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Italian Design Icons: Vico Magistretti

One of the highlights of my visit to Milan for the Design Week was the opportunity to visit the studio of legendary Italian designer Vico Magistretti.

Since he passed away, his studio has been kept almost exactly as he left it.  Original prototypes made from objects found in his studio sit alongside many sketches and development ideas.  There is also a small collection of his work including the ‘Selene’ chair, and a couple of my favourite lighting pieces.

These are 
Magistretti’s ‘Eclisse’ lamps:

The Eclisse Lamp
The Eclisse Lamp

And this is 
Magistretti’s ‘O Luce’:


Here is 
Magistretti’s Selene chair:

Magistretti's Selene chair
Magistretti's Selene chair

Though Magistretti’s studio is normally only viewable by appointment, it was open for the whole of Milan’s Design Week offering visitors an insight into the hive of his creativity.  If you missed Milan’s Design Week, through the Fondazione Vico Magistretti, you can arrange design and architecture tours which will allow you to view examples of his architectural endeavours which lie all over Milan and you can also visit showrooms displaying many examples of his work.

Magistretti's Studio
Magistretti's Studio

From Architecture to Design

Magistretti graduated in architecture from Milan’s Politecnico in 1945 and initially worked on urban planning projects which shaped Milan’s post-war urban landscapes and led to the creation of the experimental QT8 and San Felice residential areas, both of which were to become models for further urban development in Milan and surrounding areas.

In the late 1950’s Magistretti began designing furniture and lamps, and was one of the leaders of post-war Italian design.  Magistretti experimented with plastic and other new materials to produce many design classics which of which are still made today.

An Award Winning Ground Breaker

His work was often ground breaking, offering something different from standard mass produced products and his ability led to him winning many awards including the Compasso d’Oro and Gold Medals at the Triennale.

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Not only was Magistretti a prolific designer, he was also generous with his time, encouraging young designers as well as teaching at the Domus Academy and later at the Royal College of Arts for nearly 20 years.  His willingness to explore and experiment brought him to the attention of major companies.  Magistretti built life long, productive, relationships with many companies and especially with Cassina, for whom he designed simple yet stylish pieces.

I find the variety his work exhibits fascinating.  He was not a formally trained designer, which is probably why his approach was different and might explain why he was always so keen to explore his limits and use such a wide variety of materials.

You can learn more about Magistretti at the Vico Magistretti Foundation

Feel free to tell us about your favourite Magistretti pieces by leaving a comment below.

About Paolo Feroleto

Paolo Feroleto
Paolo Feroleto

Designer of the ItalyChronicles.com logo, Paolo Feroleto Italy Chronicles’ resident design hound who sniffs out all things relating to Italian design, as well as hunting down the odd designer for interviews. He writes about the best of what he finds here on ItalyChronicles.com.

A designer of Italian origins, Paolo has over 13 years industry experience obtained from working in mixed discipline design studios in the UK and abroad.

Paolo has worked with a range of clients – from small independent retailers, to large blue chip companies.  His projects have included building corporate identity, designing literature, creating stands for exhibitions, as well as devising graphics for retail outlets and websites. Examples from Paolo’s portfolio can be found on his website, here: Four Design, where Paolo can also be contacted.

Paolo also teaches Graphic Design and develops creative discovery workshops for educational and professional environments.

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