15 September 2015
It is rare for a person you never knew, and who is no longer with us, to be caught so firmly in the meshes of a city as fast moving and inattentive as Milan. The figure of James Irvine never ceases to crop up in the discourses, the gestures and the locations of those who have admired his work as a designer and his human qualities and social skills. The monograph published by Phaidon captures perfectly in words and images the fascination of Irvine and the extraordinary network he was able to construct in Milan and in the world: a happy and many-sided web of intelligences that went beyond the boundaries of design, tackling the problems of real life. Leafing through these pages––dotted with the anecdotes and reflections of some of James’s illustrious colleagues and friends, such as Konstantin Grcic, Jasper Morrison, Marc Newson and Michele De Lucchi—means not only retracing the stages of a life, but also taking an unusual look at important chapters in the history of design, of which Milan has been the cradle and James one of the most able movers and shakers. A “child” of Sottsass, capable of establishing connections between companies like Muji and Thonet, Irvine was faithful to a style of design respectful of the cultural and social power of objects, whch never sought to distort but instead always set out to remodel with intelligence. This many-voiced portrait in the form of a book—efficaciously orchestrated by Studio Irvine and Francesca Picchi—will be presented this evening at the Milan Triennale, at 6:30 pm, in the company of the city that has never stopped gravitating around Irvine and his work.