On her way to becoming an icon of Italian design and architecture, Gae Aulenti would also lay the foundations of her principles as a cultivated practitioner: from her collaboration with Ernesto Nathan Rogers ─ for whom she also edited the graphics of Casabella-Continuità ─ she inherited a need to think of every project as an element of the city, or more generally for the city. But from there on, it was her to raise the bar of reflection even higher, extending such vision to the scale of the object, of product design, of interiors. By the end of the 60s, Aulenti conceived a house in Milan for the Agnelli family around a very specific programme: it had to be structured by the same works of art that it would host, by a collection that would keep on stimulating architectural debate long afterwards, when Renzo Piano designed a high-tech treasure chest for it, to be suspended above the roof of the Lingotto in Turin. This Milanese flat is more than a grouping of “urban” objects: it is a sequence of those environments, of those spaces that lie between product, art installation and pure experience, with which Aulenti would make her international name a few years later, in MoMA exhibition Italy: The New Domestic Landscape.
Domus published this project on issue 482, in January 1970.
The place for a collection
Gae Aulenti, architect; Livio Castiglioni, lighting and electroacoustic consulting
It is in Milan. It is an apartment (a large living room and a bathroom, overlooked by a loft bedroom) but most of all the home to a selected gathering of artworks to share life with, from time to time: the place for a collection. A strong architectural space, acting as a support to such heterogeneous works, an expressive, non-neutral support, participating in the story these works unfold. Works of art as characters, whose simultaneous presence, and placement, in a dialectical relationship, creates an environment. In this space and in this relationship the works enhance each other; nor can this space make any sense without them.
American Pop Art works are featured in the selection and, close to them, works of subtler abstraction appear, such as those by Noland and Judd, or works of a different figurative depth, such as Bacon, Duchamp-Villon, Magritte and Nolde.
(In such an environment, the actual furniture tends to disappear; sofas and armchairs, the same color as the carpeting, are mere floor reliefs; only the “table” emerges, but it is a metal tracery table taken from a factory, chosen because of its capacity to contrast, with its figurative violence and colors, the works of Lichtenstein and Segal shown nearby.)