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We can detect a single, compact trend from the new collections of certain Italian furniture “super brands” over the past two years. It is a new wave of re-editions of classic modernist designs created primarily in the fifties and sixties. Besides Alias, which this year presented the Manzú armchair by Pio Manzú, the automobile designer (we will definitely mention him again next time) and Zanotta, the main protagonist is Cassina, which presents modernist design in a new light every year. Last time it was the exceptional work by the eminent designer Franco Albini (1905 - 1977).
This designer and architect, who was based and worked in Milan, is one of the most important figures of Italian post-war avant-garde design. His work, which he developed already starting in the thirties, always straddled the line between pure functionalism and precise craftsmanship. Some of his furniture pieces which recently reappeared only affirm their quality and complete timelessness.
Albini started his professional career in the studio of Gio Ponti, and fully equalled his projects in terms of quality already in the fifties. In 1930 he already opened his own studio and started to design furniture, interiors and entire houses. He achieved his greatest fame at the beginning of the fifties, when he designed his most characteristic interior design artefacts. These include, in particular, chairs, armchairs, tables and storage systems, where he used his unique rationalist design style. In contrast with his contemporary Carlo Mollino, who in his creations splurged on shapes and materials, Albini was a great minimalist who did not let himself get carried away in his projects but who retained deep respect for material, form and its resulting function. In the following years he and his wife, Franca Helg, were to design many successful products and even buildings, including the La Rinascente department store in Rome (1957) and the INA office building in Parma (1950 - 1954), as well as the singular renovation of several old palaces and museums in Genoa. His realisation of the Milan metro, certainly well-known to every design connoisseur, who sees it ever year during the Salone del Mobile trade fair, is also interesting. Albini worked on his creations with Bob Noorda, the graphic designer.
The Cassina furniture brand started its re-edition of Albini’s timeless designs two years ago. First was the small Cicognino table, from 1953, with its practical holder, and the legendary Luisa chair, which in 1955 received the prestigious Campasso D’Oro award. They were followed by the Canapo rocking chair and the Cavaletto table, with its form typical for their creator - chiselled geometric yet at the same time organic. This year the Cassina brand appeared with something completely new, this being surprisingly the unique re-edition of the Veliero bookcase from 1940, which Albini had in the interior of his great Milanese apartment. The brilliant structure is created with two pillars holding metal wires, between which shelves made of tempered safety glass are placed. The design, at first glance complicated, finally reveals its elegance and Albini’s intelligent spatial and functional solution.
Thanks to the complete re-edition which Cassina is now offering as part of its I Maestri series you can get to know the work of Franco Albini, without a doubt one of the main chapters of Italian post-war design.