A Classic Italian Design – Part 1 Posted by Geoff on Jan 15, 2019 in Culture
Did you know that in 1948 an Italian wasp gave birth to a bee?
At that time, Italy was still struggling to recover from the devastation caused by World War 2. Amongst the many problems that had to be dealt with was a sever shortage of mezzi di trasporto (means of transport), with many people unable to afford what was available.
But Italian ingenuity, enterprise and design flair came to the rescue!
The story begins with the Piaggio company. Founded in 1884, Piaggio initially specialised in arredamento navale (ship fittings) and carrozze ferroviarie (railway carriages). Then came La Grande Guerra (The Great War/WW1), and in 1917 Piaggio began to focus on the production of materiale bellico (war material), constructing motoscafi (motorboats) and antisommergibili MAS (torpedo boats), but above all aeroplani (aeroplanes) and idrovolanti (seaplanes).
Between the first and second world wars, Piaggio continued its aeronautical work, and it was during this period that the talented designer and engineer Corradino D’Ascanio came to work for the company. Perhaps you’ve never heard of D’Ascanio, but I bet you’re familiar with at least one or two of his designs. Amongst his many accomplishments, D’Ascanio produced one of the first fully manoeuvrable helicopters, the D’AT3. But he is perhaps best known for his famous Vespa (Wasp) motor scooter.
World War 2 left many of the Piaggio facilities in ruins, and in 1945 the company began rebuilding their important plant at Pontedera in Tuscany. It was here that D’Ascanio’s Vespa was born. Patented in 1946, the Vespa was an instant hit and is now recognised as one of the classic icons of Italian design.
But there was still a sever shortage of practical, affordable transport capable of moving materials and goods around. So D’Ascanio began working on something bigger … well, just a little bit bigger. D’Ascanio explained:
“Si trattava di colmare una lacuna nei mezzi di locomozione utilitaria del dopoguerra, portando sul mercato un motofurgone di piccola cilindrata, di limitato consumo e di modesto prezzo di acquisto e di manutenzione, facile alla guida, manovrabile nel più intenso traffico cittadino.”
“It was about filling the gap in utilitarian motor transport after the war, bringing to the market a motorized truck which had a small engine with low fuel consumption, was cheap to acquire and maintain, easy to drive, manoeuvrable in the most intense town traffic.”
Hence the Wasp gave birth to the Bee!Coming soon: A Classic Italian Design – Part 2
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