Published  07/12/2006

Magisterial Vico

The passing of the Italian industrialist Vico Magistretti in mid-September at the age of 85 shocked his many peers, colleagues, friends and former students. Magistretti, proud to designate himself as a designer rather than an architect, was actually the son of an architect and grew up in a totally design-oriented background in Milan. In fact, he seemed to be the quintessential stylish but serious Milanese. He was much influenced by the architect Ernesto Rogers early on, and by his humanist ideals. Magistretti turned early, too, to the world of industrial mass-design in furniture. His 1960 Carimate chair, which had its best livery in red, was the choice of many of the best restaurants, not least in London. He managed to combine a civilised urbanity with a trace of vernacular simplicity. Magistretti was as much self-taught in industrial design as by colleagues, and it showed in terms of originality. His architectural work was equally successful in Milan especially, but has been somewhat overlooked internationally. He also taught for 20 years at London's Royal College of Art. Twelve Magistretti projects are now housed in the permanent design collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. He first worked with the esteemed furniture maker Cassina in the early 1960s and collaborated with them for over three decades, developing many experimental concept prototypes later to be successfully put into serial production.

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