Victor Magistretti featured image
Victor Magistretti featured image

Vico Magistretti (1920-2006) was an Italian architect, furniture designer, and interior decorator.

Education

In 1945, Magistretti received his architecture degree from Milan University and began working in his father’s practice. 

Biography

He began designing furniture in the 1960s and has since collaborated with various manufacturers, including Knoll International and Cassina. His work can be found in the permanent design collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The Selene all-plastic chair, produced by Artemide in 1968, the Maralunga sofa (Cassina, 1973), and the Villabianca chairs are among Magistretti’s notable designs (Cassina, 1985). He received the Compasso d’Oro in 1967 and 1979, a gold medal at the 9th Milan Triennale, and the International Jury’s first prize at the Cologne Furniture Fair in 1982. Some of his work, such as the 1986 Cardigan sofa, has been criticised as boring. Others see it as a measured attempt to serve the domestic landscape rather than bawling egotistically in it.

Magistretti’s early classics, such as the Modello 115 chair (Cassina 1964), harken back to 19th-century Italian vernacular design. The red-painted wooden frame of the Modello 115 is complemented by rush seating. It exemplifies how, despite its reputation for radicalism, postwar Italian design emphasises continuity with tradition rather than rupture with the past.

Recognition

  • From 1948 to 1954, he competed in almost all of the Triennali di Milano, winning first prize in 1948 (VIII) and 1954 (X) and a gold medal in 1951 (IX).
  • He was awarded the Comune di Milano’s silver medal in 1957 and the Vis prise in 1950.
  • Premio Compasso d’Oro in 1967 (Eclisse table lamp), 1973 (Maralunga chair), 1977 (Atollo lamp), and 1979 (Gaudi chair); 
  • Gold medal, Society of Industrial Artists and Designers, 1986.
  • In 1983, he was made an honorary member of the Royal College of Art in London and the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland.

Exhibitions

His work has been included in the following exhibitions:

  • 1972 ‘Milano 70/70: Un secolo d’arte’ exhibition at the Museo Poldi Pezzoli in Milan, 
  • 1972 ‘Design a Plastické Hmoty’ exhibition at the Uméleckoprimyslove Muzeum in Prague, 
  • 1979 ‘Design Process Olivetti: 1908—1978 exhibition at the Frederick S. Wight Art Gallery in Los Angeles, 
  • 1984 ‘Design Since 1945’ exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and 
  • 1991 ‘Mobili Italiani 1961-1991: Le Varie Eta dei linguaggi’ exhibition in Milan.

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The Design Encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Dormer, P. (1999). The illustrated dictionary of twentieth century designers: the key personalities in design and the applied arts. Greenwich Ed.

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