We’re thrilled that Alberto Alessi will be giving a presentation at the Museum on Monday (22nd) evening! He is the ultimate mediator between designs that can succeed commercially as well as expressing artistic values. What’s more he is an engaging presenter with an impish sense of humor.

 

I was at the opening of his show, Alessi: Ethical and Radical at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where he gave a guided tour of the items on display, singling out the Whistling Bird Teakettle, designed by Michael Graves in 1985, as his most successful product ever.

 

 

At one point during his presentation there was a stir in the crowd, as Michael Graves himself made an unexpected entrance, piloting his wheel chair up to Alberto saying, “What are you doing here?”

Alberto’s response in his musical Italian accent was, “What are YOU doing here?” with a quick smile that immediately showed their long and close friendship.

 

 

A moment later Michael touched the controls of his chair, causing it to lift him up to full standing height so that he was eye to eye with Alberto as they continued their conversation. That moment of “standing up” had a wonderful poignancy as the chair allowed the gesture of greeting to be intimate and natural. (We’re looking forward to the presentation from Michael Graves at the Museum on December 16th, details to be announced soon).

 

 

This chair, the iBOT was designed by Dean Kamen, who is best known as the inventor of the Segway. The chair stays upright using Dean’s iBALANCE software, receiving signals from sensors and gyroscopes and continuously calculating the exact wheel rotation to stay up. This allows the standing height posture, but it also allows the chair to climb stairs and negotiate curbs. What a pity that this wonderful engineering solution has been discontinued for lack of business success!

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