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“It’s through our works that we can best spread our ideas rather than by speaking”
Franco Albini and His Via de Togni Milan Villa
From 1930 to the 1960s, the Italian architectural world was in a constant debate. Franco Albini (1905-1977) was one of the modern architects of that period that marked the era and impressed by his controversial at that time way of perceiving the architectural and design world.His object of interest varied from modernist design to furnishing objects and even low-cost popular homes. He draw attention with his projects of museum designs, along with his contribution to the Aeronautical Exhibition from 1934. Albini’s radical reflection and research can very well be observed in his two private homes designed in 1938 and 1940 where he had applied all the solutions he implemented in museums and exhibitions. The avant-garde proposal draw lots of attention and controversy. He exploited the very skilled Italian craftsmanship. This also meant an elegant design based on a minimalist aesthetic and basic raw materials, departing from the 19th century traditional practice. His via de Togni Milan Villa was presented at the VII Triennale of 1940 where he presented a living room designed with his own furniture creations along with products from the contemporary culture. By utilizing elements that divide up the space in different area and by posing paintings without frames in the middle of the room attached to a metal structure that goes along the walls, stretched from floor to ceiling, Franco Albini became a principal exponent of the 20th century.
“The division between the living room and the dining room is obtained with straw hanging to a rod sliding on metal rails…the bedroom is separated from the living room by a double dividing curtain, one in white rubber, one in blue stitch with black threads.”
By using steel, glass, wood and cloth, not to mention light, Albini transformed his domestic environment into a museum design. The spaces are divided in order to generate certain intimate spots and to separate different functions, whilst maintaining a unitary atmosphere. Albini did not ignore the importance of using ancient and modern objects alike to crate a symbiosis of designs.
Albini and his love for design
“Franco Albini’s most popular designs were done in the 1950s. The most famous ones were his designs for shelves and chairs, produced by Cassina and especially by Poggi. The shelves are easy to disassemble and can be expanded without restriction. The shelves have no back board as they are either clamped between the floor and the ceiling or suspended on the ceiling on metal chains. This construction then functions as a transparent room partition. In 1951 Franco Albini created his rattan chair “Margherita”.The pieces of furniture that became the icons of his career were produced primarily in the 1950s. The stylistic variety suggests nimble understanding of and approach to design rather than a strict adherence to a singular aesthetic. His 1950 “Margherita” and “Gala” chairs, made of woven cane, were intrinsic elements within the growing movement during that period to revitalize arts and craft traditions. His 1952 “Fiorenza” armchair for Arflex was formally expressive, almost animated, and the profile of his 1955 “Luisa” chair evoked the profile of an austere architectural project. Produced by Poggi, the 1956 “Rocking Chaise” was an elegant concept– the rocker as a piece of furniture for reclining, like a taut hammock reigned into the confines of a bent wood frame. He also designed a living room console for Poggi during this period.”
“the frame, stated in all its lean essentially, where the section of the material used is reduced to the utmost, bears the backrest and seat which rest on or are hinged to it at only one point”
Franco Albini’s Main Architectural Projects
“During the 1960s, his work was geared more towards industrial design and larger architecture projects. He designed the Rinascente building in Rome in 1961. In 1964 he, Helg and Bob Noorda collaborated on a project to design several stations within the Milan subway system. Their plan was centered on a desire to keep the individual identity of each stop, while unifying the design through repeated materials and a consistent font and style for the signs identifying the stations. For Brionvega he designed a television that was exhibited at the 1964 Milan Triennial. During this period he also produced several lamps for Arteluce. Throughout his career he was the recipient of three Compasso d’Oro awards.”
1934 Italian Aeronautical Exhibition Milan
1938 Own House, via De Alessandri, Milan
1949 Pirovano chalet, Cervinia
1949-51 Design of municipal galleries in the Palazzo Bianco, Genoa
1952-56 Museum of San Lorenzo Tesoro, Genoa
1952-62 Restoration and design of Palazzo Rosso museum, Genoa
1953 Modern Italian Art, traveling exhibition
1962 Milan underground, Linea
1976 Project for restoration of Masmak, Riyadh
Franco Albini was one of the most important—and, sadly, most forgotten—Italian architects. He understood the design itself like few others and dedicated his entire life to its pursuit.Together with Luciano Baldessari, Carlo Scarpa, Marcello Nizzoli Franco Albini defines the Italian school of museum and exhibition design.