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Vico Magistretti (1920-2006)
For over 50 years, Vico Magistretti represented the rational face of post-war design, seeking timeless solutions to technical and formal problems. Based his whole life in Milan, he consistently produced designs that are as startling, spontaneous and original as they are logical and elegant. After studying at Polytechnic University of Milan, Magistretti worked as an architect in his father’s company and began his career as a designer by creating low-cost furniture for the inexpensive apartments built to house the homeless during World War II.
Magistretti designs were simple, portable and practical – qualities that were to appear again and again in his work during the 1950s. In 1959, he was commissioned to design furnishings for the Golf Club Carimate clubhouse. The chair designed for Cassina as part of this project changed the course of his career. The Carimate chair was soon a familiar sight in restaurants and cafés throughout Italy and the rest of Europe.
From the early 1960s on, Magistretti devoted his talents to furniture and lighting design for companies including Cassina, Artemide and Oluce. His furniture was comfortable and informal, colorful and playful. As with the work of Marco Zanuso and Joe Colombo, Magistretti’s experiments with plastic changed consumers’ perception of the material. Once dismissed as cheap and flimsy, it became thought of as stylish and sophisticated. The Selene chair (1969) was a simple design in sturdy ABS plastic with an S-shaped curve in the leg that strengthened its structure. It was produced by Artemide in bold, bright colors and rapidly enjoyed international success.
Magistretti was, above all, a designer of great integrity and humanity. His elegant design solutions were always realized in the light of technological, economic and other practical concerns. Throughout his career, he was an ambassador for design that does not perpetuate the “throwaway” consumer culture.