Gae's seal


Architect, designer and stage designer, she was one of the first Italian women to be acclaimed by the international scene of key projects.
Gae Aulenti (1927-2012) graduated at the Milan Polytechnic, where she worked on Casabella magazine with Ernesto Rogers for 10 years. Since 1956 she has focused on architectural design, interior and industrial design, stage fittings and teaching (at the School of Architecture in Venice and Milan). Renovation works at the Musée d’Orsay and Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, were followed by the refurbishing process of Palazzo Grassi in Venice, and the organisation of several wide ranging exhibitions. In 2005 she founded Gae Aulenti Architetti Associati. Her recent works are: “Spazio Oberdan” and Piazzale Cadorna in Milan; renovations of the former Papal stables at the Quirinale in Rome; two underground stations and the squares Cavour and Dante in Naples; the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco; Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya in Barcelona; and in Tokyo the chancellery of the Italian Embassy and the Italian Cultural Institute of Tokyo.
She has designed several items for Zanotta, whose catalogue still presents: the chair April and the tables Sanmarco.

D. From designing homes and showrooms to architecture, industrial fittings and design. Which of these activities pleased you most? 
R. The convergence of commitments and research. Our generation of designers started by working for architectural firms, unlike many current designers and stage designers, therefore we found it easier to understand space even in view of designing objects, fittings and functions. This could be why these items of furniture and objects have stood the test of time. As designers we were fortunate to work in close contact with manufacturers (Zanotta is one of these), whom I call “heroes”, both industrial and cultural. They have enabled entire regions to flourish by enriching the economic fabric and other aspects too. They got together with the best craftsmen and factory hands to obtain excellent quality. They have artfully cooperated with designers on ongoing research for technology, materials and processes. They were a driving force in our leading cities, like Milan, Turin and others.

D. Since the ’60s you have collaborated as designer with leading companies, such as Zanotta. Which of your products are you most fond of, and why? 
R. I would say the chair April. It was one of the first elegant folding chairs for indoor and outdoor use. As a matter of fact, I’ve been thinking of April for a design exhibition that will be dedicated to me by the Centre Pompidou in the near future. I like to feel that I am telling the story of a product from the complex designing phase, to the production process, catalogue presentation and the ultimate versions launched by Zanotta to ensure its topicality.

D. Observation of the territory and recovery of certain signs has led to the creation of new proposals. Does the same principle apply to interior decor designing too? 
R. I have designed objects starting from the specific requirements of certain spaces. I needed a precise type of lamp or furniture item that could not be found on the market; hence, I designed it, and it remained in production. The framework is essential and so is the idea of continuity and duration. Many designers make the mistake of seeking “épater le bourgeois” at all costs, pursuing something new that does not always stand for progress.

D. Addressing young designers, what are the criteria they should apply when designing elements for modern living? 
R. Training as a designer, a deep curiosity for art, keen observation of constructed spaces and their surroundings, and scrupulous investigation.   

(interview with Gae Aulenti for the online magazine Zanotta Happenings, 2009)