In the early 50’s Osvaldo Borsani began to conceive of a transition from traditional craft production to industrial manufacturing, a change in direction that would lead to the formation of a new company: Tecno.
Osvaldo had attended art school in Brera and had graduated in architecture at the Polytechnic of Milan, and was determined to interpret the changing lifestyle and tastes of the period. Osvaldo’s brother, Fulgenzio, had studied economics and was therefore ideally suited to the role of careful administrator and analyst of all possible business developments.
Osvaldo Borsani’s first step, in 1953, was to create a furniture collection of his own design. It is notable that the very first Tecno catalogue already stated that
“Our standard production system permits industrially produced objects to reproduce accurately and faithfully the original model conceived by the artist and developed by the technician. Industrialisation also means large scale diffusion and permits everybody to enjoy highly functional products of guaranteed quality, technical perfection and extended duration.”
The P32 armchair was designed by Osvaldo Borsani in 1956. Unlike other models that appeared in the same period, it boasted an innovative combination of seat movements. The P32 armchair is not only able to swivel and return automatically to its original position, but also incorporates a backrest pivot mechanism. The armchair’s characteristic swiveling action made it ideal for rest and conversation in the office or the home, and for reception areas in general. The design is equally valid today.
The Graphis office system was introduced in 1968. The design seemed to have come straight out of a book on computer art: two sheet metal corner pieces supported the work tops, and the choice of colour – white – was unheard of in the world of office furniture. The Graphis system was presented at the 15th Milan Triennial Exhibition in 1968, entitled “The big hit”. The new system’s absolute, elementary form provided a courageous, radical interpretation of the spirit of the times. With the introduction of this “mature” series-made system, Tecno confirmed its switch to industrial production.
The Graphis system was made up of just three basic elements: a white painted “L” shaped sheet metal frame, a drawer unit and a laminate worktop. Over the years, the Graphis system has been expanded by the addition of other elements including containers, corners, meeting tables, screens and audio-video tables. To respond to the cabling needs of increasingly complex office automation, Valeria Borsani and the Tecno Design Centre developed Graphis 5 in 1993. The system, which has remained one of Tecno’s best sellers over the years, was again updated in 2005. Various details were redesigned and a wide range of new colours and materials introduced.
In the 1980s, Tecno decided to renew certain strategic relationships of collaboration with external designers. In particular, this period saw the beginning of an important partnership with Norman Foster, leading to the design of Nomos, an office system that would go on to become a design icon, boosting Tecno’s worldwide image and symbolising international high-tech style for over a decade.
The story goes that Nomos was conceived in 1983 during a visit by Tecno to Foster’s studio. There, the Tecno team came across a table with a tubular structure as never seen before. Marco Fantoni immediately asked Foster to produce an industrial design for a similar system of elements on behalf of Tecno. The project continued for some two years, but eventually Foster’s schematic drawings of the tables were transformed into an extensive and versatile system of industrially made office furniture.
The design philosophy underlying the system was based on three principles: firstly, in terms of product type, recognition of the fact that changing the spatial relationship between a work surface and the floor beneath it could adapt that surface to a wide range of uses; secondly, from a morphological point of view, the fact that a structure could be seen as a skeleton supporting an organism of mobile, modular elements; thirdly, from a technical standpoint, the fact that a whole system of elements was needed to build a wide range of changeable and re-configurable layouts from scratch.
Piero Lissoni is the designer behind Tecno’s Asymmetrical system, based on a contemporary concept of technology concealed by pure, minimalist forms, and held in a precise, almost rarefied equilibrium. The Asymmetrical system is constituted by large meeting tables with asymmetrical tops that contrast with rigorously geometrical and essential solid supports that hint at modern art and recent Lissoni-s work in the field of architecture. The tables can be combined to form large work stations, meeting tables and desks where everything is instantly to hand.
Designed by Gabriele and Oscar Buratti, Plau is an essential vision of the “chair object”. The idea is based on a single padded sheet, cut and bent into the shape of an armchair. The chair’s comfortable, enveloping geometry stems from a painstaking quest for balance between sharp angles and softer edges. The result is an elegant and technical creation of great visual impact, completely in line with Tecno’s design and production philosophy.
Luca Scacchetti’s latest contribution to Tecno comes in the form of the Vara collection of desks, meeting tables and cabinets. The name is inspired by the ancient world and use of the carpenter’s trestle as an archetypal, aesthetically essential yet functional support. In this play on balance and volume, the tops seem to be suspended in the air. This rigorously light design creates a suggestive synthesis between form and function.