Marco Zanuso (born May 14, 1916, Milan, Italy – died July 11, 2001, Milan, Italy) was a leading Italian designer in the postmodern era. His artistic legacy covers an ample range of furniture designs, industrial designs, and architectural projects. Not only are Zanuso’s creations interesting to look at, but they are all eminently functional, serving the purpose for which they were intended.
Born in Milan, Marco Zanuso studied architecture at the Politecnico di Milano from 1935-39, and became a major designer of furniture after World War II. In 1945 Marco Zanuso started a practice in Milan, and worked as an architect, urban planner and designer. He was the editor of Domus in 1946 and 1947, and of Casabella in 1948. In 1949 he become the first president of the Associazione per il Disegno Industriale (ADI), an office that he kept until 1969. Also in 1949, Zanuso designed a chair for the Poccolo Teatro in Milan; he named it the Antropus chair in honor of the play being performed at the theatre at that time. In the late 1950s, the Pritzker Prize winer architect, Aldo Rossi joined Zanuso’s studio to train in architecture and design.
Marco Zanuso is probably best known to most people, however, for a rather broad spectrum of furniture and appliance designs with bright colors and innovative shapes. He developed much of this style from 1958 until 1977, when he and the German designer Richard Sapper started their prolific and fruitful professional partnership and jointly designed numerous lamps, furniture pieces, and electrical appliances. Among Zanuso’s most important designs are the the Lady chair for Arflex (1950), the Triennale sofa (1959), the steel Lamda chair for Gavina (1961), the polyethylene 4999/S stackable children’s chair for Kartell (1961), the famous TS 502 radio (“the Cube”) for Brionvega (1964), a series of TV sets, and the iconic Grillo phone for Siemens in 1966.
In spite of his varied interests, Marco Zanuso was first and foremost a designer. Like many great designers, it was the form of the piece that interested him that truly inspired him. “Through my projects I want to give form to what I call complexity.” What did he mean by that? Just following the tradition of the Italian masters of music, sculpture and art, to make the complex simple. Whether it be the famous Zanuso 275 table lamp designed for the Oluce Company in 1965, the first Arteluce store that he designed with Gino Sarfati in 1953, or the Olivetti factory buildings in Buenos Aires and São Paulo in 1955-57, the results bear out his thoughts.
Last updated: January 4, 2019
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