Your idea to revolutionise the world of distribution is undoubtedly to be admired. It is an idea shared by a wide section of the public sensitive to the question and not only those who, like me, fight for existence along with my stay-at-home wife and a rent of 70,000 lire a month.The Milanese architect with his kind ways is Enzo Mari, whose wooden puzzles, "16 Animals" and "16 Fish," are classics of 20th century modern design. [16 Pesci is $399 on Amazon; vintage editions can be much more.]
Our first child will be born in a few months. I beg you, Milanese architect with your kind ways, to help me make an alternative crib (or cot), very simply and with very little cost and a lot of love. I would like to be able to have an engraved "D" at the bed-head because if it's a boy I'm going to call it Davide, and if it's a girl Daniela...
-V.M. (Portici, 22 July 1974)
But in 1974, he also published a manifesto of sorts, a set of schematics for making simple furniture using standardized wood planks and nails. The pieces were called autoprogettazione, or "self-design, self-projects."
His first versions were exhibited in a gallery, while thousands of people took or requested the free catalogue with detailed instructions for making the no-nonsense furniture themselves. Anyone "apart from factories and traders" was free to make the furniture, or to make varations on it, and send him a picture. There were plans for nine tables, three chairs, a bench, a bookshelf, a wardrobe, and four beds. But no crib.
Mari estimated that a whole apartmentful of furniture could be built for 20,000L. worth of wood; he arranged for a company to sell a "pack of planks," precut to spec, for 40,000L.
The point for Mari was not just to provide cheap, rustic alternatives to high-style, manufactured furniture. he wanted to call the whole idea of "design" and the ceding of understanding and connection and direct experience to a remote, industrialized, consumerist machine. It's a frankly Utopian idea, but he wanted to help people regain an understanding for how and why things are the way they are. By making something themselves.
A lot of high concept stuff, but I mention it here because Mari's autoprogettazione have been major inspirations for me as I've been working on building a bed for the kid. Admittedly, it's a crib design/idea that I've had sketched in my head for years. But the intention and the approach--and the ultimate realization and disssemination of it--have changed dramatically and will follow Mari's model very closely.
Starting from a proposition that a baby's bed must first of all be safe, then comfortable/functional, I tried to make a bed that can be replicated and varied by almost any parent with varying degrees of skill. You can make it from scratch--it's optimized to build using standard plywood sheets--or you can order the wood, a "pack of planks," finished or not, and assemble it yourself. Or you can take the designs to a shop or woodworker and have it fabricated. For someone who wants a strong modern design on an affordable level, the bed will provide the chance to throw in however much sweat equity is needed to make it happen.
It's a bit Utopian, frankly, and like most Utopias, it's been feeling pretty unattainable the last couple of months. But it's getting really close, so stay tuned. [Is that annoying to hear? It feels annoying to say...]
Even though it was reissued in 2002, Enzo Mari autoprogettazione? is a lot harder to find than it should be. [corrraini.com, stoutbooks.com]
Previously: The Crib Blog [12/05? ouch]