Knowing the City, Architectural Design, Arrangement of Design, Fashion Sense, Audiovisual Space, Drawing Gallery, and The Drawings Register.

Triennale Milano-1979-82

16th Triennale of Milan 1979-1982. The audiovisual space “Real Space-Virtual-Space” by Ugo La Pietra.

In 1988, the 17th Triennale “Cities of the world and the Future of Metropolis” focused on the complexity of modern cities, anticipated by a series of introductory exhibitions held for three years. The exhibition layout was conceived by Achille Castiglioni, Paolo Ferrari, and Italo Lupi.

Triennale Milano-1988

1988, 17th Triennale di Milano. In the photo: Residential design – the collector’s room by Massimiliano Scolari.

In 1992, the 18th Triennale, entitled “Life in Things and Nature: Design and the Environmental Challenge” focused on the relationships between human beings, technology, and the environment. The international exhibition featured a vast program of thematic exhibitions, courses, meetings, and conferences. The exhibition was designed by Aldo Rossi.

Triennale Milano-1992

18th Triennale di Milano 1992. The entrance atrium designed by Aldo Rossi and Luca Meda.

“Identity and Difference” was the title of the 19th Triennale, held in 1996. The theme of the exhibition was that of the conflict between local culture and global interests, and included installations commissioned to four international architects – Peter Eisenman, Hodgetts & Fung, Jean Nouvel, and Juan Navarro Baldeweg – conceived to express the concept of diversity.

Triennale Milano-1996-Eisenmann

19th Triennale di Milano 1996. Delirium by Peter Eisenman.

The 20th Triennale di Milano, entitled “Memory and the Future” spanned three full years. From 2001 to 2004 it comprised seventeen thematic exhibitions, like “Everyday sustainability. Urban life scenarios”, curated by Ezio Manzini and François Jégou and designed by Studio Azzurro, which focused on the theme of sustainability applied to everyday life.

Triennale Milano-2001-2004

20th Triennale di Milano 2001-2005, Lucas, The infinite city.

The incoming 2016 Triennale, entitled “21st Century. Design after design”, will focus on some key themes of our society, like the rise of new communication technologies, the expansion of individual mobility, and the alternative market generated by the web. The exhibition will take place in many venues across the city including, along with the traditional venues of Palazzo dell’Arte and Parco Sempione, the Fabbrica del Vapore, the Hangar Bicocca, the campuses of the Politecnico di Milano and the IULM, the MUDEC – Museum of Cultures and the Royal Palace in Monza.

sponsored links

Where is this? Find it through MYMUSEM search
Triennale Design Museum – La Triennale di Milano

Opened in 2007 in the Palazzo dell’Arte, the Triennale Design Museum in Milan is the most important museum in Italy exclusively focused on Industrial Design

More in Milan



copyright Inexhibit 2023 - ISSN: 2283-5474