Profile picture of Italian architect and designer Ignazio Gardella wearing a light suit

Ignazio Gardella

Italian architect and designer

“If someone asks me what architecture is, I reply: Give me a theme and a place, and I will give you a project.”

Ignazio Gardella

Ignazio Gardella (born March 30, 1905, Milan–died March 16, 1999, Oleggio, Italy) was an Italian architect, engineer, academic, and designer born in Milan in a Genovese family of architects, as his father, Arnaldo Gardella, and his grandfather, Ignazio Gardella Senior, were also architects. Gardella is considered a prominent member of the so-called third generation of the Italian Modern Movement, as well as one of the greatest exponents of Italian Rationalism. Throughout his career he was also a successful furniture and lighting designer and co-founder of the design and furniture manufacturing company Azucena.

In spite of his early familiarity with architecture, Ignazio first graduated with a degree in engineering from the Politecnico di Milano in 1928. Although it wasn’t until 19 years later, in 1947, that he graduated with a degree in architecture from the Università Iuav di Venezia; the young Gardella pursued his architectural aspiration immediately after graduating as an engineer working alongside his father.

Ignazio Gardella’s Early Works

In 1929, at the young age of 24, Gardella started the important architectural projects of the church of the Antituberculosis Clinic (1929 -1930), which is considered one of the purest examples of Italian Rationalism, and the Laboratorio Provinciale di Igiene, both in the city of Alessandria, in the Italian region of Piedmont. Although these buildings brought immediate and deserved recognition as a talented architect to Gardella; shortly after he finished these buildings, he decided to break with the creative limitations imposed by the Rationalist style.

Immediately after War World II, in 1945, Gardella founded, along with some other young architects in Milan, the Studi Architettura Movement and became an active participant and architectural leader in shaping the architectural and city planning debate regarding Milan’s reconstruction after the war.  That same year, he also started what would become a 30-year professorship at the Istituto di Architettura in Venice. read more

As a designer, Ignazio Gardella furniture and lighting designs were something he pursued early in his career. Most of his early pieces were made by local craftsmen and smaller manufacturing shops, such as the Ignazio Gardella furniture that was designed for Villa Coggi in Milano (1942).

Gardella Co-Founds Furniture Maker Azucena

In 1947, the year he graduated as an architect, he cofounded the design and manufacturing company Azucena with fellow architects Luigi Caccia Dominioni and Corrado Corradi Dell’Acqua. From the start, Azucena distinguished itself for its design collections that combined formal elegance, clear modernist aesthetics, and excellent craftsmanship and manufacturing quality.

With the founding of Azucena, the newly graduated architect Ignazio Gardella, just as other prominent and entrepreneurial Italian architects of the time, cemented a long and successful architect-designer career. From the start, Gardella’s furnishing and lighting designs made by Azucena became highly sought after, including his brass chandeliers, wall lights, and sconces and a wide variety bookcases, and height-adjustable tables—all made with high attention to detail and texture and with a strong sense of subtle modernity. Gardella also designed for Gavina the unique and iconic reclining chairs and couches with brass “Duck” feet (1957).

Between 1952 and 1956, Ignazio Gardella, Franco Albini, Giuseppe Samonà, and Ernesto Nathan Rogers managed and taught summer courses at the CIAM (Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne) in Venice.

Ignazio Gardella. Casa Cicogna alle Zattere, Venice (1958-62) Public domain photograph

Although Ignazio Gardella’s work changed with the architectural tendencies of the time, his designs show continuity and an impulse to maintain a “classic” composure, as well as a careful attention and refinement to the quality of the details.

Ignazio Gardella Excelled In Integrating Modern Design In Historical Settings

Ignazio Gardella demonstrated his capacity to adapt to the spirit of a place as few other architects have succeeded in doing. A perfect example of this instance is the contrast between Casa Borsalino (1947-1952), made by the Borsalino hat manufacturer for its employees, in Alessandria, and the Casa alle Zattere (1958-1962) in Venice, an excellent example of introducing modern architecture in the center of a monumental historical setting without the use of historical simulations. At Casa alle Zattere, Gardella marked the difference in materials, style, decorative elements, and the conception of volume in an effort to take up influences from the built environment and context without subjugating to it.

Gardella remained very engaged developing and collaborating in architectural projects throughout his entire life. Additional important architectural work include: The construction in Milan of the new museum for contemporary art, PAC (1947-1954), or Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea, on the grounds of the old museum; the offices for Alfa Romeo in Arese (1969-1972); the building of the faculty of architecture in Genoa, with its unique brick facade (1975–1989); the reconstruction of the theater Carlo Felice in Genoa (1981-1990), in collaboration with architects Aldo Rossi and Christoph Reinhardt; the Lambrate train station in Milan (1984-1992); and the restoration of the antituberculosis clinic in Alessandria (1996) that he had built more than 60 years prior.

Last updated: August 11, 2020

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Ignazio Gardella's products



Bibliography About the Life and Work of Ignazio Gardella

Ignazio Gardella: “Azucena Selling Catalog”


Milan, Italy (2019)


Alessio Palandri

Tre Architetture in Toscana: BBPR, Franco Albini e Franca Helg, Ignazio Gardella


Parma, Italy (2017)


Imparato, S. Milesi, F. Radaelli

Azucena: Mobili e Oggetti


Milan, Italy (2012)


Rafael Moneo

Gardella: Costruire la modernità


Milan, Italy (2006)


Andrea di Franco, Massimiliano Roca

Ignazio Gardella: Dispensario Antitubercolare


Florence, Italay (2005)


Stefano Guidarini

Ignazio Gardella Nell’architettura Italiana: Opere 1929 – 1999


Milan, Italy (2002)


RIBA Heinz Gallery

Ignazio Gardella

RIBA Heinz Gallery

London (2000)