Pasca: Lettere sulla storia del design / On design history

Dear friends, some days ago I could luckily meet at Parsons in New York Susan Yelavich. We discussed about Design, History of design and so on. Afterwards she wrote to me a letter and I quote here one phrase: “… about teaching history. I feel there is a need for both chronological and modal/thematic approaches. Though at the graduate school stage, I think modal is more appropriate.”
I agree: maybe we need both cronological and modal/thematic approach today. And we should go on debating about that. Anyway that two historical approaches are typical one of Europe and the other of the States: analytical vs continental tradition of philosophy.

But we discussed also about teaching Design History under a general point of view. I think there are other problems:

  1. is it true there is an increasing loss of importance of Teaching History in the Design Schools?
  2. can we agree and why about the importance of contesting this trend?

    1. In 1994 in a conference at Politecnico in Milano (“Design: History and Historiography”) in my introduction I put he question why Teaching History was practically absent in Bauhaus and in Iulm. I related that absence to the influence of Vienna Circle (der Wiener Kreis) and afterwards of Neopositivism (Logical Positivism): and I underlined how Neopositivism positions against History were changed during his decline. I quoted Gustav Hempel who declared that changement took over from the studies of Thomas Kuhn and his “changement of paradigm” that reintroduced the idea of History in Scientific Studies.
      But all this refers to the history of Teaching Design and of relations between Design and History of Design.
    2. Some time ago Victor Margolin wrote (Design in History, 2008):
      “… there are forces that militate against learning from history. One that Hobsbawm identifies as the ‘a-historical,engineering, problem-solving approach by means of mechanical models and devices’.”
    3. Actually, mostly referring to many present positions inside Politecnico- Milano, I think that a problem is an idea of strategic design that gives up with projecting material or immaterial artifacts. This idea is based on theories of organization and of management with an “operationist” point of view that implies a reduction of projecting to the list of the operations to be developped for getting the fixed goal.

Presently I think that the problem is the domination of an absolutized technical thinking, both under the engeneering and the managerial points of wiew. I think it’s a general problem in present thinking. Just for referring to authors very interested in architecture and design I remember tthe critics to that positions of Frederic Jameson (1984) and Hal Foster (2002).

I think these are problems worths of debating in the present situation. I have in mind to suggest it to the AIS/Design (Italian Society of Design Historians) we founded three years go, and in the meanwhile I send these remarks to Susan Yelavich and to some other friends.

Best regards
Vanni Pasca

Di Vanni Pasca

Vanni Pasca (Giovanni Pasca Raymondi), laureato in architettura, professore ordinario di Storia del design, dal 1998 al 2008 è stato Presidente del Corso di laurea triennale in design e del Corso magistrale in design per l’area mediterranea a Palermo, dove è stato anche Coordinatore del dottorato di ricerca in Disegno industriale . Nel 2008-09 è docente a Milano di Progettisti contemporanei al Politecnico, poi di Design allo IULM di Milano e all'ISIA di Firenze. Ha fondato e diretto il magazine online, già, con il quale ha promosso nel 2008 e nel 2010 i concorsi internazionali Design Mediterraneo (con mostra e convegno a Istanbul e Barcellona). Dirige la collana di libri Design per l’editore Lupetti/Editori di comunicazione. Ha diretto il free magazine Design Review, editore Zerocento, Palermo. È presidente di AIS/Design dalla sua fondazione.