USM: a dialogue between a sphere and an architect

Ghénos Communication agency offering Press Office and PR services specializing in the design, architecture and real estate sectors, founded by Gabriella Del Signore in 1996, represents the Swiss brand USM since 1997.
One day, a few months ago, from the Swiss company a rather peculiar request arrived: they were asking for our help to ask architects, curators, influent journalists to fill in “a declaration of the ball”, the steel joint on which the well-known modular system USM Haller rotates and it is mounted.
The purpose of the declaration is to certify the identity and notoriety of the metal piece, to remove it from anonymity, to recognize its authorship.

Among professionals and friends, I asked Guido Musante with whom in those weeks I had the opportunity to comment on the radical history of the Swiss company that since 1963 produces only three iconic products.
In particular, Guido focused on the thought of a product that has become such an anonymous icon and part of the permanent design collection of the MoMA in New York.
Guido, who was in Moscow at the time of the receivement of the file, filled out the document and returned it to us.
However, the feeling of having carried out such an unusual task inspired him to create a script in the form of a divertissement that reached me while I was on a train, on a Friday afternoon, right back from Bern where I had spent a lovely day with the Swiss furniture makers.

I read the piece and it surprised me. I thought it would have been nice to have it published and illustrated.
But where? And how?
I called Simone Sbarbati. He said yes.
I called Sara Vivan. She said yes.
USM Haller as never seen before, by Frizzifrizzi

Alessandra Noto
Ghénos Communication


The animation

Animation: Sara Vivan.
Editing: Fabio Ramiro Rossin.


Behind the project

La sfera

Guido Musante

He is graduated with honours in Architecture and completed a PhD in Urban Planning at Venice
IUAV. A grandson of the first Ducati designer, respecting his name — gui(domus)ante — he worked many years with Domus. In a second period he did it with a number of other leading design and architecture magazines such as Archdaily, Mark, Interni.
Founder of Small Russia magazine for Strelka Institute of Moscow and of “1972-2791” creative agency, he has produced curatorial and
communication projects for a wide range of companies and architectural and design firms.
A member of AIS (Associazione degli Storici Italiani del design), he is a Professor of Conceptual
Inversion (communication of design) at Politecnico di Milano.

Sara Vivan

Sara Vivan was born in Milan, where she lives, in 1971.
After graduating in fashion design at the IED in Milan, she worked for Aspesi (Comme des Garçonnes line), Blumarine (Anna Molinari line) and Alberto Biani.
She then attended the Brera School of Nude Art and dedicated herself to illustration.
Her work has been published by Valentina Edizioni, Einaudi Ragazzi and San Paolo Edizioni.
Gerda Taro her first graphic novel was published in 2019 by Contrastobooks.
In 2019 she started to draw the flip-book series Castiglioni in 2 sec. written by Giovanna Castiglioni and published by Corraini Edizioni.
She is a keen practitioner of Japanese calligraphy and Tai Chi Chuan.

Alessandra Noto

Degree in Philosophy and Master in Integrated Business Communication. Over 15 years of experience supporting the management in business development, communication strategy, content production, collaborating both, with PR & Communication agencies, and with high profile professionals within international design companiesincluding Paola Navone and Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel & Partners, then sharing knowledge with emerging talents and providing skills to dynamic start-ups. She develops advocacy and SCR projects to draw public attention to ethically relevant and urgent issues.
Safe Ski Project with the Aosta Valley Ski Instructors Association. Nei panni di me with the Minotauro Onlus Milano and Camera Minorile Milano.


The dialogue

In around 15 years of experience — which are neither many nor few, since I believe I have talked about tens of thousands of objects, products or systems — I believe this to have been the first time I have ever produced an identity card for one of them. If I were to extract the beginning and the end, the Declaration on the ball sounds almost surreal, especially by someone who is used to comprehend in a language like Italian, which involuntarily recalls the comedy which lies within our punctilious bureaucracy.

«I, Guido Musante, born in Genoa in 1972 and architect by profession, design curator and critic, declare that the ball is characterised, in my opinion, by a particular shape and an unusual style: in fact, its innovative shape has differentiated itself since it was launched on the Italian market, and makes it significantly distinguishable from all of the other products available on the market; reason for which the ball is a direct reference to the group (omissis) and consequently used and perceived».

However, looking deep into the threaded eyes of that small rustproof face, I can’t but feel completely absorbed into a spiral of thoughts, which seem to be saying:

I’m not from another planet: I must have been born right in the middle of the Cold War and it probably seems that I have fallen from the sky, but today only I have erected 127 stores in China, furnished a couple thousand houses around Europe, over 50 thousand pieces around the world, and that short bookshelf in your living room.

Today only I have erected 127 stores in China, furnished a couple thousand houses around Europe, over 50 thousand pieces around the world, and that short bookshelf in your living room.

Really. Do I even have to mention it?

It’s simple: what’s the need. “Hand me some sellotape”, right? “Mum, you stole my Legos”, correct?

Ok “grab that book on the USM for me” or rather “let’s US(e)M the wall and we’re done”, well I don’t think anyone says this, yet. Maybe people believe it, meanwhile for over 60 years I — I know I shouldn’t say this, no one would’ve guessed — am not yet recognised as a simple bolt. How could you ever think that I’m not more significant than a bolt? Do I not have an identity, do you need proof to be signed, in a time where any common lamp or corkscrew have names of Kings and Queens?

For over 60 years I — I know I shouldn’t say this, no one would’ve guessed — am not yet recognised as a simple bolt.

I see. There’s been a misunderstanding. Not even the cells that make up my body have a name, but if they didn’t exist I wouldn’t either, and I wouldn’t have a name, never mind the rest. Lamps and corkscrews pretend to be human; screws and bolts are like drops of water (they can quench everyone’s thirst, but don’t belong to anyone). You are some kind of a hybrid: a drop of water with a whole world behind it, ready to come out.

It seems quite the opposite to me.

Ok, it was a metaphor. Actually, no: it wasn’t. The reason that whenever someone like me comes up with the idea of screwing a beam in your hub, is because, by observing you, something comes to mind, that stuck in the sphere which happens to be right upon our neck.

Whenever someone like me comes up with the idea of screwing a beam in your hub, is because, by observing you, something comes to mind, that stuck in the sphere which happens to be right upon our neck.

It might be wise for you not to overdo, or you might need a new identity card.

Ok.

Ok.

Thank you…

You’re welcome.
Now hand me a book.