“Through researching and writing about modern design in the era of new democracies and authoritarian control, I developed a deeper knowledge of one of Italy’s key contributions to international modernity: Tradition is not the opposite of the radical contemporary, but a part of it.”
— Professor Kay Bea Jones
The Olivetti company designed and produced its first typewriter in 1908 in Ivrea, Italy. Years later, with the vision of Adriano Olivetti, the company grew through mid-century to achieve global success for the design quality and functionality of its typewriters, calculators, business machines and, eventually, personal computers. Adriano’s design intentions and innovation focused not only on office equipment, advertising and showrooms, but extended to the company’s factory environments, housing, education, and health and well-being of his workers and their families. Neighborhoods with abundant green space and new glass factories, that connected workers to surrounding mountains and valleys, were designed by Italy’s leading modern architects. An advocate for employee benefits, social services, higher wages, shorter work weeks, jobs for women and infant and child care, Olivetti envisioned an ideal culture that harmoniously integrated the work place and community life.
Recipient of a prestigious 2018-2019 Fulbright U.S Scholar award, Professor of Architecture Kay Bea Jones will conduct her studies on the design culture of Adriano Olivetti and the Olivetti Company. Jones will pursue her research, “The Architecture of Olivetti at Ivrea, Italy: Modern Symbols and Methods for Revitalization and Remediation of Industrial Architecture and Landscapes,” through direct access to archives and key sites, and with the collaboration of Italian colleagues and students from February to July, 2019.
As factory towns have lost relevance as design models, the engagement of corporate clients in debates about intentional communities and peri-urban landscapes have been replaced by post-modern style wars. “This project is intended to advance global knowledge of the content, impact and aesthetics of modern industry best represented by Ivrea,” Jones stated. “The kind of leadership represented by Olivetti remains a model for politics and design in tandem to affect long lasting communities. I also aim to disseminate research findings that support intervention methodologies. Ivrea is an ideal subject for this inquiry of resilient design, integral communities and landscape integration.”
Specific locations for research in which Olivetti enhanced the urban fabric through the built environment include the modern company headquarters in Ivrea (candidate for UNESCO World Heritage Site), along with buildings in Pozzuoli and Matera. These sites offer Jones unique opportunities to explore and show the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Organicism on several architects who worked for Olivetti in the immediate post-war period.
“When I practiced in Italy, first in a small studio in Florence, later in a large office in Rome, I observed the relationship between great architecture, well-scaled walkable cities and everyday life for a diverse population,” reflected Jones on the opportunity to study in Italy. “Italians love their architecture and cities and use them well.”
The Fulbright Program, which aims to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries, is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government.