When the Seventies made their appearance, the riotous notes from the Aquarian Exposition in the Catskills, otherwise known as the Woodstock Art and Music Fair, still lingered in the air. This was an event that grabbed international headlines and popularised the hippie movement all over the world. These were times of passive resistance and peace, psychedelic rock, civil rights, the sexual revolution and a less traditional concept of the family.
Not to mention the youngsters - with their long locks, guitars and bell-bottomed trousers - who embodied the crux of change.
This was the time that John Lennon left the Beatles to join forces with the pacifist groups; and in 1971 he wrote Imagine, that supreme musical symbol for this cultural revolution. And so as the youngsters began to sport baggy multicoloured shirts, long skirts, bright tunics and ethnic-style necklaces, society's tastes in design and interior décor took their lead and changed skin too.
In the aftermath of the rationalism and minimalism of the '50s, a dramatic reversal in style and colour took place. The designs of this decade were driven by vivid hues and striking floral or geometric patterns. There was a burning desire to dazzle and astound with odd objects.
These were golden days for Italian design which occupied place of honour at the famous New York exhibition of 1972: "Italy: the new domestic landscape".
Snaidero was perfectly at one in this Italian plethora of excellence, a blissful moment in which aesthetics, construction quality and technological superiority merged magically in the production of kitchens which were surprisingly modern for their times. New models like Diana and Nadia came into being with laminated cabinets in vivid and vibrant colours ranging from green to bright red, according to what was in vogue at the time.
New technical solutions found their way onto the production line: ironing boards, worktops and pull-out units all contributed to make kitchen space easier to use and more practical. And better still, small household appliances like food processors and toasters were all incorporated into the work surface.
With foresight, Snaidero strove to strengthen and revive relations with the major players in industrial design which were wowing the world and laying the foundations for "Italy's manufacturing reputation".
And so, when Rino Snaidero decided to extend the Majano production plant in 1973, he turned to Angelo Mangiarotti - professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago and renowned architect in Milan.
In those years, Mangiarotti was busy with a series of mushroom-shaped vases in blown glass (and also with the famous Lesbos and Sappho table lamps for Artemide): this design solution would be built into the project for Snaidero's new and imposing headquarters.
Mangiarotti devised a glass fibre façade balanced on a reinforced concrete structure held up by four pillars. The result was a magnificent building with extremely refined materials and support structures with slightly protruding elliptical windows with rounded corners.
Construction work was in full swing when the area of Friuli was struck by the severe earthquake of 6 May 1976.
The plant was wrecked and prospects seemed dismal. But Rino Snaidero wasn't to be deterred and arranged to have all the surviving equipment moved to the Portogruaro plant. Ten days later production was at full throttle again. At the same time, he got Mangiarotti to start up the work on the new headquarters - it was all finished in record time in 1977.
But the fruitful collaboration with Mangiarotti didn't come to an end when the construction site closed down. Snaidero asked him to design a new line of kitchens for the maison. This was the inception of the “Cruscotto” kitchen, whose innovative content in terms of materials and ergonomics would lead it to being put on display at the New York MoMa - just as its predecessor, the Living Space kitchen, was in the '60s.
It would be the first in a long series of projects in cooperation with great designers.
And Snaidero is still on the road...
Snaidero's photographic archive
Wikimedia Commons archive
Moodboard n.2: apart from the Snaidero kitchens, Proust armchair by Alessandro Mendini and the Eclisse table lamp by Artemide
Moodboard n.3: apart from the pictures of Snaidero's headquarters, the Lesbos table lamp by Angelo Mangiarotti for Artemide