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Adi Design Museum

The iconic Fiat 500 is on show as one of the most representative works.

25 May 2021

A new museum hub in the heart of Milan houses the extraordinary permanent collection of the "Compasso d'Oro", the oldest and most authoritative world design award, founded in 1954. Among the most representative works on display are two iconic Fiat 500 models and the Fiat Abarth 1000 Bialbero.


Starting today, the new ADI Design Museum is open to the public, devoted entirely to the "Compasso d'Oro”, the oldest and most authoritative world design award, established in 1954 and awarded since 1958 by the Association for Industrial Design (ADI). Located at Piazza Compasso d'Oro 1, the museum is part of a former industrial complex with a powerful architectural and urban impact, situated in the centre of a strategic area of Milan. It contains a selection of objects from the prestigious "Compasso d'Oro" Collection, consisting of over 2,300 products and projects of all kinds, including 350 items awarded with the coveted title, and countless prestigious Honourable Mentions. The permanent collection will be accompanied by temporary exhibitions and in-depth initiatives, offering a variety of ongoing and dynamic stimuli.

Among such a wealth of works of Italian art and design, the iconic Fiat 500 simply had to be included, representing Italy’s social norms and acting as a worldwide ambassador for Made in Italy. This was confirmed spectacularly in 2017, when a first-generation Fiat 500 – the model that gave Italians mobility and freedom in the 1950s – became part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, a temple of world art and design. The second-generation Fiat 500, launched in 2007, became an icon of Italian fashion and style, which would conquer the world. In 2020, the third-generation New 500 was ready to once again revolutionise urban mobility in the name of sustainability, once more championing the cause of innovation and technology.

The new ADI Design Museum has two Fiat 500s on show – one from 1957 and the other from 2007 – representing the first two generations of the legendary "Cinquino", both winners of the "Compasso d'Oro” award, the first time in 1959 and the second in 2011. In particular, the 2007 model on display – owned by the Heritage Department collection – was one of the first models produced and features a three-layer metallic white livery.

“The 500 is an icon of Italian style that has never gone out of fashion. Over the decades, it has won over countless fans all round the world, thanks to its unmistakable features and its strong personality”, explains Roberto Giolito, world-famous designer and father of the 2007 Fiat 500, as well as head of the Heritage department since 2015.Since 1957, the Fiat 500 has brought a touch of colour and a smile to the everyday life of its customers in every corner of the world, acting as an ambassador for Italy and establishing itself as a symbol of "Italian Quality” design.”

But there’s more than the 500 too. To improve the displays at the new ADI Design Museum even further, also on show is the Fiat Abarth 1000 Bialbero, a model that won the coveted award in 1960, cited as “a refreshed and eminent affirmation of Italian design in the automotive field”.

The new ADI Design Museum has been created by reviving a historic site built in the 1930s, originally used both as a depot for horse-drawn trams and as a plant for electricity distribution. The museum was built up around the concept of renovation, highlighting the proud heritage of industrial archaeology as a distinctive feature of the building. It covers a total surface area of over 5,000 square metres, divided into spaces for exhibitions, services (cafeteria, bookshop, meeting places), museum conservatorship and offices. Access to the building is from the public piazza and garden area in front, recently renamed after the "Compasso d'Oro" award. The ADI Design Museum focuses its artistic vision firstly on Italian tradition, but also on the culture of international museums. It thus becomes a new point of reference for the design community and, at the same time, a major stakeholder in cultural dissemination, with a specific vocation to reach out to young people, who will inherit the values of Italian design in the future.

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