Grillo folding telephone in blue by marco Zanuso
Grillo folding telephone in blue by marco Zanuso

Marco Zanuso Sr (1916 – 2001) was an Italian architect and designer. He was born in Milan. He was considered one of the leading interpreters of the Modern Movement. Zanuso was one of the first designers in Italy to become interested in the difficulties of product industrialisation, incorporating technological, industrial, distribution, and communication elements in addition to aesthetic concerns. The form of an object designed for serial replication, according to Zanuso, is an amalgam of opportunities, experimentation, and invention in the concrete process that combines creativity, manufacturing, and the social and cultural milieu. โ€œThrough my projects I want to give form to what I call complexityโ€, Marco Zanuso.

“Through my projects I want to give form to what I call complexity”

Marco Zanuso


He studied architecture at the Politecnico di Milano, to 1939. After World War II, he practised as a member of the Italian Modern movement. 


From 1945-86, was a professor of architecture, design, and town planning, Politecnico di Milano. 

From 1949, was professor, Instituto di Tecnologia della Facolta di Architettura del Politecnico di Milano, where he became director in 1970. 

He set up his own design office in Milan in 1945. 

He was an editor of the architecture and design journals Domus and Casabella. 

In the early 1950s, began designing furniture in bent metal tubing, organized theoretical debates, and created several Triennali di Milano. 

Lady Chair, 1951 by Marco Zanuso

His chair design for the 1948 low-cost furniture competition sponsored by the New York Museum of Modem Art included a new joining mechanism for the 

fabric seat to be suspended from the tubular steel frame. 

He designed the 1956-58 Olivetti factory and offices in Sao Paulo with honeycomb cells covered with a thin shell vault roof. 

Achievements | Works

  • His 1951 Lady armchair for Arflex featured the innovative application of foam-rubber upholstery.
  •  1962 Lambda chair, sheet-metal construction.
  •  1964 child’s stacking chair, the first use of polyethylene in a piece of furniture. 
  • 1955 sofabed for Arflex incorporated an innovative mechanism for converting sofa to bed. 
  • 1958-77, he and Richard Sapper designed numerous works that subsequently became cult objects, including scales and timer for Terraillon in the early 1970s, 
  • 1964 IS 502, 1962 Doney 14 and 1969 Black 201 TV sets by Brionvega, 
  • 1966 Grillo folding telephone by Siemens. Working for Brionvega from 1962, their work was noted for elegant visual solutions. 
  • 1956-58, he was a member of the CIAM (Congres Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne) 
  • Member of the Instituto Nazionale Urbanistica; 
  • In 1956, a founder of ADI (Asociazione per il Disegno Industriale) and Premio Compasso d Oro
  • He has served on international juries. 
  • He was the guiding force behind the Triennale di Milano formation and of Milan’s urban planning program. 
  • For Ettore Sottsass, he designed the 1987 Cleopatra and Antonio side tables for Memphis, Milan.
  • 1989 I Buoni Sentimenti table was produced by Galerie Neotu, Paris. 
  • Other designs included the 1983 Caraffa teapot by Cleta Munan, 
  • 1985 Due Z hardware fittings by Fusital. 
  • 1986 Lavena table by Zanotta. 
  • Projects from the late 1980s included the restoration of the Fossati theatre and corso del Piccolo Teatro in Milan. 
Doney 104 Television Set, 1962 designed by Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper

Exhibitions | Recognition

  • Chair shown at the 1948 ‘International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design’ exhibition, New York Museum of Modern Art. 
  • Sewing machine for Borletti shown at 1957 (XI) Triennale. 
  • Lady armchair, Grillo telephone, and Doney 14 and Black 201 TV sets shown at 1983-84 ‘Design Since 1945’ exhibition, Philadelphia Museum of Art. 
  • Received grand prizes and two gold medals at 1948 (VIII) 
  • Grand prize and two gold medals at 1951 (IX), 
  • Grand prize and a gold medal at 1954 (X), 
  • Gold medal at 1957 (XI), a silver medal at 1960 (XII), and a gold medal at 1964 (XIII) Triennali di Milano.
  • 1953, 1956 (Borletti sewing machine), 
  • 1962 (Doney 14 TV set), 1964, and 1967 Compasso d’Oro; gold seal prize (Lambda chair) at 1965 ‘Mostra La casa abitata,’ Florence; 
  • Interplas prize (Kartell chair); 
  • Gold medal (Necchi knife sharpener), 
  • 1966 ‘BIO 2’ Industrial Design Biennial, Ljubljana: 1966 gold medal, Italian Ministry of Trade and Industry; 
  • 1971 SAIE prize and 1972 Bolaffi prize. 

Additional Works

Hastil Fountain Pen, 1969 designed by Marco Zanuso
The Planimetrie, a hand knitted wool carpet designed by Marco Zanuso (1987)
The Zagara series of sanitary fixtures offered a new shape. The sink, toilet and bidet were designed in 1986 by Marco Zanuso for Ceramica Dolomite
Bathroom Scale (T111A) designed by Marco Zanuso
Children’s Chairs (model K4999) designed by Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper
Kitchen Scale (model BA 2000) designed by Marco Zanuso


Albera, G., & Monti, N. (1989). Italian modern: a design heritage. Rizzoli.

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

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