DeTruffle, the truffle-shaver designed by Ben Van Berkel for Alessi
De Truffle, cut for design by Alessi, a premium brand embodying Italian creativity.
An unprecedented encounter will be taking place during the White Truffle Fair: on one side the tuer magnatum Pico, the centrepiece of Alba’s autumn, and on the other a premium brand embodying Italian creativity: Alessi, founded in 1921 in Omegna, from where its design products are exported throughout the world.
“Cut for design” for the white truffle is the motto chosen for this edition of the fair from October 7th to November 26th. A journey which began in 2015, when Alberto Alessi was welcomed to Alba as a guest at the Poetica festival, and the idea of forming a work group to devise a new kit for the Alba White truffle was dreamed up in association with the Centre for Truffle Studies and the Fair’s Organizers. Fifteen designers of international renown responded to the appeal. On the basis of a series requisites the jury selected just one winner: the truffle-shaver designed bu Dutch architect van Berkel, which is to be put into production by Alessi with the name Alba. Along with the other fourteen designs, it will be the subject of De Truffle exhibition to be held in Sala Romana in Palazzo Banca d’Alba in Via Cavour from until November 26th.
Alberto Alessi himself guides us through this fascinating world of design. Let’s start by going back over the steps involved in De Truffle project from 2015 until today.
“It all began with my interest in the truffle, and the virtual which takes place when it is served at the table. I have always been fascinated in particular by the truffle-shaver: a niche object with a limited demand, but an unquestionable symbol of our material culture. In other words, a highly topical subject for anyone in the field of design. Of the three hundred Italian and foreign designers we work with, I selected the 15 best-suited to undertaking this venture. Each of them was called on to develop a prototype which focused as much on looks as on functionality; when observing the ritual of the truffle I have always had the impression of finding before me objects which were not equal to the task. Two years later we have made our final choice: in our line of work, that’s within the norm.
Of the 15 prototypes submitted, Ben Van Berkel’s will be put into production: how was it chosen?
“When you talk about production, the object has to meet four requirements: the first two are fundamental: aesthetic quality and properties that give it the ability to communicate with the market. Plus we take into account its functionality, and – as regards price – its feasibility. It is then appraised by a sample of the public, and in this case we compared notes with the experts from Alba, who proved to be a great help right from the outset. But if you ask me to be perfectly frank, I always have the last word…”
So was your favourite chosen in this case too?
Definitely: I was struck by its originality and it was without question the most complete. In some ways, van Berkel’s truffle-shaver, is reminiscent of a wood plane, and its shape is similar to the first tools used to serve the tuber. The fourtheen other design were valid too, but lacking in certain respects: some were very poetical ideas, but not very functional, maybe because they drifted too far from the subject, while others were exactly the opposite. In any case, once the final decision has been taken, the second phase started. The designer submits an initial proposal which is not yet ready for the market. This is where I come into play as design manager, along with my group. In fifty years, I have never come across a prototype that worked straight off.