Training devices generally follow the formal dictum and must follow the function. This is a rational requirement that takes into account the wear and tear of products that are regularly exposed to sweat and the stress of constant movement. This makes the work of the Italian architect and designer Antonio Citterio for the luxury fitness equipment brand TechnoGym a rare exception in its functional beauty.
Citterio’s designs for the PERSONAL Line by TechnoGym are characterized by their sculptural elegance, with gently curved shapes that are reminiscent of Streamline Moderne and yet are undeniably contemporary. Each of the surprisingly compact (yet confidently heavy) designs are strategically adorned with sections of micropolished steel and aluminum. The sum of these parts results in equipment that is even heavier than many of their industrial fitness counterparts, underscoring the longevity of exercise equipment designed to last for decades.
After demonstrating the bike staff, we spoke to the 71 year old young gentleman of design about what it is like to apply an architect’s perspective to the task of designing objects that are constantly in motion.
Of course, there are some obvious parallels between the design of fitness equipment such as the Bike Personal and furniture that is intended for comfortable sitting. What similarities and differences did you discover when developing fitness equipment that was shaped by your work for companies like Vitra and B & B Italia?
It is interesting to work on different topics because objects of different nature can “osmosis”. At first glance, it may seem more complicated to approach the design of fitness equipment rather than a piece of furniture. However, the complexity of designing an office chair as an example is very similar to that in fitness equipment.
The complexity of product design differs from that of architectural design, but my approach is the same in both disciplines: what counts is teamwork – the opportunity for people with different levels of expertise to work towards a common goal. My job is to give directions to these integral teams, both in terms of architecture and product design.
How did you envision these pieces of equipment to be found in a personal or public space?
The Personal Line products can be said to have been designed to have their own dignity and iconic identity, just like furniture for our living spaces. Thanks to this approach, fitness equipment is no longer a “machine” located in a specific room, but becomes part of our daily life.
How was it determined which materials can withstand the requirements of a training device with regard to the goal of producing a beautiful design object?
We don’t run into a problem because “design” means tackling these problems. This is why I introduced die-cast aluminum to the Personal Line machines: the aluminum is die-cast, which makes it lighter and more robust at the same time.
In addition to the personal bike, you have developed a Kinesis system, a lounger, a bench press frame, an elliptical machine and a treadmill. What turned out to be the biggest challenge and why?
The Kinesis Personal, the first I developed for TechnoGym, was the biggest challenge as the fitness club version of the Kinesis machines had to be reduced in size.
Has there been any feedback from its use that you think could help improve future iterations of your fitness equipment designs?
I’ve had positive feedback from people who have actually used the machines. In general, I am interested in the relationship between companies and people. I’ve had close relationships with companies like TechnoGym for many years, and that longevity has proven to be the best practice. I usually work with those who share my vision and design language. Together we share in the risks associated with a particular project. I believe this creates a great deal of trust in them as they are encouraged to invest in other types of assignments
Do you regularly practice what you preach and train with one of these devices?
I own two Personal Line machines, Cross Personal and Run Personal, and use them three times a week. Exercising is part of my routine – I now know exactly how the equipment works when I use these machines regularly.