Animal House: When Objects Have Animals' Names

A zoologist might classify Italian design objects in various ways, distinguishing between species that are capable of flight (the Vespa Wasp scooter, the Heron lamp), of living aqueous lives (the Dolphin armchair, the jellyfish-like Medusa lamp), and of existing on terra firma (the Grillo Cricket telephone, the mouse-sized Topolino automobile). Alternately, one could catalogue these all-but-inanimate objects in terms of the fictional creatures they evoke (the Moby Dick chair, Bruno Munari's Meo Romeo cat). This zoophilic trend in Italian design is neither an accidental nor an occasional element, nor need it be seen as some beastial obsession. On the contrary, it is a complex symbolic mechanism that repopulates domestic interiors with a little bit of the animal world that has been chased from our homes and neighborhoods. The presence of these experimental designs in an otherwise animal-free home helps it come to life as a virtual zoo, thus helping us to remember always: It's a zoo out there.