The only way to revive printed matter is to combine it with something to do: to talk, drink, eat and share, as seen at Edicola Romana Non Ordinaria in Rome
Against the trends of the market
The Edicola Romana Non Ordinaria, or ERNO, is located in Rome, in the center of Piazza Capponi and in the Prati district in the heart of Borgo Pio, a few meters from San Pietro. It comes from the historic newsstand of the square, an old kiosk now closed for seven years — as many other newsstands in Italy.
In the last fifteen years, a lot of newspapers have seen sales drop by 50%. From 36,000 newsstands in 2001 to 15,876 in 2017. At the end of last year, the number still drops to 15,126. Seven hundred and fifty closures during a year. Today, the local Chamber of Commerce has a newsstand for every four thousand residents.
In 2002, in London, the Paper House of the Heatherwick studio was installed in Kensington and Chelsea. A wooden and steel kiosk, a cocoon that opens by sliding laterally the walls, like a sort of curtain. A space to be opened and closed quickly, to arrange the arrivals of the day.
In New York, the new newsstands of Grimshaw Architects, installed by the Spanish advertising company Cemusa: a design in glass and steel, a style without distinctive details, where the structure is part of a set proposed by the studio for some areas of the city, including, in addition to the newspaper kiosk, also the format for a public toilet and a waiting platform for the bus stop.
In 2017, in Paris, the first between hundreds of new projects was realized and will replace 360 nineteenth-century kiosks. The project is run by the French industrial designer Matali Crasset. Made with recycled glass and aluminum, it provides space and lighting for reading, and a good collocation for all the paper items, easily reachable by the customer. Inside, also spots to charge smartphones and digital screens for the online sale of tickets for public transport. A work of reclamation of the French kiosks, for an investment of 52,4 million euros.
Erno’s activity goes against the trend of statistics and market. A new disposition allows newsstands to sell, in addition to newspapers, also a number of other products — such as drinks and snacks (this is the ‘bonus newsstands’ provided by the government in 2019).
Despite the small space of a newsstand
«Being a newsagent is almost a hereditary job», explains Andrea Mercuri, a graduate student in Art History and owner of Erno, together with three partners Valentina Chiani (Civil Engineer with an architectural background), Alberto (Manager) and Davide (Lawyer).
«The owners of this kiosk keep managing the activity as it was done fifty years ago. We need to adapt to any situation». Erno has tried to differentiate its offer and design — despite the small space of a newsstand. A bench in white marble, a new lighting and electrical system, and the word Erno with a neon.
The name Erno is not only an acronym…A Hungarian design architect who lived between 1902 and 1987 – Ernö Goldfinger inspired it. A life spent in Paris in the twenties where he approached architecture science by attending Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Auguste Perret, pioneer of reinforced concrete. The interior designs realized for Suzanne Blum’s lawyer studio and the furnishing projects for the painter Richard Wyndham, were his first architectural projects.
In 1933, the first building, a holiday house in Le Touquet. Later, in 1951, the first realization of a modern Kiosk for the Festival of Britain, an event organized six years after the end of the Second World War; a national exhibition that first took place in London and then traveled throughout Britain during the reconstruction of the nation after the war.
What is Erno? It is not a bookshop, nor a real newsstand. «There is no definition, we are a liquid project. The bureaucratic process was really hard because being a new project never realized, some details were unknown to most of the involved people», confirms Valentina Chiani.
The editorial proposal of the newsstand is clearer: a combination of art magazines, design, photography, architecture, lifestyle, fashion, books with a selection of newspapers (Repubblica, Il Corriere della Sera, Il Sole 24 ore and La Stampa, Financial Times, Le Monde).
«We only choose magazines about fashion, design, architecture and arts in general», explains Valentina. «Magazines sales are positive, because we pay attention to the quality of our products. Newspapers, instead, are less bought. We will never sell gossip magazines».
«Domus, L’Architetto, Love, Flow, Cartography are just some of the magazines that we aim to sell, considering that even consumer’s interests have radically changed», says Andrea Mercuri: «These magazines are decorations». «Not only students and professionals, but also many design and architectural studios buy them for their waiting rooms or to cover the walls. In this way, the decorative object becomes interactive; you can browse and touch it».
To embellish Erno’s location is the historical Piazza Capponi: the surrounding buildings in Umbertino style, the area, the benches of the square and the vintage chairs of the newsstand. «This area of Prati», declares Andrea Mercuri, «is inhabited by journalists, architects, designers, artists: this is almost Erno’s clientele».
An example for realities in distress
The Edicola Romana Non Ordinaria was born as a meeting place, a friendly square for the neighbourhood, a representation of newsstands in the Fifties’. A place where you can eat and drink, too. A way to bring young people and students, during the “aperitivo” time. According to Valentina Chiani, the newsstands have a chance: «We would like our newsstand to be taken as an example by realities in distress. Politics has never supported us, we need an institutional footprint, both at local and national level. If the newsstands are bound to disappear, then an idea of transformation of the concept is needed».
This new experiment seems to give good results: «In the evening, some guys come to visit us to spend a relaxing time with their friends in the square. In the morning, instead, older people come to buy newspapers, generally people who live here in the neighbourhood. We also organize exhibitions, book presentations and cultural debates. We had, as a special guest, Marcello Fonte (the Golden Palm awarded actor), protagonist of the “Dogman” of Garrone, and the journalist Tommaso Labate. We’re planning to host a series of exhibitions of illustrators and artists from Rome».
A successful event at Edicola Romana Non Ordinaria, last May, was ‘Temperature, vignette d’amore e altri dettagli’, a satirical exhibition run by the illustrator Fabio Magnasciutti, founder of the Roman Academy Officina B5, since 2007, also editor of theme songs and animations of ‘Che tempo che fa’. From our members: «The only way to revive the printed paper is to combine it with something to do: talk, drink, eat and share».
Text Valerio Piperata
Piazza Americo Capponi