Portrait of Ico Parisi on a garden lounge chair taken in 1960

Ico Parisi

Italian designer and architect


“My dear, you are a master, and all that is left for me is to retire and live in Civate in oblivion.”

Gio Ponti wrote to Ico Parisi

Domenico “Ico” Parisi (born September 23, 1916, Palermo, Italy–died December 19, 1996, Como, Italy) was an Italian modernist designer and architect. At a very young age, Ico Parisi moved to Como, where his father worked as an art teacher, and lived there almost all his life. He first studied construction and graduated in 1934, and that same year he started an apprenticeship with the influential Italian Modern Movement architect Giuseppe Terragni, who was a prominent representative of the 1920s Rationalist architecture movement. Of particular importance in the development of Parisi’s aesthetics was his 1936 participation in a photographic architectural study for the magazine Quadrante of the seminal Italian Modernist building Casa del Fascio, an administrative building in Como designed with a strict rationalist approach by Terragni. The building is considered one of the best examples of International Style architecture and housed the local branch of the National Fascist Party.

Ico Parisi And His Wife Luisa Aiani Establish The Design And Architecture Studio La Ruota

In 1940, Ico Parisi was deployed to the Russian front in the Italian army, but was discharged in 1943 and returned to Como. In 1945, he organized the first modernist furniture exhibition in Como and met Luisa Aiana, a student of Gio Ponti at the Politecnico di Milano. In 1947, the young couple married and the following year they founded the studio La Ruota, in which they often collaborated on design and architectural projects and which rapidly became a meeting place for collaborations among established artists and designers of the day. In 1949, the couple moved to Lausanne, Switzerland, where Ico studied architecture from 1949 until 1952 at the Institute Atheneum under Italian rationalist architect Alberto Sartoris. read more

Parisi defined himself as a Renaissance artist, who was interested in all forms of art. He did not want to be labeled as only an architect, industrial or furniture designer, painter, photographer, or installation artist, even though he pursued all these activities during his more than 50 years of creative life—both independently and with his wife, Luisa.

Ico Parisi Approaches Interior and Furniture Design Incorporating Artists And Architects

Between 1948 and 1950, Ico Parisi devoted himself to the study of furnishing elements and furniture design, and in 1951, he started establishing friendships and collaborations with artists, designers, and architects such as Lucio Fontana, Francesco Somaini, Bruno Munari, Mario Radice, Fausto Melotti, and Gio Ponti. These relationships deeply influenced his approach to architecture and furniture design and are an example of Ico Parisi’s desire to integrate into his work a synthesis of the arts.

By the mid 1950s, Parisi had become one of the most influential Italian furniture designers, with a unique Modern aesthetic that uses soft woods often shaped in wide undulating curves, with metal slats and boldly colored upholstery. In 1954, Ico Parisi, in collaboration with Silvio Longhi and Luigi Antonietti, won the gold award in the X Triennale di Milano (Milan Triennial) designing the Living Room Pavilion (Padiglione di soggiorno). In 1956, he became a member of the Association for Industrial Design (ADI) (Associazione per il Disegno Industriale). During his career, Ico Parisi collaborated not only with Longhi but also with many of the other important manufacturers of the time, including Singer & Sons, Altamira, MIM Roma, Cassina, and Cappellini.

Left: Ico Parisi wall lamps "model 244" by Arteluce. Right: Ico Parisi "Lerici" Shelving Unit by MIM Roma
Left: Ico Parisi wall lamps Model 244 by Arteluce (1959). Right: Ico Parisi “Lerici” Shelving Unit by MIM Roma (1958)

Among his most prominent furniture and lighting designs are: for Cassina the chairs Model 691 (1955), the sofa and lounge chairs Model 865 (1957), and the lounge chairs Model 856 (1957); for Singer & Sons a series of walnut-and-brass tables with articulated legs such as the coffee table Model 112 (1950) and the console table Model 1109 (1950); for Fratelli Rizzi a series of custom made library systems during the late 1950s; for MIM (Mobili Italiani Moderni) Roma the the MIM lounge chairs (1960); for Arteluce the Model 244 wall lamps (1960); and for Lamperti the uniquely pop aluminum and steel Irdide floor lamp (1970).

Red sofa and lounge chairs model 865 by Italian designer Ico Parisi at Casati Gallery
Sofa and lounge chairs model 865 by Ico Parisi made for Cassina (1955)

In 1968, in collaboration with sculptor Francesco Somaini, Parisi showcased at Salone del Mobile his experimental pieces Contenitori Umani, or human containers, in which he proposes a new concepts around contemporary living and its house surroundings. These experimental pieces consisted of large blocks of polyurethane foam in the forms of human shapes being resting in different positions.

Contenitori Umani by Ico Parisi (1968)
Contenitori Umani by Ico Parisi (1968)

Parisi’s Prominent Architectural Projects

Among the architectural projects that better represent Ico Parisi’s aesthetic approach, composition, and the integration of art and architecture, are Casa Carcano in Maslianico (1949), in which he also involved painter Mario Radice and ceramicist and artist Fausto Melotti; Casa Notari at Fino Mornasco (1950), also in collaboration with Mario Radice; the four Cuomo houses built in the neighborhood of Monteolimipino during the early 1950s: Casa Bini, Casa Zucchi, Casa Bertacchi, and Casa Boligiana, where Parisi integrates architecture, design, and fine art built around prewar architectural rationalism; the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture in Sondrio (1953); Studio and Casa Parisi in Como (1958), in which he incorporated mosaic floors designed by Lucio Fontana and included many decorative objects by Somaini and Munari; and Casa Orlandi in Erba (1966). In 1968, Ico Parisi designed the Human Container (Contenitori Umani), a vertical structure with the silhouette of a reclining body, a project that may be mislabeled as an industrial design or furniture enquire but is really the result of Parisi’s research of living spaces.

Last updated on August 25, 2020

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Books About Ico Parisi’s Contributions To Furniture Design And Architecture

Ico Parisi

Ico Parisi: Design Catalogue Raisonnė

Silvana Editoriale

Milan, Italy (2017)

 

Lucia Tenconi & Giovanna D’Amia

Ico Parisi. Architettura, fotografia, design

Enzo Pifferi Editoriale

Milan, Italy (2012)

 

Flaminio Gualdoni

Ico Parisi La Casa

Art Books International Ltd

Fareham, England (1999)

 

Instituto Italiano di Cultura – Parigi

Ico Parisi – Architettura adi Carta; disegni, istallazioni, utopie architettoniche 1937 – 1983

Instituto Italiano di Cultura (Paris)

(1997)

 

Piero Deggiovanni

Ico Parisi: & Disegni

Nuova Alfa Editoriale

Milan, Italy (1994)

 

Luigi Cavandi & Gualdoni Flaminio

Ico Parisi

Fidia edizioni d’arte Editore
(1991)

 

Ico Parisi

Foto a memoria (In PRIMA persona)

Nodo Libri

Como, Italy (1991)

 

Flaminio Gualdoni

Ico Parisi – L’Officina del possibile

Grafiche Morandi
Fusigano, Italy (1983)

 

D’IXELLES MUSEE
Ico Parisi – Apocalisse Gentile

Museum Van Elsene

Ixelles, Belgium (1980)

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