Vico Magistretti, Milanese Architect

At the Triennale in Milan an interesting retrospective on Vico Magistretti is currently underway. Organized in the occasion of the centenary of his birth, the exhibition gathers the whole production of the Milanese intellectual who trained between Switzerland and Milan and begun to operate after the World Warr II together with some of the big names of the time, from Ernest Nathan Roger to Piero Portaluppi. Magistretti strongly changed the face of the city during the post-war reconstruction and at the same time he devoted himself also to design drawing, creating some pieces that today are in the common imagination: always in the name of simplicity and refinement.

The choice of the Triennale for this retrospective is strategic: in this place the architect realized his first studies and works, and after the exhibition we can go for a walk in the neighborhood and look with a new eye at some of the buildings designed by Magistretti, gaining awareness of the frame in which we find ourselves.

In the exhibition, curated by Gabriele Neri, the path of “Vico” – born Ludovico – is told from the origins of his family, that was part of the Milanese Bourgeoisie and in the business of architecture for generations; it is in the father’s study that the young fresh graduate begun to work. This is the first of the thematic sections in which the exhibition course is structured; each one focuses on a precise theme adding a piece to the panoramic presentation of his personal and training course and his large production ranging from architecture projects, design, staging and urban design, everything is punctuated by the international competitions and prizes. The job career of Magistretti is told in a various and interesting way, with photos, sketches, projects, models and prototypes. The actuality of some of the projects exhibited is immediately caught by the visitor, who finally discovers a figure unfortunately still little known.

In addition to the large number of exhibited objects, noteworthy is the exhibition methods adopted. We notice immediately that red is the dominant color as display cases, supports, tables and shelves are all characterized by this color, which is also present in some of the sketches of the architect, and in many of the iconic photos hanging on the wall of the exhibition space, where Magistretti is portrayed in his unforgettable red socks. Red is a color that unites modernity and tradition: the disruptive chromatic effect of the avant-garde and the solid brick-red that characterizes the old city of Milan.

Considering the display elements that make up the space, the visitor recognizes some traditional home furnishings normally present in our houses, but with a substantial difference that unveils a trait which could go unnoticed at first glance: everything is out of range. The big central table, where display cases and objects are displayed, is so large that it resembles a stage or a podium; the shelves leaning along the three walls of the central room has the function of a normal library, just that we find prototypes and models on it; the lamps hanging on the tables refer to a masterpiece of Italian design by Vico: Atollo, the famous table lamp that won the Compasso d’oro prize in 1979.

The domestic atmosphere is emphasized by the choice of home furnishing, distorted in their function, as exhibitor objects: a great kitchen hood over the entrance does not aspire but becomes a diffuser for some records of the voice of Vico Magistretti making considerations and reflecting on design and how it derives from necessity and is part of our everyday life.

Paradoxically the only furnishings that could have a “normal” function are the object exposed, that become a sort of artistic installation; we find open sofas, bending beds and a whole wall dedied to the Eclisse lamp, probably the most famous designed by Magistretti and winner of the Compasso d’oro prize in 1965: a red series of these lamps is proposed on a shelve and each piece is placed in a “phase” of the characteristic movement of the lampshade. The result is a series of photograms that crystallize the image of the design piece in a precise instant, and the effect reminds to the photographic series of the end of the XIX century.

Hence the exhibition itself works as a collection of single moments in the time and everyday life of Vico’s timeless teaching, from which we still have a lot to learn. In this way we can observe a moment in its creation and truly recognize its value and impact in our lives as the design object is placed in the real world and enters our homes; Magistretti always claimed that design should be as such: dropped into everyday life.

The exhibition will be open untill 12 September 2021

Tuesday – Sunday, from 11.00 to 22.00

Full ticket 9,00€

Reduced ticket 7,50€

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