Archive for the ‘Vivere Anchora’ Category
The ecccntric and highly-talcnted Italian designer from Turin, Carlo Mollino, shared this fascination with the sculptural form of the Catalan architecťs furniturc designs, and paid homage to him wirh the ‘Gaudí’ chair of 1949. Consciously referring to the heighr of Art Nouveau sophistication, Mollino’s furniture, produced almost exclusively for commissioned interiors, was designed with a bravado that flew in the face of expectation, convention and post-war Italian austerity. The elaborate, interlacing curves ot Mollino’s ‘Arabesque’ tables in moulds and perforated plywood, and the recurrent use of high, eontoured backs, coupled with the sculpting of wood into elegant, attenuated curves employed in many ofhischairs, harkback to the work of Hector Guimard and Victor Horta. The split, cushioned vinyl surfaces of the scats designed for Gio Ponti in 1940, and the tapering, sculpted legs of many other pieces suggest, with their overt eroticism, an almost subversive side to Mollino’s work. This is amply reflected in his interior commissions of 1939 for the Miller and Devalle houses in Turin, where attention was paid to every detail from mirrors to light-fittings.
Controlled multí-colored /lighting and change- able backdrops were combined by Mollino with surfaces in an extraordinary range of man-made and natural fabrics to create an almost theatrical setting, somewhere between Symbolism and Surrealism. The overpowering atmosphere of these rooms recalls the refined decadence of Art Nouveau interiors such as Endell’s vestibule tor the Studio Elvira and the Café dc Paris by Sauvage and Sarazin. Mollino has been compared to die reci um ve aesthete des Esseintes, hero of J.K. Huysmans’ Symbolist novel A Rebours of 1884, and this interpretation would seem to be borne out in the interior designs for the Devallc house. I Icrc, the padded walls and ceiling of lilac velvet in the bedroom, and flesh pink and scarlet wall coverings of the living room, combined throughout with a virtuoso use of mirrors to create effects of artificial perspective, recreated something of the rarified artificiality of the more extreme high Art Nouveau interiors.
Mollino’s concept of total design was a characteristically northern Italian approach, in stark contrast to the utopian emphasis on popu- lar furniture and urhan renewal, centred in Rome. The visionary aspect of northern design typiíied the re-established Triennale di Milano, which offered a glimpse of what the brave new world envis- aged by architects and designers might look like, at its first post-war exhibition of 1948.
Malcolm Haslam, in the Nouveau Style, New York, 1989