Vico Magistretti's unusual vision

June 30, 2023

Vico Magistretti's unusual vision

Italian architect and designer Vico Magistretti, trained at Milan Politecnico, designed several famous buildings, furniture and lamps. Known for his masterful handling of form, material, and techniques, Magistretti's iconic designs, such as the Carimate and Vicario chairs, remain as current today as when they were launched more than fifty years ago.

Vico Magistretti (1920–2006) was an Italian architect and designer trained at the Milan Politecnico in the 1940s. Initially, Magistretti worked with urban architecture and designed several famous buildings during his long and active career.

During the 1950s, Magistretti began working with furniture and lamps with great success. Artemide, Flos, Cassina, Kartell, and DePadova are some of the Italian companies manufacturing Magistretti's designs. But he was also inspired by Scandinavian furniture culture and collaborated on some projects with the Danish company Fritz Hansen.

Magistretti´s first great design success came with the Carimate chair, produced by Cassina. The chair was a bestseller for years and mixed rural simplicity with urban sophistication. In 2021 the Carimate chair was relaunched by the Danish company Fritz Hansen.

Vico Magistretti's Vicario Chair made in 1970.

The idea of producing a plastic chair molded in one piece engaged many furniture designers in the late 1960s. Plastic was the new modern material and the so-called mono-block technique made the idea possible. But the tooling costs were then as of now very high. Only companies with good financial resources had the opportunity to invest in a new, exciting technology. Together with Artemide, Magistretti developed the simple Vicario chair in 1970. The chair was made to work both outdoors and indoors. It is light, stackable, and self-draining in rain. Vicario is an example of Magistretti's masterful handling of form, material, and techniques. It feels undated, as current today as when it was launched more than fifty years ago.

In 1981 the group Memphis Milano shocked the design world with its debut show. The same year the company Cassina launched the Sinbad lounge chair, designed by Magistretti. Sinbad also received a lot of attention internationally, but the most revolved around Memphis' breakthrough. Unlike many other designers, Magistretti was completely cold-hearted about the postmodern style. He claimed;

”Design and fashion are two different things. Certain furniture, such as postmodern, has nothing to do with what I consider to be design and therefore it doesn´t interests me. In my opinion, this furniture offers no possibility for development what so ever. It is only a variant of fashion.”

In 2020 the Italian Culture Institute in Stockholm honored Magistretti, who would have turned 100, with an exhibition (read more about the event). The Museum of Furniture Studies contributed some objects to the show and the museum founders Kersti Sandin and Lars Bülow expressed their admiration for Magistretti with the words;

“To us, the furniture design of Vico Magistretti reveals an outstanding combination of thorough studies of functional needs, material possibilities, technical challenges, and not least artistic integrity. He looked at usual things with an unusual eye… That is what made him one of the most important designers of the 2000th century.”
Designer of the month
Hans J. Wegner

Danish furniture designer Hans J. Wegner created over 500 pieces of furniture and was instrumental in the spread of Scandinavian design as an international concept. the Peacock Chair and the Ox Chair are two of Wegner’s most well-known pieces.

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