From one-off pieces to serial production
The combination of architectural project and design object
Magistretti's entire career revolved around a key theme often neglected by critics: the combination of architectural project and design object which he considered were the result of the same creative process. He had absorbed this idea at the Politecnico di Milano which at the time taught students that the two disciplines went hand-in-hand.
The buildings in many of his projects are embellished with precious, artisanal prototypes which once they were proved to be functional were transformed into pieces produced in series and often into timeless best sellers of Made in Italy products.
The Club House of the Golf Club Carimate is an emblematic example of this process; Magistretti's focus on local history inspired him to not only design the building like one of the urban villas in the Brianza region (Vico Magistretti "Palladio in Brianza" path) - Casa Schubert at Ello, for example, or Casa Muggia at Barzana - but also to reinterpret the tradition of the anonymous rush chair which became the protagonist of the interior design of the Club's restaurant (The restaurant of the Golf Club Carimate; old photograph) and marked the birth of the Carimate chair. After the folding Piccy chair designed in 1946 for the RIMA exhibition, the Carimate chair is considered one of the first objects created by Magistretti as a designer and initially produced by the brothers Mario and Luigi Comi in Meda. The brothers also produced the first series distributed as a Studio Artemide edition, while in 1962 Cassina won the licence to produce and sell the chair throughout Europe (in Italy and Great Britain Artemide and Comi).
Cassina transformed Carimate into a system': the 892 version (with a sofa) was produced in 1963 - including the option with a rubber seat - as was the 115 version either without armrests or as a stool. In 1964 his studies on the lathed cylindrical support and back appears to have directly inspired the 913 bunk bed that evolved into the 930 chair and the 772 table. In 1966 the 927 model was a redesigned edition of the initial chair. Casa Cassina at Carimate exemplifies the relationship between the designer and the client-producer. Magistretti recalls that «almost all the furniture involves new or experimental pieces, produced by Cassina and based on my design» (Casa Cassina project profile by Vico Magistretti): the house of the company's owner was used to test the market launch of their furniture ("Vico Magistretti una casa sul colle", in Domus, 1966). Apart from the Artemide lamps (Cirene, Omega), the Samarcanda dresser for Poggi, and the Caori table for Gavina, the villa also had other pieces of furniture produced by Cassina, for example the 930 chair and the 781 walnut dining table model with its 122 chair (Cassina catalogue, 1967).
Magistretti as an architect and designer
Other pieces of furniture in other rooms were later inserted in the catalogue; they exemplify Magistretti’s dual authorial expertise as an architect and designer.
For example the Gavazzi apartment with the T8 side tables and Amaja table, both produced by Azucena; he studied a special levelling system for the Amaja table, later produced by Gavina (Gavazzi apartment project profile by Vico Magistretti). The house also had a bookcase (never produced) that exploited a newly patented system ("In una vecchia casa, a Milano" in Domus, 1959). In the Torre al Parco project Magistretti worked for Olivari with whom, over the years, he was to design several handles, e.g., the brass handle called Torre al Parco, later produced by the company and now deleted from the catalogue. All these types were “verified” inside a domestic environment, e.g., the kitchen in Casa Muggia ("Una casa raccontata" in Abitare, 1976), with the Timo kitchen cabinets and Campiglia table, inserted that same year in the Schiffini catalogue together with several wooden chairs. Finally, the Siloe sofa bed in the Siloe residence, designed for the Tisettanta company.
Rosa Chiesa, Maria Manuela Leoni, Ali Filippini