03 May 2017

Milan’s design culture: life stories as told by the Franco Albini Foundation
Franco Albini: manual skill
The art of making

“Technique and materials are the means of expression architects have to hand.”

Franco Albini spent 15 years working on the Luisa chair. He discussed his continual reworkings and the five different versions in a lesson to university students, in which he tried to explain the method that finally brought his project to completion. Observing the parts that usually make up a chair followed by eliminating anything not strictly needed, exploiting to the full the properties of the material from which each piece was made.
Renzo Piano, who studied under Franco Albini during the early Sixties, tells how, during his training, he accompanied the Master to Genoa, where the Palazzo Rosso worksite was up and running. A mandatory stop was made at the Poggi workshop in Pavia. According to Piano, Albini remained silent, stroking the arm of a prototype Luisa chair, analysing its slant, its angle and every tiny detail that would help him understand what needed to be corrected and improved. Everyone was hanging on his ‘response’.

In his designs for two rattan and cane chairs, Franco Albini demonstrates his recognition of the importance and nobility of popular tradition, paying homage to the craftsmanship of basket-makers in a creative rereading of their technique.

Margherita and Gala were presented at the XI Milan Triennial Exhibition. The former, created in partnership with Gino Colombini, was the first ever “legless” Italian design chair, and was awarded the Gold Medal at that particular edition; the latter was designed in partnership with Ezio Sgrelli.
The structure of both chairs is entirely open and requires no covering, a feature that confers an air of lightness. The cage-like construction lends elasticity and makes for a comfortable body support.
Both were manufactured by Bonacina from 1955 onwards.

Throughout his constant and tireless career, Milanese architect Franco Albini worked alongside Roberto Poggi, the craftsman from Pavia who manufactured most of his pieces. Albini reworked his designs stubbornly and tenaciously, trying out countless solutions in a bid to achieve perfection.

His ongoing dialogue and exchange of ideas with Poggi, especially regarding technical details and construction particulars, as well as their deep mutual understanding and shared approach, helped build a method that still serves as an example for those embarking on this profession.

“Meeting Albini was fundamental for us; it was just what we were looking for and we worked together for the next 27 years, followed by Franca Helg, Marco Albini, Antonio Piva”, said Roberto Poggi in an interview published in Domus in 1991.

Margherita, sketch

Luisa, technical drawing

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