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 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.

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. read more

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.

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 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 Casa Borsalino (1947-1952), made by the Borsalino hat manufacturer for its employees, in Alessandria, and the Casa alle Zattere (1958-1962) 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.

Gardella remained very engaged developing and collaborating in architectural projects throughout his entire life. Additional important architectural work include: 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; and the Lambrate train station in Milan (1984-1992).

Last updated: October 26, 2019

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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)