Aldo Rossi. The architect and the cities



MARCH  2021 – NOVEMBER 2021

Molteni&C and UniFor are taking part, as sponsors, in the “Aldo Rossi. The architect and the cities” exhibition, produced by Rome’s Museo MAXXI, from March 10th until November 2021, curated by Alberto Ferlenga.

The exhibition celebrating Aldo Rossi, over twenty years after his death, offers an opportunity to reflect on the great architect’s role in the sphere of Italian and international architecture in the second half of the 20th century. Exceptional material from collections and archives all over the world – both public and private, but primarily from the MAXXI Architecture archives –, most of which on show in the Museum’s display cases, produced by Molteni&C, will enable visitors to follow the development and the thinking of the great Italian architect and designer.

Avenue Design
Piroscafo Aldo Rossi Luca Meda

Among the objects and drawings on show, there is also the Piroscafo bookcase designed thirty years ago with Luca Meda (1991), produced by Molteni&C and the Parigi armchairs (1989), produced by UniFor.

Poltrona Parigi
3 Femmes & 1 Coussin
Bui Opto
14 Cabina dell’Elba Modello - Courtesy Fondazione Aldo Rossi_LR
Cabina dell’Elba Modello - Courtesy Fondazione Aldo Rossi

The Molteni Group and Aldo Rossi – An historic encounter

In the early Sixties a friendship was formed that was to mark a revolution for the Group. Aldo Rossi, a recent architecture graduate from Milan’s Politecnico, and Luca Meda, who had just returned from the Ulm school, opened a design studio in Corso di Porta Vigentina in Milan. There were just a few years between them, 1931 the former, 1936 the latter. Different in character, in behaviour and in lifestyle. Then their paths diverged – Rossi’s towards architecture, Meda’s towards design – only to intersect each other later. Friendships are made like that, with separations and great reunions. It was Luca Meda, who with generous intuition, brought Aldo Rossi into Molteni&C. The encounter was decisive. Rossi found what he was looking for in Giussano, Turate and Mesero – the object and architecture, design and special projects. Over the years, his relationship with the Molteni family developed from a professional one into a real friendship.

They travelled together, worked and shared passions and obsessions.
On the subject of design, Rossi wrote: “I believe we are moving towards an increasingly industrialized and rational type of manufacturing, based on repeatable models. This is my idea of design: being able to translate imaginative personal elements into rational and repeatable designs, not ad hoc objects made for a single item. And, what’s more, a piece of furniture is agile, i.e. transportable. I never lose sight of the transportability issue, maybe I have an escape complex.
But items of mobilia, as the word suggests, also need to be mobile”.

Over twenty years of joint efforts led to items of furniture that made the history of Italian design, such as the Cabina dell’Elba (1980), a veritable piece of domestic architecture;

The Teatro series(1982-84), designed with Luca Meda for a small Milanese theatre, which went on to become a fixture in numerous Rossi buildings, such as Casa Aurora in Turin (1984-87) and Genoa’s Teatro Carlo Felice (1983-84), for which he also designed the seat for the stalls (1990).

05 Teatro La Fenice Sala Rossi_LR
Teatro La Fenice Sala Rossi
Avenue Design
Galerie Beauchamp
08 Carteggio_LR
From the mid-Eighties, they began producing two “iconic” Rossi designs, Carteggio (1987) and Milano (1987) Carteggio is a tall, narrow, tower-like piece of furniture, completed at the top with a roll-up compartment, reminiscent of the roof of a building. Designed to hold papers and small objects, and today in the Quirinale collection, it was an instant success with members of the public, thereby becoming a Molteni&C best- seller, still being produced today.

The Milano chair is another item that Rossi designed to perfection. Light, lacquered in various colours or in prestigious woods, it takes pride of place in homes all over the world. At once modern and classic, it is a timeless object that became the company’s symbol.

09 Milano e Carteggio 1987 - Courtesy Fondazione Aldo Rossi_LR
Milano e Carteggio 1987 - Courtesy Fondazione Aldo Rossi
11 Papyro_LR
In 1990 Aldo Rossi became the first Italian to win the Pritzker prize. The Nineties saw 6 even greater cooperation between Aldo Rossi and the Molteni Group. Architectural projects such as the Bonnefanten Museum in Maastricht (1990-95), the Fontivegge Centre in Perugia (1982-1989), the Schuetzen Strasse complex in Berlin (1992-98) and the “Il Palazzo” Hotel in Fukuoka((1987-89) provided the opportunity to design new items of furniture: the Providence sofa (1992) and the Papyro desk (1990) for Molteni&C.

The Parigi armchair (1989), the Museum (1992) chair, the Cartesio bookcase (1993) and the Consiglio table (1993) for UniFor, and lastly the glass-fronted Piroscafo bookcase (1991), designed with Luca Meda for Molteni&C.

Their partnership was not limited to furniture designs but was completed with intense work on staging exhibitions of their work: Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (1991), Beurse van Berlage Foundation in Amsterdam (1991), Triennale in Milan (1999), to mention but a few. Not only staging, but catalogues, invitations and theme booklets. All under the skilled direction of Luca Meda.

Rossi’s last great project, which he was unable to see completed, was the reconstruction of the Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice, with all the wooden parts made by Molteni&C, including the monumental model of the Sala Nuova, later Sala Rossi, made of untreated Cypress wood, which reproduces the facade of the Palladian Basilica in Vicenza.

The partnership between Aldo Rossi and the Molteni Group aptly reflects the philosophy of the two parts. Rossi liked the frank and informal way they discussed and achieved his designs, cleverly interpreting the ideas behind them, but especially the drawings, skillfully and inventively, to create a product that fully lived up to his expectations. The Molteni Group loved Aldo Rossi, the chance to develop innovative designs, respecting their own philosophy, including the “art of making things”, the soul of the Molteni Group.

An extraordinary adventure, both human and professional, and a great example of how to live, breathe and share the culture of design.

35 MAXXI_Museo-nazionale-delle-arti-del-XXI-secolo_Mostra-Aldo-Rossi_ph-Musacchio-ianniello-Pasqualini_courtesy-Fondazione-MAXXI_LR
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