Marco Zanuso

ITALY (1916–2001)

One of the elder statesmen of modern design, Marco Zanuso contributed to the Italian design movement in the years following World War II. Trained in architecture at the Politecnico di Milano (1935–39), he opened his own design office in 1945, and his work was marked by rigor and originality during a long, illustrious career.

Zanuso was professor of architecture, design and town planning at the Politecnico di Milano from 1945 to 1986, played a role in founding ADI (Associazione per il Disegno Industriale) in 1954 and helped to organize the first postwar Milan Triennial. He served as editor first of Domus from 1947–1949, and then of Casabella, from 1952–1956.

Zanuso’s early experiments with bent metal brought him recognition at the International Competition for the Design of Low-Cost Furniture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1948. Further exploration of materials yielded sleek designs in plastic and upholstered furniture. Witness, for example, his breakthrough designs for Arflex, a division of Pirelli. In 1948, the company commissioned Zanuso to design its first furniture models using foam-rubber upholstery. Zanuso’s Antropus Chair was released in 1949, followed by the elegant Lady Armchair, which took First Prize at the 1951 Milan Triennial. The chair offered not only comfort and sensual contours, but also a previously unimaginable potential for efficiency in production.

During the 1960s, Zanuso enjoyed a long and fruitful collaboration with widely respected German designer Richard Sapper. One of their first projects was a children’s stacking chair for Kartell. Light, functional and manufactured in playful colors, the simple chair was among the European designs that began to transform the perception of plastic from a cheap material to an appropriate, even classy, material for the modern home.

Zanuso and Sapper also earned their place in design history as consultants to Brionvega, developing products that have since become icons of modern industrial design. The Doney 14 (1962) was the first completely transistorized Italian television, while the LS502 (1964) was a battery-powered portable radio that folded into a neat box. The Doney television won the prestigious Compasso d’Oro prize in 1962. Continuing their creative partnership through the 1960s and ’70s, Zanuso and Sapper also designed the characteristically minimal Grillo folding telephone for Siemens (1965), as well as highly styled household products for Necchi.

Alongside his contemporaries and countrymen, Mario Bellini, Joe Colombo and Ettore Sottsass, Zanuso was one of the great Italian designers of the 20th century.

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