Fondazione ADI Collezione Compasso d'Oro (ADI Historical Collection of Compasso d’Oro) was established by ADI in Milan in November 2001 with the name Fondazione ADI per il Design Italiano (ADI Foundation for Italian Design). Its statutory mission is to protect and spread the culture of design and promote its historic heritage and future prospects, with the specific undertaking to guarantee sustainable design that respects the ethics of quality with regard to individuals, civil society and the environment.
The Foundation’s heritage conferred by ADI is composed of the Compasso d’Oro ADI and ADI Design Index (an ADI yearbook of the best Italian designs put into production, selected by the ADI Permanent Design Observatory), and the Historical Collection of the Compasso d’Oro Award, which is enriched on a triennial basis with the products that have received the prestigious award at each new edition. The Historical Collection of the Compasso d’Oro Award is one of the most significant international acknowledgements of contemporary design.
In a Decree of 22 April 2004, an initiative without precedence in the sector of international design, the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Regional Office for Lombardy, declared that the ADI Historical Collection of the Compasso d’Oro Award is “of exceptional artistic and historical interest” and added it to the national heritage.
As well as promoting design, ADI Foundation is now engaged in expanding and spreading the comprehension of its aims and perception as a value and innovative engine for improving the quality of life.
The main objectives of ADI Foundation include the protection and enhancement of the cultural, ideal, tangible and intangible heritage of the ADI Compasso d’Oro Award and all the other events that express and promote Italian design, to spread knowledge of design, safeguard its historic evidence and support innovation, research and education, also through scholarships, exhibitions, conferences and contests.
The Compasso d’Oro Award, the oldest but above all the world’s most authoritative award for design, was set up in 1954 by la Rinascente based on an idea of Gio Ponti and Alberto Rosselli and strongly supported by Aldo Borletti and Cesare Brustio. The award was for the best results of industrial production.
The name of the award was coined by Albe Steiner, whereas Alberto Rosselli and Marco Zanuso were given the task of designing the real compass for the award.
The exhibition of products was held at the Press Club in Palazzo Serbelloni, Corso Venezia, and at the X Triennale of the same year an exhibition of the winners was staged by Carlo Pagani and Giancarlo Ortelli.
During the second edition of the Compasso d’Oro Award in 1955, a national and international Grand Prix was also set up. The edition was a huge success. At the third edition of the award in 1956, the national and international Grand Prix went to Gio Ponti, a long-time collaborator and consultant of la Rinascente, and to MoMA of New York, respectively. In 1957, the fourth edition of the award was the last to be managed directly by Rinascente. In 1958 the only national and international Grand Prix went to Franco Albini and the Den Permanente department store in Copenhagen, respectively. It was followed in 1959 by the handover from Rinascente to ADI, Foundation for Italian design, set up in 1956, during a ceremony at the Museum of Science and Technology.
The relationship between la Rinascente and ADI continued for six more years, after which the organization of the award passed definitively to the Foundation for Industrial Design, which still handles it to this day while also ensuring its impartiality and integrity.
The selection of documents published includes 4 catalogues dedicated to the Rinascente Compasso d’Oro Award for Product Aesthetics (from 1954 to 1957), 3 monographs created and produced by Rinascente: the first dedicated to Adriano Olivetti (on the occasion of the awarding of the Rinascente Compasso d’Oro International Grand Prix Award 1955), the second to work by Gio Ponti (winner of the Rinascente Golden Compass National Grand Prix Award 1956), and the third to the Museum of Modern Art in New York (winner of the Rinascente Golden Compass International Grand Prix Award 1956); 1 catalogue dedicated to the Den Permanente department store in Copenhagen (winner of the Compasso d’Oro International Gran Prix Award 1958).
The selection also includes photographs of the settings at the various editions of the Compasso d’Oro the winners’ exhibitions at the Triennale di Milano, and the personalities who have contributed to the huge success of the Award.