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Patroclo table lamp Artemide Italy 1975 by Gae Aulenti
Patroclo table lamp Artemide Italy 1975 by Gae Aulenti

Gae Aulenti (1927-2012) was an influential Italian architect who worked in various fields, including industrial and exhibition design, furniture, graphics, stage design, lighting, and interior design.

Early Life and Education

Gaetana Aulenti (Gae, as she was known, is pronounced similarly to “guy”) was born in Palazzolo dello Stella (Friuli) and studied architecture at the Milan School of Architecture of the Polytechnic University, graduating in 1954 as one of two women in a class of 20.

She grew up reading books and playing the piano. She told The New York Times that she chose architecture over becoming “a nice society girl,” despite her parents’ wishes. She quickly joined the staff of Casabella, a design journal, where she joined her contemporaries in rejecting the architecture of masters such as Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and Walter Gropius. They coined the term “Neo Liberty” to describe a movement that supported traditional construction methods combined with individual artistic expression.


From 1955 until 1961, she was a member of the Movimento Studi per |’Architettura (MSA) (Movement for Architectural Studies).

She was a member of Casabella-editing continuita’s department from 1955 until 1965 when she was a member of the Emesto N. Rogers architecture group. She joined the ADI (Associazione per il Disegno Industriale) in 1960 and served as vice president in 1966. She was a professor at Politecnico di Milano from 1964 until 1969. In the late 1950s, she became a proponent of the contentious Neo-Liberty style, as evidenced by her 1961 Poltronova Sgarsul bentwood rocking chair. She worked as a lighting designer for Francesconi, Martinelli, Candle, Artemide, Kartell, and Stilnovo starting in 1964. Olivetti in Paris in 1967 and Buenos Aires in 1968, Knoll in Boston in 1968 and New York in 1970, and Fiat in Turin, Brussels, and Zurich in 1970—71 all had showrooms designed by her.

Aulenti began her career as an architect and designer in 1965. Since 1974, she has been a member of Lotus International’s executive committee. She was a member of the editorial boards of numerous of the company’s architectural publications. Her architecture and industrial design business were in Milan. She worked with theatre director Luca Ronconi for his Laboratorio de Luca Ronconi in Prato (Italy) on stage designs for operas such as L’Anitra Selvatica in Genoa and Wozzeck at La Scala in Milan, beginning in 1975. She worked on research with members of Prato’s Laboratorio di Progettazione Teatrale from 1976 to 1979. She was hired to design the architectural interiors of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris in 1980. She worked on a project for the Centre Georges Pompidou’s Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris.


Martinelli Luce’s Pipistrello telescoping table lamp, Knoll’s Jumbo coffee table, Zanotta’s Faretti lighting line, and others were her designs. Knoll’s 1975 furniture series, Artemide’s 1975 Alcindo and Patroclo table lamps, Cleto Munari’s 1980 coffee service, Fontana Arte’s 1980 Tavolo with ruote table, Zanotta’s Cardine sawhorse table, 1983 Zanotta’s Appia table series (706), Fusital hardware-fittings (1985), and Maxalto’s 0086 sofa (1986).


Aulenti worked in Italy during the postwar period, doing works influenced by a wide range of styles and influences. She believed that the occupants are what made a room a room. Thus she always wanted the attention of the room to be on them. Vogue described her as stating, “She had a modest style.” “If somebody asks me how to design a home, I tell them to have nothing but a few shelves for books and a few pillows to sit on. Then it’s time to stand up to the fleeting, to reject transient fads, and to reconnect to lasting ideals.”


  • At the 1964 Milan Triennial, Aulenti won the Grand International Prize for her piece in the Italian Pavilion. Her piece was a room with mirrored walls with cutout silhouettes of women inspired by Picasso. It was entitled “Arrivo al Mare”. She also served on the Executive Board for the Triennial from 1977- 1980. In 1991, she was awarded the prestigious Praemium Imperiale.
  • Ubi Prize for Stage Design, Milan, 1980
  • Architecture Medal, Academie d’ Architecture, Paris, 1983 
  • Josef Hoffmann Prize, Hochschule fur Angewandte Kunst, Vienna, 1984 
  • Chevalier de la Legion d’ Honneur, France, 1987[5]
  • Commandeur, Order des Artes et Letters, France, 1987
  • Honorary Dean of Architecture, Merchandise Mart of Chicago, 1988
  • Accademico Nazionale, Accademia di San Luca, Rome, 1988


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

Wikipedia contributors. (2021, September 6). Gae Aulenti. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 05:38, September 18, 2021, from

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