Designer's Special #5

Gae Aulenti

Gae Aulenti (1927 – 2012) is one of the most representative authors of the 20th century Italian style and creativity. One of the few women designing in the postwar period in Italy, Aulenti's research and work are rife with multidisciplinarity, encompassing four different creative areas: architecture, industrial design, set design and museography.

Aulenti's involvement in the Milan scene of the 1950s and 1960s formed her into an architect respected for her abilities to navigate the intrinsic complexity of the urban environment, integrating architecture and preexisting metropolitan context, rejecting any form of rationalism.

Gae Aulenti's interior and industrial design creations and researches still embody nowadays the highest synthesis of originality, creativity and prestige. The development of her concepts can be followed in the renowned design magazine Casabella, to which she has been contributing regularly for almost a decade (1955-65). An important milestone for the growth of Aulenti's design production is represented by the collaboration with the Italian company FontanaArte, society co-founded by the likewise well-known architect and designer Giò Ponti.
The distinguishing aspect of her production can be found in the tight connection between design and architecture, between the object and its place; expressing this point of view with Aulenti's words: “Any object man owns […] cannot elude its relationship with the city, the place representing human condition”.

Furthermore, an additional distinctive trait of her design production is the peculiar relationship with functionality: Aulenti taught us pretty well that “being functional” can be a starting point and not just a purpose; as she claims: “If I now look at the lamps I made, I never see them as machines for producing light. They are forms, suggested by the work that I was doing in that moment for a particular space. […] The functional element is there because there must be a wire, a plug and a bulb, and the current has to flow through them”. A very meaningful example in this sense is the Pipistrello lamp, originally not created as product for the market, but designed as shapes intended to highlight the space of the Olivetti showroom in Paris, underlining her characteristic approach that – even in the design of such small objects – never gives up the comparison with the surrounding environment.

The same importance of the context may be found in the Pileino lamp design: very minimalist, with several variants in plastic or metal, its mobile structure allows the creation of different light effects on the walls.


ORIGINAL IN BERLIN offers the following design pieces of Gae Aulenti:

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Pileino Lamp by Gae Aulenti Ed. Artemide, 1972

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Rare early Pair of Gae Aulenti "Pipistrello" Telescopic Lamps, circa 1966

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Rare Pair of Marble Coffee or Sofa Tables by Gae Aulenti for Knoll, Italy, 1970s

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Set of Six White Gae Aulenti 54A Arm Chairs in Leather for Knoll, 1975