Innovative architect, industrial designer, and urban planner Vico Magistretti was a driving force in Italian design from the 1960s onwards. Born into a family of successful Milanese architects in 1920, he became one of Italy’s most respected designers, celebrated for an uncanny mastery of clarity of form.
During the Second World War, Magistretti fled to Lausanne, Switzerland to escape military deportation and began to attend classes at the Champ Universitaire Italien in Lausanne. There, he met and befriended legendary rationalist architect Ernesto Nathan Rogers (1909-69), co-founder of BBPR, who would become a lifelong mentor.
Upon returning to Italy, Magistretti pursued an architecture degree from the Politecnico di Milano, graduating in 1945, and began working at his father’s architectural firm with Paolo Chessa. Shortly after joining the firm, Magistretti’s father, Pier Giulio, passed away.
In the immediate postwar reconstruction years, Magistretti began to produce modernist furniture designs, especially for exhibition in R.I.M.A. and the Triennale alongside other important Italian architect-designers like Franco Albini, the Castiglioni brothers, Ignazio Gardella, and Marco Zanuso.
During the 1960s and beyond, Magistretti created a number of sleek, high concept furniture and lighting design for major manufacturers, such as Artemide, Campeggi, Cassina, De Padova, Flou, Fontana Arte, Fritz Hansen, Kartell, Olivari, Oluce, Poggi, Schiffini, and Gebrüder Thonet Vienna. Iconic designs from Magistretti career include the Eclipse Table Lamp (1966, Compasso d’Oro 1967), Selene Stacking Chair (1968), Chimera Lamp (1969), and Giuone Floor Lamp (1969) for Artemide; Maralunga Seating (1973, Compasso d’Oro in 1979) and Nuvola Rossa Bookshelves (1977) for Cassina; and the Sonora Pendant (1976) and Model 233 Atollo Table Lamp (1977, Compasso d’Oro 1979) for Oluce.
Magistretti’s most famous architectural additions to Milan are the Tower in Park in Via Revere (1953-56, in conjunction with Franco Longoni) and the office block in Corso Europa (1955-1957). Other architectural feats include the Towers in Piazzale Aquileia (1961-64), Bassetti House in Azzate (1959-62), Cassina House in Carimate (1964-65), a house in Via Conservatorio in Milan (1963-66), Cusano Milanino Town Hall (1966-69), the Milano San Felice neighborhood in Segrate (1966-69, in partnership with Luigi Caccia Dominioni), and a house in Piazza San Marco (1969-71).
Throughout the course of his career, Magistretti held prestigious professorships at the Royal College of Arts in London and the Domus Academy in Milan. His work has been acquired by important museums around the world, including MoMA New York and the Victoria & Albert in London.
Magistretti passed away in 2006.
* Images courtesy of Artemide, Cassina, and Gebrüder Thonet Vienna