A lesson with A G Fronzoni

From teaching
to teaching
a lifestyle

Ester Manitto
A lesson with A G Fronzoni
From teaching design to teaching a lifestyle

Expanded second edition
author: Ester Manitto
publication year: 2017

texts: Enrico D. Bona, Marina Cinieri, Elena Fronzoni, Ester Manitto, Gabriele Oropallo, Claudio Silvestrin.
photos: Fabrizio Cicconi, Alessandro Fornili, Giuliano Grossi, Armin Linke, Stefano Malobbia.
curator: Mario Muda

graphics and art direction: Artiva Design /
print: Nava Press Milano /

languages: ogni libro è scritto sia in italiano sia in inglese
translations: Andrea Jones, Francesca Emily Amato

total pages in italian: 77
total pages with images: 36
total pages in english: 77
illustrations and pictures: black and white

size: 20x22 cm.
ISBN code: 979-12-200-0934-8
cost: € 35,00 + shipping fees
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The current relevance of a great teacher
This book is an act of gratitude from student to teacher and also an invitation to others to contribute to the reconstruction of a story of human and professsional experience of the highest value and of great current relevance. Ester Manitto, re-working the materials, notes and written work of her student career permits us to enter the world of AG Fronzoni's workshop school, founded in Milan in 1982 and active until 2001. The workshop school trained a multitude of young people from all walks of life and parts of the world, directing them towards the practice of continual research into the essence of form in life, nature, art, architecture and design, and a respect for learning by doing. A school of both craft and concept, directed at the training and critical awareness of the individual, it set itself the difficult educational objective of combining the startegies and techniques of design with lifestyle choices. From these recollections there emerges the generosity of a man of culture who, real teacher that he was, devoted so much time and thought to his students, spurring them on to experiment with the most varied aspects of existence (food, music, theatre, travel), to know and meet artists, intellectuals and craftsmen with new views on the world. This book is not an anthology but a reasoned collection of notes accompanied by a dialogue between Ester Manitto and the design historian Gabriele Oropallo, by a memory from A G Fronzoni's daughter Elena Lia, and from a text by his former student, architect Claudio Silvestrin and with a careful literary support from the architect and designer Enrico D. Bona. It is enriched by the work of Fabrizio Cicconi, Alessandro Fornili, Giuliano Grossi, Armin Linke and Stefano Malobbia who donated their photographic evidence.

Marina Cinieri, pedagogist
Fronzoni was, at the same time, a teacher, an educator, a design architect, a genius. It was a great privilege to have been a student of his. With seriousness and professionalism that are typically feminine, Ester Manitto gives us a black and white panorama of her notes and observations collected during her time with Fronzoni. The book becomes such a valuable document and it should be used in educational institutions on a global scale: ‘I am quite serious’. A book able to transform a teenager into a man, and a student into a humanist - free from the illusion of careerism and specialisation.

Claudio Silvestrin, Architect
How it was born my book
Some of the people who compliment me on my book on Fronzoni ask for more information. A fundamental question I'm asked is: what moved me to write it. I started work on this project 11 years ago, when Fronzoni left us. It was the 8th of June, 2002. On the day he died I was desperate, because I had lost the key figure in my life; my mentor was no more. In the days that followed, to stem the pain, I promised myself to convey, as best I could, what I had learnt from him. At that point I wasn't aware what I would do or how I would do it, but it was then that I laid the foundation for this book.
So who was AG Fronzoni?
As there aren't any books about him, I feel I should write a brief introduction. First of all, Fronzoni liked to call himself a designer, and on that subject he said, "not an architect, not a graphic designer or any other specific designer, but simply a designer, able to solve problems on a different scale". For him, design meant design of one's very existance, which could be the design of a dress, of a piece of furniture, a table, or much more and include one's entire life.At the same time as he pursued his profession freelance, Fronzoni taught for many years in the state schools. In 1967 Albe Steiner invited him to teach at the Umanitaria school in Milan, where he taught design. From 1968 to 1988 he taught at ISA (State Art Institute) in Monza, from 1976 to 1977 at ISIA (Institute of Applied Arts) in Urbino, from 1978 to1979 at ICV (Institute of Visual Arts) in Milan, from 1990 to 2001 at the Academy of Communication in Milan and numerous other courses all over Italy. On the subject of teaching her said, "since being invited into schools in 1967, I have become more and more aware that the real job of the designer, rather than any technique, is to cultivate: the designer's real objective is not to build the city but to show how a city may be built, with the city as a tangible form of civilisation. In 1982, with this significant track record, he decided to found his own workshop-school, which remained active until 2001. It has been described as 'a school of life'. He loved to compare it to the renaissance workshops, where the master craftsman taught by directly 'passing on' his secrets to the apprentices, so perpetuating the culture of 'doing'.
"Learn by doing" was the motto he borrowed from Albers and the model of inspiration was Bauhaus.
I was his pupil, firstly on a professional course in Ovada in 1987, and then at his workshop-school in Milan from 1988 to 1991. Thereafter, I kept in close contact with Fronzoni and with his irreplacable assistant, Myrna Cohen. As it was a privilege to attend the workshop-school, I have written this book to share the experience. I have not discussed his intense work as a designer, but instead his original, innovative and always effective teaching methods. A long time has passed since then, but i believe that Fronzoni's workshop-school is proof of the existance of a place where learning is not synonymous with suffering; where an indefineable climate was created in which learning was a natural consequence. The advice and encouragement I received was not limited to the field of graphic design, architecture or design in general, but went well beyond that. The objective that Fronzoni aimed for was to create stimuli and curiosity in us so that we would aspire to a wider and less trivial quality of life. He claimed that school was the seed of a democratic society and the starting point from which we should 'correct' the world. I believe Fronzoni's school is a model we should particularly refer to nowadays, when the italian school system lacks any direct relationship with real and practical 'doing'. The workshop-school is a vital prototype and inspiration and it is another reason why I wrote this book. Today is the 8th of February. Eleven years have passed since his death but my desire to make his method known continues.

Ester Manitto