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

Ignazio Gardella

Italian architect and designer

Ignazio Gardella (born March 30, 1905, Milan–died March 16, 1999, Oleggio, Italy) was an Italian architect and designer born in Milan. Ignazio Gardella was introduced to design and architecture by his father, Arnaldo Gardella, who was also an architect. In spite of his early familiarity with architecture, Ignazio first graduated with a degree in engineering from the Politecnico di Milano in 1928. It wasn’t until 1947 that he graduated with a degree in architecture from the Università Iuav di Venezia. He is considered a member of the so-called third generation of the Modern Movement, as well as one of the greatest exponents of Italian Rationalism. read more

In 1935, Ignazio Gardella published for the first time in the influential magazine Casabella and started the important architectural projects of the Antituberculosis Clinic, which is considered one of the purest examples of Italian Rationalism, and the Laboratorio Provinciale di Igiene, both in Alessandria. These buildings brought recognition to Gardella, but shortly after he finished the buildings, he decided to break with the limitations of the Rationalist style. 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 influencing the architectural and city planning debate regarding Milan’s reconstruction after the war.  In 1945, he also started what would become a 30-year professorship at the Istituto di Architettura in Venice.

In 1947, 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 collections that combine formal elegance, clear aesthetics, and excellent manufacturing quality. Ignazio Gardella’s designs and products from Azucena became highly sought after at the time, including his brass chandeliers, wall lights, and sconces and a wide variety of 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.

The figure of Gardella remained at the pinnacle of Italian architecture for all of the 1960s and 70s, a period of intense professional activity and of international attention. Even during his later years, Ignazio Gardella produced projects of significance, such as the Faculty of Architecture of Genoa (1975–1989), which continued to bring him to the forefront of architectural debate.

Although Ignazio Gardella’s work changed with the architectural tendencies of the time, his designs show continuity and maintain a “classic” composure, as well as a careful attention and refinement to the quality of the details. 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 Case Borsalino in Alessandria and the Casa alle Zattere in Venice, where there is a marked difference in materials used, style, decorative elements, and the conception of volume. This is clearly due to Gardella’s effort to take up influences from the built environment and context.

Last updated: March 15, 2019

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