To coincide with the 10th Anniversary of Vico Magistretti’s death on the 19th of September 2006, a new film entitled Vico: il grande semplice commissioned by the Triennale di Milano and Fondazione Vico Magistretti aired on Monday the 19th on Sky Arte HD in Italy.
With sponsorship from Artemide, Cassina, DePadova, Kartell, Oluce and Schiffini – all brands that benefited greatly from the design brilliance of Magistretti, the documentary made by 3D productions and edited by Valeria Parisi and Matteo Moneta, talks to friends and business associates of Magistretti covering both his professional career and personal life. With names like Antonio Verderi, the CEO of Oluce and major architects and designers such as Norman Foster, Alessandro Mendini, Mario Bellini, Michele De Lucchi, Fulvio Irace, Konstantin Grcic and Patricia Urquiola all being interviewed, the film is bound to present some unique insights to Magistretti’s life and design process. Here's hoping that this film will become available to a global audience through other Sky channels in the near future.
Although universally known as Vico, this was a shortening of Ludovico. Born in Milan in 1920, Magistretti joined his father's architecture practice in 1945 after studying at the famous Milan Polytechnic. Although he practised architecture throughout his career, completing his last building in 2005, Magistretti was always interested in industrial design and created his first furniture and lighting products in 1946 (the 'Claritas' lamp was one of these early products and is still in production today - see below).
Magistretti was not a flamboyant architect preferring to find beautifully simple solutions to technical problems. Buildings such as the Torre al Parco Sempione in central Milan from 1956 showed Magistretti's ability to work with new technologies and was an influential design for future high rise apartment living. By the late 50's however Magistretti had shifted much of his focus to product design, working extremely closely with Artemide and Cassina initially, and later developing special relationships with Oluce, Schiffini and DePadova.
Magistretti worked from his studio in Via Conservatorio in central Milan from 1946 until his death in 2006. Since 2010 it has been preserved and is open to the public as the Fondazione Vico Magistretti. The foundation holds 30,000 of Magistretti's sketches and technical drawings and some 7000 photographs with a large number of these available to view online. The foundation presents exhibitions around the life and work of Magistretti and has several interactive walls through which it is possible to view photos, technical drawings and architectural plans of selected Magistretti projects.
Perhaps one of the most technically challenging industrial designs achieved by Magistretti was the 'Selene' chair designed for Artemide in 1969. The object was to create a single-piece compression moulded plastic chair that was not as overtly modern as Helmut Bätzner's 'Bowfinger' chair from 1966. Like the 'Bowfinger', Magistretti's 'Selene' was made from fibreglass reinforced polyester but managed to retain a more conventional chair form with four straight legs.
The inherent weakness of the legs in this type of one-piece moulded chair was resolved by Magistretti with a beautifully lyrical 'S' shaped leg detail. The chair was joined by a lounge height variant called the 'Gaudi' a year later. Both designs are now produced by Heller.
"The details emerge while I am designing, they are functional to the overall creation"
"Look at usual things with unusual eyes, meaning: look at ordinary everyday things in a different way, studying them more carefully because there is always something behind them. You should not look at the most ordinary things such as a tram ticket or bicycle pedal, with disregard, you must try and understand what lies behind them".
For more information on Vico Magistretti's work or on the opening times of Fondazione Vico Magistretti, click here.
The address of the foundation is Via Vincenzo Bellini 1, Milan.