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Known as one of the few Italian firm which, from the Sixties on, have contributed to the birth and diffusion of the Italian furniture design, nowadays Acerbis is an extremely dynamic reality, always ready to read the signals of a rapidly changing world. The main guideline for each new Acerbis product is the constant tension towards innovation, together with the continuous search for a connection with the surrounding reality, which determines the evolution of housing and furniture design. The use of new materials, the study of new systems of opening and assembly, the proposal of new models and new aesthetics are the result of a lively and fertile collaboration with designers of world-wide renown or younger talents, and characterize the wide and eclectic Acerbis collection from its very beginning. The core-business is based on the production of cabinet furniture, which are almost entirely designed and manufactured inside the firm. There, the most innovative industrial technology goes along with the tradition and technical and handicraft techniques as they’ve been handed down from generation to generation, starting from the first laboratory founded in 1870 by Benvenuto Acerbis, grandfather of Lodovico Acerbis, the current owner. The firm operates both in Italy, which represents the main market with the 30% of turnover, and in the rest of the world, thanks to a network of a selected retailers. With the arrival of Lodovico’s son Enrico, who takes care of the marketing and works along with his father for the product strategies, and of his brother and architect Marco, which collaborates for the design of the new models, the firm enters in its fourth generation well ready to face the present-days challenges.

Acerbis, tradition and innovation since 1870
by Enrico Morteo

The origins. From the first laboratory to the factory in Seriate
In 1870, Benvenuto Acerbis starts the homonymous carpenter’s laboratory in Albino, at the entrance of Val Seriana: “Benvenuto Acerbis, Decorator, Joiner and Carpenter. Firm for Furniture on Electrical Automation Engines. Complete Systems.” The production comprehends mainly hard wood furnishings, whose formal shapes take on the lines of the barocchetto piemontese and of the sober Lombard style. The electro-mechanical equipments guarantee velocity and precision of cutting, while shutters, scrawls and wax finishing continue to be rigorously manual. From the very beginning, Acerbis defines that relationship between technical innovation and respect for the materials’ nature, which will always constitute the basis of experiences of the firm. The arrival of the second generation introduces some important changes. Starting new collaborations with different architects, Marino Acerbis begins a typological re-reading of the cabinet furniture, and adds to the traditional cupboard a more modern interpretation of the fixed equipment. At the same time, while the decorative apparatus become lighter, Marino introduces the use of paints and synthetic polishing, especially the red enamelling, which breaks the monopoly of oak and wax varnish.

Towards an industrial dimension. The transition of the 60’s and the change of the 70’s
The firm becomes bigger and bigger, until it is moved to the factory in Seriate (1966). Since the market and the society are rapidly changing, there is a need for a new productive mentality which reinvests the know-how of the firm towards industrial design. Lodovico Acerbis will be the one who develops these transformations and who brings a real revolution within the firm without betraying, at the same time, its history and tradition. The collaboration with De Pas – D’Urbino – Lomazzi (1968) explores the rules of sectional design, while that with Nanda Vigo, designer of the Block crystal glass tables (1971), opens the way to new formal and technological territories. Lodovico Acerbis himself rethinks the question of the cabinet furniture. In his first collections of the early 70’s, it’s not easy to track the signs of tradition: modular composition, polyester high gloss structure, lacquered with Caoxol body, opaque and scratchproof finishing patented by the firm itself. Nonetheless, besides new forms and new materials, the great experience acquired with wood carving remains untouched – and that can be seen in the distinction between sustained and sustaining parts, in the dry-fixed joints, in the materials used as different essences and which underline the functionality of the lines. The fact that consolidates the change made by Lodovico Acerbis is the meeting with Giotto Stoppino. Together, they study the modular grammar used so far and reach, with Sheraton, an example of perfect technical and formal synthesis. Presented in 1977, Sheraton will receive the Compasso d’oro Prize in 1979. The new polyester lacquering becomes a precious material while the remarkable shelves’ sections, the details’ refinement, the sophisticated pivoting hinges, reinforce the quality of an object which can condensate the flexibility of the sectional in the elegance of a classical piece of furniture. Along with Sheraton, Acerbis and Stoppino patent Brooklyn, a bookshelf with a well-evident steel structure and clear connections with architecture design.

The 80’s: research and experimentation between objects and systems
At the beginning of the 80’s, Acerbis has a whole renewed productive vocabulary, based on technical research, material experimentation, defined details, conscious use of the colour, technologically advanced finishing, clarity of structure and of function. Without flattening upon a mere design rationality, Acerbis continue to offer products with a high aesthetic concept and which can interact well with the domestic space. Developing some projects such as the Hilton system (Acerbis-Stoppino, 1978), the Maxi tables (Giotto Stoppino, 1978), the Madison system (Acerbis-Stoppino, 1980), the firm enters a phase of original research between the individuality of singular objects and the versatility of sectional systems. Fist of all, we have the Lux modular shelves (Acerbis-Stoppino, 1980), based on the still actual idea of light as an integrated part of the project; the Manhir tables (Acerbis-Stoppino, 1980), a combined mixture of crystal glass marbles and steel sustained by simple geometries; and the O Sole Mio console, almost a ludic revisitation of the classical psyche.

The Morphos collection: a space for freedom
With their unforeseeable diversity, these projects tend to anticipate the Morphos Collection which, from 1983 on, gathers innovative ideas and furniture complements to add to the main lines. Year after year, Morphos has become a collection of homages to well-known designers such as Vico Magistretti, Gianfranco Frattini, Toni Cordero, Richard Meier, Riccardo Dalisi, Sigheru Uchida, Mario Mazzer and, at the same time, a good exercise field for young talents and a research workshop for new formal languages.

New classics: Serenissimo and Onda Quadra
The Morphos Collection doesn’t exhaust Acerbis’ search for innovation. Presented in 1985, the Serenissimo table by Lella and Massimo Vignelli recuperates the old technique of the encaustic and confronts it with the modern and neat design shapes. Similarly, in 1988, the Onda Quadra series by Mario Bellini sees the return of natural wood, used in different essences as a chromatic code based on the modular scheme of superimposed ziqqurat squares.

An open catalogue. The 90’s and the confrontation with the opened markets.
The rediscovered actuality of wood material gives birth, in 1991, to five parallel collections. Andrea Branzi patents the York system of wall-cabinet; Gianfranco Frattini designs the Proust collection; Acerbis-Stoppino create the Quartetto sideboard, which some years later will appear on a special emission of the Poste Italiane dedicated to design. As a symbol of the 90’s, we have the elegant Aldous cabinets by Giogio Gurioli (1996) and the Cambridge bookcase designed by Sir Norman Foster (1997), an example of refined formal and technological balance.

Tradition and innovation. The modern-day challenge.
The great creative effort held by the firm during the 90’s can be resumed in the innovative New Concepts system by Lodovico Acerbis (1999). Versatile and bright, the system presents many technical-typological novelties whilst offering a linear and light image and showing an approach which allows Acerbis to anticipate the minimalist trend and to avoid, at the same time, its excessive simplifications. The value of the original and coherent research held by Acerbis can be found in the present-day collection. Besides the revisited classics – like the Life wall-system (1975, 2002) which confirms the attention to the connection light-furnishing – the new products relaunch the challenge of a search for new shapes and new materials. Emblematic is the case of the Gem sofas (Lodovico Acerbis, 2002), characterized by the coloured, thick methacrylate sides, and the Long Island sofas (Marco Acerbis, 2003), where leather and felt identify and distinguish the supporting and sustaining surfaces. Another step towards innovation is the collaboration with Gabriele and Oscar Buratti, whose tense and essential vocabulary conjugates steel with other materials, possibly in their natural state: the Judd table (2001) in glass and steel; the Max&Moritz tables (2002) in wood and steel; the Grant shelves (2003) in wood and steel. If Roberto Lazzeroni introduces lightness and freedom with his Newbury wall-system (2003), creating a collection of different elements as for dimension and purpose, Piergiorgio Cazzaniga uses the lightness of aluminium in order to design its multicoloured chair (Airy, 2003). Colour, lightness and brightness characterize also to the Matrix bookshelf (Roberto Monsani, 2003), a thin, reticular structure which is luminescent thanks to the interlacement of modern optical fibres. The aim is always that of conjugating technics and inventiveness, knowing that quality is something that always surpasses the necessary without, for this reason, fall into the superfluous.
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