Gae Aulenti


Remembering Gae Aulenti is the equivalent of remembering some of the most important stages in Zanotta’s history from the early 1960s onwards. The amazing Fly Center in Milan comes to mind, designed by Aulenti and inaugurated in 1966, a unique "designer shopping center" with the participation of designers such as the Castiglioni brothers (who showed their first pieces designed for Zanotta there), and brands such as Krizia (for the shop assistants’ uniforms) and Unimark (corporate identity).

Aulenti was also the courageous creator of one of the most visionary stands in the famous "Italy: The New Domestic Landscape" exhibition at the MoMA in New York in 1972, where Zanotta participated in collaboration with her. Thanks to that memorable exhibition, Zanotta stood out, at a global level, as one of the companies with the greatest ability for applied research in design. In those same years, Gae Aulenti designed her first important pieces for the company: some – such as the Solus chair (first produced for Zanotta, 1964, followed by a complete outdoor collection), the Festo series of tables, the Gaetano trestle table and the folding Tripolina chair – aren’t in production anymore. But others – like the folding April chair – are still in the catalogue together with the Appia console table and the Sanmarco table designed in 1984 (produced in an outdoor version in 2008).

Aulenti’s design work revealed a strong architectural predisposition and extraordinary intuition, like the creation of highly industrialized, functional furniture, with monomaterial frames (extrusions in aluminum alloy or curved metal tubing), which made her one of the first great protagonists of Hi-tech which was to have such success in later years. «Our generation of designers began in the architectural studios which is very different from many creators or interior designers today: it was therefore easier for us to understand space, even when designing objects, stands, utilities. Maybe it’s also the reason why our pieces of furniture and objects have lasted over time» affirmed Gae Aulenti at an encounter with Zanotta in March 2009. «As designers we’ve had, above all from the 50s to the 80s, the good fortune to work in collaboration with companies (and Zanotta is one of these) I define as "heroes", not only industrial ones but also cultural ones. They were able to transform entire regions, enriching them in many ways not only economically. They worked with the best artisans and manufacturers to obtain the highest quality, they knew how to work at their designers’ side in an unremitting exploration of technology, materials and processes. They were one of the great turbines of our cities».   

(note: the products Solus, Festo, Gaetano, Tripolina, Appia mentioned in this article have been discontinued)