Franco Albini’s design work encompassed a wide variety of disciplines, including furniture, interior, and product design, architecture, planning, and museum design.
He graduated in architecture from Milan Polytechnic in 1929, setting up his own practise in the following year. Although he had gained experience working with architect, designer and writer Gio Ponti, in the 1930s, Italy became associated with the Rationalist movement, a modernising outlook that often informed the clean, articulate forms of its products and buildings.
He was known for experimenting with radical solutions, such as his 1938 radio design, which featured a loudspeaker sandwiched between two glass sheets and a 1940 experimental shelving device. From the 1930s onwards, he took part in the Milan Triennali, which acted as exhibits for revolutionary Italian architecture, exhibiting furniture at the IV Triennale and designing interiors for the VI Triennale in 1936. He won a Gold Medal for the Margherita cane armchair for La Rinascente’s garden terrace show at the IX Milan Triennale in 1951, even though it was not representative of his overall work.
Summary of Work
He was commissioned to design furniture, appliances, and lighting for several other companies from the 1930s to the 1960s, including Poggi. He worked closely from 1950 to 1968. Poggi’s knockdown table from 1951, the Luisa armchair (awarded a Compasso d’Oro in 1955), and the PS16 rocking chair from 1956 were among his designs. The Fiorenza chair (1952–5) was one of his prototypes for Arflex; he also worked for Bonacina, Knoll, and Fontana Arte.
From 1952, he collaborated on several important projects with architect Franca Helg, including the Rinascente department store in Rome (1957–61) and the Milan subway stations and signage (1962–9). He taught at the University Institute of Architecture in Venice from 1949 to 1964 and Milan Polytechnic. He was co-editor of the fashion periodical Casabella for a year after WWII. He was a member of the Associazione per il Disegno Industriale (See ADI) and CIAM. He received several prizes, including the Olivetti Architectural Prize in 1958. He played a significant role in Italian debates about architecture, planning, design, and museology.
Woodham, J. M. (2006). A dictionary of modern design. Oxford University Press.
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