Rei Kawakubo, Architect Piero Lissoni Honored at Design Oscars

MILAN A Ferrari designed by Flavio Manzoni, an airline seating system created by Italian aerospace firm Optimares and a medical-use power knee envisaged by Icelandic orthopedic equipment firm Össur were among the unexpected creations that topped the Compasso d’Oro 2024 awards on Thursday.

However, the roster of lifetime achievement awards this year pinpointed the figures around the world pushing the envelope on the design industry as we know it. Awardees spanned from MoMA curator Paola Antonelli to Italian furniture maker Mdf Italia president Umberto Cassina to architect and designer Piero Lissoni and Francesca Planeta, president of the Planeta Estate in Sicily. International names like Japanese architect Tadao Ando and Commes des Garçons founder Rei Kawakubo were also honored at the award ceremony that unfurled at Milan’s ADI Compasso d’Oro Design Museum on Thursday.

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Compasso d’Oro is one of the world’s most prestigious design awards and was founded by legendary maestro Gio Ponti in 1954. It is often referred to as the “Oscars” of the design world.

Lisa Licitra Ponti and her father Gio Ponti in the garden of the studio in Via Dezza, Milan. Ponti is showing her the model of a WC for Ideal Standard, 1953.
Gio Ponti, pictured with his daughter Lisa Licitra Ponti founded the Compasso d’Oro awards in 1954.

Of Kawakubo’s career, organizers commended the designer who transformed design principles well beyond the realm of fashion. “[Hers] is a career that has posed unique questions to Western and European dress culture in particular. Through her path she has contributed to the integration of design principles within an industry traditionally linked to style,” the Compasso d’Oro organizers said during the awards ceremony.

Kawakubo also had a rendezvous in the furniture world in the ’80s. In 2017, the Japanese fashion designer and expert Didier Jean Anicet Courbot unveiled 15 pieces of her furnishings at Paris-based gallery A1043, and then in Brussels during the Collectable fair.

Of Lissoni, whose firm has spearheaded projects from Shanghai to New York City, organizers commented on his contribution to the modernism movement that continues to evolve across design and architecture.

“[Lissoni’s] career has evolved under the sign of modernism, a path made of coherence and method, capable of proposing reassuring and measured designed imbued with exciting poetry,” the Compasso d’Oro organizers added.

A visibly emotional Lissoni thanked his team — from the doorman to the engineers of his firm and assured the crowd that “I still have more to do.”

piero lissoni; architetto; dia becon; new york; ny; USA; dedalo; veronica gaido; kartell; boffi; cassina; molteni; depadova; alpi; fantini; knoll; b&b; maxalto; flos; architetto; architettura; design; living; porro
Piero Lissoni

Planeta, whose Sciaranuova, Sicily estate garnered global recognition as the setting for episode five of the second season of the HBO hit series “White Lotus,” was also honored with a lifetime achievement award. Organizers praised Planeta’s vision of “coherence and perspective” that through “experience and innovation changed the wine sector that was rooted in centuries of history. The path traced is concrete materialization of the best principles of Made in Italy food design.” The Planeta family that owns wineries in Menfi, Noto and Etna say they can trace their bloodline back 17 generations (which perhaps extends even further back than the House of Plantagenets, whose roots gave fruit to the British royal family and was founded in the 12th century).

The Planetas altered their family’s journey by producing fine wine in the ’80s. Francesca’s father Diego was inspired to ennoble Sicily’s then-low-end wine production at a time when the focus was on volume rather than quality. In response to the award, Planeta credited the land of her ancestors to her success.

“My vision of design is deeply linked to the beauty of Sicily, an inexhaustible source of inspiration thanks to its cultural and natural riches,” she said.

Elio Sironi and Francesca Planeta at the WWD Fashion Loves Food Gala held at Palazzo Parigi Hotel on November 8, 2023 in Milan, Italy.

Among the pieces of design that were honored were the Butterfly chair designed for Sozzi Arredamenti’s artisanal furniture brand Bottega Ghianda by Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza and the Za:Za couch by Zanotta. Mario Cucinella Architects were also recognized for its work on the the spaces within Milanese art museum Fondazione Luigi Rovati.

Bottega ghianda
The Bottega Ghianda Butterfly chair by Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza.

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