Italian architectural and design studio
“The typical approach of a Milanese architect is: To design from the spoon to the town.”
Ernesto Nathan Rogers, member of Studio BBPR
Studio BBPR was an architectural and design studio established in Milan in 1932 among four Politecnico di Milano architects: Gian Luigi Banfi (1910, Milan–1945, Gusen-Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria), Lodovico Barbiano di Belgiojoso (1909, Milan–2004, Milan), Enrico Peressutti (1908, Pinzano al Tagliamento–1976, Milan), and Ernesto Nathan Rogers (1909, Trieste–1969, Brescia). The first letters of the last names of each made up the acronym by which the BBPR Architects was founded.
Early Influence Of BBPR In Italian Rationalism
Their initial work as BBPR partners followed the themes of Italian rationalism in the 1930s. Even if the architects were not an integral part of the rationalist movement, as they were of a slightly later generation, BBPR became an influential artistic and intellectual entity of Italian rationalism, which had its roots, not unlike fascism, in classical philosophy and embraced the concept of the “ideal” proportions. read more
BBPR was founded with a shared design intent and with the understanding of a close work integration among its four founders with the idea that “any design made by four people is always better than it would have been if done alone by each person… we will never reveal the individual paternity of an idea. Every idea is always our idea.”
Rejection Of Fascism And The Fallout From World War II
At the beginning of their partnership, the four BBPR architects were enthusiastic about the prospects of Italy under Mussolini and fascism, and the firm prospered under the patronage of the Mussolini government. But by the late 1930s, the real nature of the regime became evident to BBPR’s founders, and the four architects started to openly oppose it. At the start of War World II, Luigi Banfi and Ludovico Belgiojoso joined the Italian resistance to fight the Nazis, but Banfi was caught and sent to the Gusen-Mauthausen Concentration Camp, where he was killed. Ernesto Nathan Rogers, who was Jewish and served as co-editor of Quadrante magazine from 1934 to 1936, had to escape to Switzerland, where he remained until the war was over.
BBPR Post World War II Comeback
By the end of World War II, the studio continued developing architectural projects using the BBPR name, but this time without Banfi. One of the first projects after the war was the design of the abstract monument to the victims of Nazi concentration camps at Cimitero Monumentale di Milano, an important cemetery in Milan. This monument is important as it represents the renewal of the Milanese postwar architectural environment and serves as a memorial to the loss of many BBPR friends, such as Pagano, Beltrami, Giolli, Labò, and Banfi. Above all, it is a declaration of a renewed moral commitment in architecture.
During 1946 and 1947, Ernesto Nathan Rogers also served as editor and publisher of Domus magazine and was instrumental in the establishment of Italian rationalism.
BBPR’s Growing Architectural And Intellectual Influence
By far, the most monumental architectural achievement of BBPR architects was the Torre Velasca. The mixed residential and commercial building, which was completed in 1958, is approximately 100 meters high and was built in a mushroom-like shape reminiscent of the structural shapes of the medieval Lombard tradition used for fortresses and towers. Later, BBPR would design and redesign many important structures, including the Chase Manhattan Bank Building and the interior of the Museum of the Sforza Castle, a structure that was damaged during War World II.
BBPR managed the preparation of the IX Triennale di Milano in 1951 and designed the exhibition titled The Form of the Useful (“La Forma dell’Utile”) with the mission to promote Italian industrial design. At the Triennale, BBPR captivated the attention of designers, architects, and intellectuals by actively participating in the discussion and controversy surrounding the International Style and Modernism. BBPR’s influence and advocacy for its principle of “utility plus beauty” was further enhanced when Ernesto Nathan Rogers wrote for and managed the influential Casabella magazine from 1953 until 1964.
The growing visibility and reputation of BBPR facilitated its collaboration with architects, intellectuals, and artists from around the world, such as Alexander Calder, Lucio Fontana, Max Bill, and Saul Steinberg. It was also during this time that each of the three main BBPR architects, Rogers, Peressutti, and Belgiojoso, pursued intense academic activities at the Faculty of Architecture at Politecnico di Milano and other prestigious Italian and foreign universities.
Prominent BBPR Furniture and Design Pieces
Over the years, as BBPR became successful designing furniture, the studio attracted talented architects and designers who grasped the firm’s creative concepts and followed its principles in the design of modern furnishings. BBPR’s approach to furniture design was highly functional and distinguished for its clean lines and refined aesthetic; it also mastered a unique aesthetic through the well-coordinated mix of industrial materials with velvet, leather, and wood.
BBPR’s furniture designs include the Elettra, Giuletta, and Neptuna chairs for Arflex; the Spazio, a line of office furniture desinged for Olivetti; the Ro table lamp and the Pollinia ceiling lamp for Artemide, a series of ceiling lamps for Arteluce; and the Emma handle for Olivari. The clean lines and graceful use of different materials lend an immediate attractiveness and inspire a sense of reliable functionality in BBPR furniture.
After the deaths of Ernesto Nathan Rogers in 1969 and Enrico Peressutti in 1976, Lodovico Barbiano di Belgiojoso continued to produce work under the name of BBPR until the 1990s.
For more information on BBPR, visit the following:
BBPR at Architectuul
BBPR Studio at Ordine Architetti
Image source from Università IUAV di Venezia, Archivio Progetti, Fondo Fondazione Masieri
Last updated: March 15, 2020
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Bibliography About BBPR’s Legacy And Works
Tre Architecture in Toscana: BBPR, Franco Albini e Franca Helg, Ignazio Gardella
Parma, Italy (2017)
Maria Gabriella Errico
Tra Razionalismo e Continuità: Ernesto Nathan Rogers e i BBPR
Rome, Italy (2012)
Ezio Bonfanti, Marco Porta
Città, Museo e Architettura: Il Gruppo BBPR nella cultura architettonica italiana 1932-1970
Milan, Italy (2009)
Bologna, Italy (1994)
Leonardo Fiori, Massimo Prizzon
BBPR La Torre Velasca
Editrice Abitare Segesta
Milan, Italy (1982)