Giovanni Lanzone - April 2020

How are we building "bridges" from the inside to the outside of our homes?
I am doing like everyone else: I am using the social media more often, I have learned to teach a class though a digital platform (I’m also reading and sleeping more). However, I would like to recommend you a precious quote form the master of Königsberg, Immanuel Kant. I’ve found it in a beautiful book of Aldo Schiavone about equality, it said: "all human beings anywhere on earth belong to the same natural genus, because they always produce fertile children with one another even if we find great dissimilarities in their form." Kant said that the generativity is proper to the human beings, the procedure is equally important, but we have obtained it later. Will start again to generate, to produce, to share and the cities will be be crowded again with people. I want to make a consideration on the social distance and the isolation everyone is talking about in these days. I think, unlike many others, that educating means staying close, needs the seduction of bodies, of gestures and voices (all these things are needed to make the students grow), that’s the immortal lesson form Phaedrus, by Plato, that Giorgio Agamben has read loud and clear. I believe that, once the emergency will be over and having gathered what we have learned on distance learning, we should come back to the warm teaching methods of proximity that Montessori, Malaguzzi and Munari have taught us. To tumble down is the verb that has come to my mind to express this thought. I believe that for many things and many fields the world "remote" should be only used as an adjective to address a past situation. "Tumbling down" is a verb I like more than "online chatting".

How will we regenerate our sociality and common spaces?
The hospitals that are filling our screens and the nurses who are taking care of the patients, the real people appearing every day in our television, with their beautiful faces marked by fatigue and medical masks, the wastage of the word "hero". We have to remember all of this, not just to praise it today, not only, we have to remember who said that in tempore non suspecto. I am thinking of the greatest of the French intellectuals, Michel Serres, a reserved man taken away by a disease last year, and that anticipated all of this in a precious booklet: Darwin, Bonaparte et le Samaritain. We must remember this in the aftermath that will come soon. Cure is an absolute and salvific word that shouldn’t return in the repertory of the over-used words: cure for men like the health systems have done in these terrible times of epidemy; cure for the Earth as it was (and it is) our home; and cure for the product, as it should accompany us non just for a day but for the entire life. The title of a beautiful booklet by Jonathan Safran Foer can by our guide: we must work as if everything would have been illuminated. The fear of that great genius, Walter Benjamin, was that the art products would had lacked their "aura" with the advent of technologies; it did not happen, because cinema and photography have supported the art expanding its boundaries. Now, as the surrealist André Breton realized and as the design has continued to do, it is necessary to extend the aura (which is passion, intelligence and cure) to every act of our everyday life like we were the creators and curators of a unique, huge, infinite garden of pieces of art. It does not cost more, is just better. I think that the art, more and more alike the map told by Jorge Luis Borges, On Exactitude in Science, should rely on the territory. The Cartographers Guilds were working on map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The point is that today these cartographers, in the era of Google Maps, are (or must be) all of us.

What will we do to restore a balance between man and nature?
I believe that this process started a long time ago. The fight against the negative externalities of the old industrial system was already started, and I wish will be strengthened by the pandemy. The community’s health that come before of its production capacities, is a lesson that in Italy has been carved in the flesh of the people participating in the many battles against the polluting power of the blast furnaces, from the Thyssen-Krupp process of culpable disaster, and above all, form the heroic fights, of a few people at the beginning and then of many more, against the production chains of Eternit and asbestos. However, not just the fights were accountable for these processes of advancement in the production; there is also an intimate and progressive reform of the capitalism, for which the change in the materials and in the production processes, the miniaturization, the automation (disintermediate and robotic), have become background processes, beneficial in their own rights, that contributed to change from the inside, the supply chains of the Western production. Answering a question of my students about the future of the business after the pandemy, I replied that I did not believe the quality and security levels on the product development achieved in the last decades would regress; three movement have influenced them: a more rigorous defence of the ecosystem, the beauty that overcome the the functionality – just like in the gentle revolution of the Italian design – and the Lean Manufacturing, an efficiency movement on the production process, elaborated by the Japanese. These tendencies are still very strong in the Advanced manufacturing processes (Barilla and Samsung, Tesla and Dyson), and they have proved themselves to be advantageous tendencies also for the industrial systems; they will continue and will be reinforced by the terrible period we will have lived through. I see a similar trend for the individual process of recycle and saving. There is still much to do, too much idleness, excessive arrogance and many technical problems to solve, but today’s trajectory is different from the one carried out just twenty years ago.

What are we learning from these times?
Perhaps, it is better to say what we should learn or what we will have to learn. As Flaubert said, it is always better to close a sentence, at least certain important sentences, with a question mark. It is clear that the cure for a pandemy requires a surplus of science and an improvement of the capacity to work in a system; once people would said it needed even more divine compassion, and still today, since the truth is stratiform, the Pope prays and invoke the plague crucifix, and we are grateful to him. The pandemy, more than many words, serves to show us that one cannot exist without the other, and that the dreadful story saying every man is an island is real when we look in the mirror of the ordinary and we are embellishing our face, but it appears to be necessarily wrong when the storm winds are blowing. The understanding that what we do – as individuals – has a huge social inference and yet, it is the society, not the individual, who defines the real progress of the human phenomenon. That is the key element of the unfathomable action of the virus that we should learn from. I said, “we should”, because it requires the collective ability to build a communal thought on key issues about the next future and it is necessary that these common thoughts have the ability to influence the politics and the finance. However, the ancient wisdom already knew that, as Manzoni said, the only thing that history can teach us is that nothing can be learned from history. We must therefore proceed with determination, and it will not be easy, because once the storm will be over, everyone will want to come back to their pervious behaviour (on every side revive the sounds, the labours of the busy hive and the hen, returned into the road again). However, as Queen Elizabeth said in her brief and concise speech to the British people (four minutes) in the next few months we need to act with quiet good-humoured resolve and of fellow-feeling. God save the Queen.

Giovanni Lanzone - Business Design consultant and advisor at Business Design in Domus Academy