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Architecture & Design during the fifties #Italian Classics


The relation between tradition and modernity was one of the main features of the Italian architecture and furniture during the fifties. Ernesto Nathan Rogers stated the theoretical base for this relation in the editorials of the architectural magazine Casabella, which he renamed Casabella-Continuità, thus highlighting the continuity of the inter-war Italian Rationalism, but also the continuity of the whole Italian architectural tradition.

It was an attempt to settle the language of design on the ground of a specific cultural situation and historical memory, but still adhering to an absolutely modern process of creation and production. Filiberto Menna, 1965

Just as many others Italian architects, Franco Albini y Franca Helg became designers developing furniture pieces for their buildings or exhibitions, such as the Museum of the Treasury of the San Lorenzo Cathedral in Genoa or the interior of the Olivetti store in Paris. Albini also tested in his own apartment his new furniture, such as the Veliero bookcase or the Dondolino rocking chair. All these pieces shared an exposed structure that reached the highest lightness, so the domestic space was designed as a place made of empty space. The Luisa armchair, considered their masterpiece, implied a combination of traditional craftsmanship and structural elementariness of Rationalism.

In 1947, architects Ignazio Gardella, Vico Magistretti, Luigi Caccia Dominioni, among others, created Azucena, a firm where they produced such pieces as the Catilina armchair or the Paolina lamp for a new upper class with a modern taste that, however, didn’t want to relinquish the quality of the traditional Milanese craftsmanship. This revision of modern premises followed nevertheless the compositional laws of Rationalism and introduced a new interest for joining details and for the use of the available resources that launched a line of experimentation with a great influence in Italian design.