Portrait of italian designer Vico Magistretti looking into the camera

Vico Magistretti

Italian furniture designer and architect

Vico Magistretti (born October 6, 1920, Milan–died September 19, 2006, Milan) was a highly influential 20th century Italian furniture designer and architect known for his experimental yet remarkably harmonious designs that ranged from diminutive decorative furnishings to elaborate architectural façades. During his career, Magistretti earned numerous awards for his contributions to Italian furniture design and product design during the postwar era.

Vico Magistretti was born in Milan, Italy, in 1920 to a family of architects—both his father, Pier Giulio Magistretti, and his grandfather, Gaetano Besia, were well-known architects. He began his studies in architecture at Politecnico di Milano in 1939, but due to World War II, and in order to avoid the draft into the military service, Magistretti interrupted his studies and left for Switzerland in 1943.

While in Switzerland, he taught at the local university, took courses at the Champ Universitaire Italien in Lausanne, and befriended Ernesto Nathan Rogers, the influential architect who had established the notable Studio BBPR Rationalist architectural collaborative in 1932. Rogers’ friendship and guidance would serve as inspiration for Vico Magistretti as he charted his own course through the modern design landscape.

Upon his return to Milan in 1945, Magistretti completed his degree in architecture at Politecnico di Milano and embarked on a series of innovative furniture designs for the R.I.M.A. exhibition and for the Triennale di Milano. During this time, he also worked with other premier furniture designers of the time, such as Ignazio GardellaAchille CastiglioniPier Giacomo CastiglioniMarco Zanuso, and Franco Albini. read more

During the 1950s and 1960s, he designed furniture with most of the major Italian furniture makers of the time. Examples of his work include the Carimate chair for Cassina (1959), originally for the Golf Club Carimate, which became an important commercial success in the hospitality industry; the Ecclise table lamp for Artemide (1966), which won Vico Magistretti his first Compasso d’Oro award in 1967; the Selene stacking chair for Artemide (1968); the Maralunga armchair for Cassina (1973), which won Magistretti his third Compasso d’Oro in 1979; the Atollo table lamp for Oluce (1977), which won Magistretti his second Compasso d’Oro award; the very popular Sonora pendant lamp for Oluce (1976); the Nuvola Rossa bookcase for Cassina (1977); and the Bruco lamp for Fontana Arte (2003).

At the same time, Magistretti was involved in an increasing number of architectural projects, including Milan’s Torre del Parco (1954–1956), designed in collaboration with Franco Longoni, and the San Felice neighborhood (1966–1969), created in tandem with Luigi Caccia Dominioni. His architectural aesthetic, just as his furniture design philosophy, was characterized by its streamlined contours of modernity and a notable consideration for the use of color, material, texture, and pattern.

In addition to the abovementioned accolades, Magistretti received his fourth Compasso D’Oro award in 1995 for his lifetime achievement, and in 1986, he received the Gold Medal from the Chartered Society of Industrial Artists & Designers. Vico Magistretti taught at London’s prestigious Royal College of Arts for two decades before his death in 2006.

Last updated: May 6, 2019

For additional information on Vico Magistretti, please vist: 

Biography.” Fondazione Vio Magistretti.

Vico Magistretti” Moma.

Vico Magistretti” Oluce.

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