Gae Aulenti and Olivetti

Remembering the influential Italian architect and designer Gae Aulenti, Domus turns to its archives and republishes two projects for Olivetti in the 1960s, chosen amongst the many occasions Aulenti's work graced the pages of the magazine.

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Last 31 October, Italian architect and designer Gae Aulenti passed away. Aulenti was an incredible influence in the Italian and international architecture and design scene of the postwar years, all the way through our days. Amongst her many awards and distinctions, Aulenti had been recently awarded the Italian Gold Medal for her career, awarded at the Trienalle di Milano last 16 October.
From the many times her work graced the pages of Domus, we've chosen to republish two projects Aulenti designed for Olivetti in the 1960s. Beyond the virtuous association of the names Aulenti-Olivetti, the pieces republished today are especially enriched by a vivid photographic survey, where the interiors in Paris and Buenos Aires reveal a smiling, charming Gae Aulenti, exactly how we wish to remember her.

The article "The new Olivetti show-room in Paris" was originally published in Domus 452 / July 1967
The article "The new Olivetti shop in Buenos Aires" was originally published in Domus 466 / September 1968
Top: Gae Aulenti in the Olivetti store in Paris, photo by Marchi Rolly, from the pages of Domus 452 / July 1967. Above: the Olivetti store in Buenos Aires, from the pages of Domus 466 / September 1968
Top: Gae Aulenti in the Olivetti store in Paris, photo by Marchi Rolly, from the pages of Domus 452 / July 1967. Above: the Olivetti store in Buenos Aires, from the pages of Domus 466 / September 1968
The new Olivetti show-room in Paris
An environment that immediately places the Olivetti machines, small exact precision instruments, within the context of the magical adventure, begun thousands of years ago, that the world is living through today. "The design of the show-room" architect Gae Aulenti says, "was born from the idea of making a "piazza"; the steps, the various levels, and the continuity of space are the architectonic components of the "piazza".
Gae Aulenti in the Olivetti store in Paris, photo by Marchi Rolly, from the pages of Domus 452 / July 1967
Gae Aulenti in the Olivetti store in Paris, photo by Marchi Rolly, from the pages of Domus 452 / July 1967
Within this multilevel, continuous space, there are three elements, three symbols, three fixed points around which the composition rotates: the stairs, which are an architectonic symbol of continuity; the central pillar, which leads the mind to the idea of the capsule, the form of the future; and Man, represented by the wooden African sculpture ".
Olivetti store in Buenos Aires. Photos by Erich Hartmann, from the pages of Domus 466 / September 1968
Olivetti store in Buenos Aires. Photos by Erich Hartmann, from the pages of Domus 466 / September 1968
All surfaces are in white laminated plastic. The capsule is red, around the central pillar. The show-room faces the street through two huge windows through which the entirety of the internal space can be seen. Constructed on curves, this space "moves" along with the passer-by. The type-writers and the calculators, displayed on various levels, become the fulcrums of a fluid space. There is no external sign, but only a red outline, drawn on the glass itself, that circumscribes the window.
Olivetti store in Buenos Aires. The use of glass amplifies the reflexes achieved with the mirrors inside. From the pages of Domus 466 / September 1968
Olivetti store in Buenos Aires. The use of glass amplifies the reflexes achieved with the mirrors inside. From the pages of Domus 466 / September 1968
The new Olivetti shop in Buenos Aires
Designed by Gae Aulenti (as the 1967 Olivetti shop in Paris, see Domus 452) this new Olivetti shop has just been opened in Buenos Aires. The shop "explodes" at the corner of two streets in the centre of the city. This is the immediate effect of its perspective display "flights of stairs" — which radiate fanwise from the interior corner of the space and are multiplied kaleidoscopically by the mirrors on the walls and ceiling. The visual attraction is very strong. This is an image that draws into its own center.
Gae Aulenti, the new Olivetti store in Paris, photo by Marchi Rolly, from the pages of Domus 452 / July 1967
Gae Aulenti, the new Olivetti store in Paris, photo by Marchi Rolly, from the pages of Domus 452 / July 1967
The simplicity and strength of the idea and design give unity to the multiple display, and solve the problem which was to create, more than just a shop, a "presence" of Olivetti in a metropolis like B. A. The "pyramid" of the display flights of stairs (cut by a narrow passage leading to an underground office) is in wood, covered with plastics laminate. Everything was manufactured in Italy and shipped to Buenos Aires in special containers. Gae Aulenti also designed the lamps. Colours: blue, orange and white.

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