In the years following its invention in the 1850s, aluminum was used in imitation of older, more established materials, like bronze, silver, and gold. Pittsburgh’s special relationship with the material dates to the founding of Alcoa (the Aluminum Company of America) in the city in 1888. In the 20th century, designers embraced the material for its own unique properties, exploiting its lightness, resistance to corrosion, and reflective surfaces. Between the two world wars, the material came to represent the Modernist ideal, epitomizing the streamlined, industrial world.
Aluminum production increased dramatically to support the war effort during the World War II. After the war, aluminum companies struggled to maintain production. To that end, the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) developed an “Imagineering” program, encouraging imagination in engineering.
As an effort to create incentive designers to continue to find new and inventive applications of aluminum, the Carnegie Museum of Art exhibit offers advertisements from 1946 related to the “Imagineering” program. The design collection at is especially strong in objects made in aluminum, an industrial material deeply associated with Pittsburgh.
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Source: tms.org, cmoa.org
Pictures: cmoa.org, flickr, artfixdaily, i3dbox,mbam.qc.ca, collectionsonline, 1stdibs
Camilla G.//SMC Editor