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A fiasco is not a bad thing. Ask Bruno Munari

Last updated on March 6, 2024

“How did the premiere go? Well given that the leading actor forgot his lines, the scenery fell on the stage and that there were more or less seven people sitting in the audience… I believe it was a complete fiasco!”

We are more than used to use the Italian word fiasco to describe something which is considered to be a disaster, an utter failure, a debacle or a moment of important embarassment.

Why do we say “It was a fiasco”

The origin of this meaning of the word fiasco is actually uncertain. A rumor has that during a play in a Florentine theatre in the 17th century the main actor, who was used to improv with obejcts and things he had on stage, tried to amuse his audience by doing some sort of monologue with a wine flask (fiasco) in his hands. The people sitting right in front of him did not enjoy that piece and from there the word fiasco became a synonym of failure.

If this rumor certainly sounds amusing the most probable origin of the metaphorical meaning of the word fiasco probably depends on the technique used by the master glassmakers to build the glass bottles. To obtain the typical shape of the bottle it is necessary to blow the glass with a special pipe. However, if something were to go wrong during this procedure, what would remain in our hands would be a fiasco, that is, a bottle that went wrong.

Bruno Munari and the perfection of the Fiasco

If you ask Bruno Munari the meaning of the word fiasco he would say that it is the exact opposite of what we have been talking about so far. A fiasco according to the Italian artist and designer is the embleme of perfection.

ITA: Uno dei problemi di design è quello di costruire un oggetto secondo la sua materia giusta e secondo la forma che la materia stessa suggerisce.

ENG: One of the design problems is to build an object according to its proper material and according to the shape that the material itself suggests.

ITA: Un esempio più evidente di questo principio di design è questo oggetto, è visibile in questo oggetto che tutti conoscono. Questo oggetto è proprio la forma più logica che si possa fare con la tecnica del vetro soffiato.

ENG: A more obvious example of this design principle is this object, it is visible in this object that everyone knows. This object is precisely the most logical form that can be made with the blown glass technique.

ITA: Se noi togliamo la paglia a questo oggetto noi vediamo che l’oggetto stesso cioè il fiasco ha la forma della goccia di vetro fuso. Una volta si faceva soffiando con la canna a mano e tutti i fiaschi erano un po’ diversi ce ne era qualcuno un po’ storto etcetera oggi questo qui è una bottiglia a forma di fiasco, diciamo così, perché ha il fondo. Il fiasco originale era proprio esattamente a goccia e forse se ne trova ancora qualcuno.

ENG: If we remove the straw from this object we see that the object itself, that is the flask, has the shape of a drop of molten glass. Once it was done by blowing with the pipe by hand and all the flasks were a little different from each other. There were some a bit crooked… etcetera… today this is a bottle in the shape of a flask, so to speak, because it has a bottom. The original fiasco was just exactly in the shape of a drop and maybe there are still some.

ITA: Perché questa è la forma più logica? Perché soffiando, immettendo dell’aria dentro nella goccia di vetro, la goccia si allarga e in tutti i punti della superficie lo spessore del vetro è uguale. Se invece di fare questa forma si facesse, per esempio, un cubo di vetro soffiato, il cubo diventa fragile proprio nelle punte, nei vertici, perché l’aria entrando in questa forma spinge e va a finire che assottiglia proprio i punti più fragili, i punti più delicati.

ENG: Why is this the most logical form? Because by blowing, by introducing air into the drop of glass, the drop expands and in all points of the surface the thickness of the glass is the same. If instead of making this shape, for example, a cube of blown glass was made, the cube becomes fragile precisely in the tips, in the vertices, because the air entering this shape pushes and ends up thinning precisely the most fragile points, the most delicate points.

ITA: Un’altra forma di questo… conseguenza di questa forma del vetro soffiato è la famosa bottiglia di gazzosa che adesso anche questa non si fa più e che aveva dentro una pallina di vetro. Questo oggetto aveva una gomma in alto, si metteva dentro il liquido, la bevanda e poi una… una… un qualcosa per fare del gas e questo gas spingeva la pallina contro la gomma per cui la chiusura era automatica

ENG: Another form of this … consequence of this shape of the blown glass is the famous soda bottle which is not manufactured anymore and which had a glass ball inside. This object had a rubber [piece] at the top, the liquid, the soda was poured inside of it e then… something to make the gas and this gas pushed the ball against the rubber so the closure was automatic

ITA: La forma poi di questa strozzatura, di queste strozzature del collo della gazzosa permetteva di trattenere la pallina vicino all’apertura e di non farla uscire quando si versava perché toccava in due punti che sporgevano all’interno. Per aprila bastava fare una piccola pressione maggiore di quella della pressione del gas e la bottiglia si apriva.

ENG: The shape of this bottleneck, of these bottlenecks in the neck of the soda [bottle], made it possible to hold the ball close to the opening and not let it come out when poured because it touched the two points that protruded inside. To open it, it was enough to make a little pressure higher than that of the gas and the bottle opened

ITA: Questo è un altro oggetto progettato secondo la logica delle funzioni della materia della tecnica e la sua forma è una forma perfetta

ENG: This is another object designed according to the logic of the functions of the material of the technique and its shape is a perfect shape

P.S: Are you a Design enthusiast? Well you need to come down to Milan for the Milan Design Week. Here’s our guide to the event!

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