Culture

Angelo Mangiarotti: designer furniture architect

Angelo Mangiarotti is a prominent figure in 20th century Italian architecture and design. He is not, however, one of the best-known Italian designers to the general public. And yet, his career spans almost half a century and bears witness to an intense and protean activity: Mangiarotti created major railway infrastructures, restored numerous public and residential buildings, designed factories, imagined private and tourist residences, and created industrial design pieces, before becoming a sculptor, particularly of marble, a material he was particularly fond of. This article takes a look at some of the designer’s emblematic creations, from architecture to design, with a common thread of a keen sense of architectural balance.

In 2018, RBC Paris organised the exhibition Angelo Mangiarotti – Skilful Reflectionsi, with a selection of the designer’s most beautiful pieces ©Matteo Lavazza

Angelo Mangiarotti was born in Milan in 1921. He graduated in architecture from the renowned Milan Polytechnic in 1948. Five years later, he went to work in the United States and taught as a guest professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he met prominent European architects Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe and Konrad Wachsmann. He also met the most influential American architect of the 20th century: Frank Lloyd Wright.

Angelo Mangiarotti
© Vistosi

Mangiarotti stayed in the United States for two years before returning to Italy. In 1955, he joined forces with Bruno Morassutti (1920-2008) and opened a design and architecture firm. Until 1960, when the two architects ended their collaboration, they specialised in the creation of industrial buildings and the restoration of residential and public buildings.

Building in Via Quadronno, Milan, architecture: Angelo Mangiarotti & Bruno Morassutti, 1956-1962. The originality of the building comes in particular from an open configuration of “continuous facades”. ©Atlas of Places

Via Quadronno building, Milan, architecture: Angelo Mangiarotti & Bruno Morassutti, 1956-1962. The originality of the building comes in particular from an open configuration of “continuous facades”.
©Atlas of Places

Via Quadronno building, Milan, architecture: Angelo Mangiarotti & Bruno Morassutti, 1956-1962.
©Atlas of Places

Vintage Italian rosewood desk, design: Angelo Mangiarotti & Bruno Morassutti, 1950s. The desk has 2 drawers, compass legs in blackened wood

Mangiarotti then set up his own architectural practice. Faithful to industrial design, he first worked as a consultant for the Italian manufacturer Alfa Romeo. Already noticed for his avant-garde architectural creations with Bruno Morassutti, Mangiarotti was then snapped up by the biggest design furniture publishers (Artemide, Cassina, Knoll) for whom he produced furniture pieces, some of which have become cult

In the 1980s, he became artistic director of the Italian crystal factory Colle Cristalleria. His aura and international reputation led him to set up the offices of his agency in Tokyo in 1989: “Mangiarotti & Associates Office”. At the same time, he designed and built the Milano Repubblica railway station. In parallel to his architectural and design activities, Angelo Mangiarotti continued to teach in numerous foreign and Italian universities (Venice, Hawaii, Lausanne, Adelaide, Milan).

View of the interior of the Reppublica Station, Milan Metro
©Arbalete

Recognised throughout the world, Angelo Mangiarotti has received no less than twenty major awards in the fields of design and architecture, including the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in architecture, the Compaso d’Oro, for his entire career in 1994

If I had to pick out 1 or 2 highlights from such a rich career, it would undoubtedly be the ingenuity of the Italian maestro in the design of certain pieces of furniture, which leads me to say that he is a true architect of balance and form. For some of his design creations, Angelo Mangiarotti has expressed an uncommon talent as a designer-architect.

This is true for the development of the ingenious Cavalletto modular bookcase, designed in the mid-1950s: uprights in the shape of an upside-down V can be stacked by the simple action of gravity – brilliant! The system was patented more than 50 years ago and is still admired today: the parts can be fitted together without clamping or joining.

Cavalletto modular bookcase, concept and design: Angelo Mangiarotti, 1953. The trestle elements in the shape of an inverted “V” fit together naturally…
©Studio Twenty Seven

In the 1970s, Angelo Mangiarotti continued with the same ingenuity to create a series of marble and stone tables. The Eros or Eccentrico collections exploit the same principle: the gravitational joint, which makes it possible to embed, for example, a conical leg in a marble top, the whole joined by the sole force of gravity

Pedestal table in black marble, conception and design: Angelo Mangiarotti, Eros Collection, 1971. Angelo Mangiarotti particularly liked working with marble to experiment with techniques.
©Terre Meuble

Coffee table in the shape of a clover in white marble, conception and design: Angelo Mangiarotti, Eros Collection. Mangiarotti’s pieces are marked by great elegance…
©Terre Meuble

Eccentrico elliptical dining tables, conception and design: Angelo Mangiarotti. The Eccentrico collection dates back to 1979. Since 2010, Agape, an Italian brand specialising in the bathroom, has been publishing and distributing some of the Italian designer’s major pieces in marble and precious wood under the name Agape Casa

In the architectural field, two other projects by Angelo Mangiarotti particularly caught my attention, demonstrating an experimental spirit, in phase with the architectural avant-garde of his time. First of all, the realization in 1957 of the Mater Misericordiae church in Baranzate, in collaboration with Bruno Morassutti. A building with a brutalist exterior that mixes materials inside: concrete, metal, glass, wood, polystyrene, etc. The two architects have succeeded in producing a soft and mystical light inside the church, amazing!

Mater Misericordiae Church in Baranzate, Milan, architects: Angelo Mangiarotti & Bruno Morassutti, 1957
©Andrea Ceriani
Mater Misericordiae Church of Baranzate, Milan, architects: Angelo Mangiarotti & Bruno Morassutti, 1957 ©Andrea Ceriani
Interior of Mater Misericordiae Church in Baranzate, Milan, architects: Angelo Mangiarotti & Bruno Morassutti, 1957
©Andrea Ceriani

Interior of Mater Misericordiae Church in Baranzate, Milan, architects : Angelo Mangiarotti & Bruno Morassutti, 1957
©Ivo Stani

Second outstanding achievement: The “Three-Cylinder House”, a residential building located in a condominium in the San Siro district of Milan. Built from 1959 to 1962, this complex of three cylindrical buildings stands out from the usual sobriety of Milanese architecture. Mangiarotti and Morassutti designed the project with an original specification at the time: to design individual housing units. Thus, each of the 3 cylindrical volumes houses one flat per floor, overlooking the entire circumference.

Plan of the 3-cylinder house
The 3-Cylinder House, architecture: Angelo Mangiarotti & Bruno Morassutti, 1959-1962. The 3 volumes are raised above the ground, leaving room for the garden, which can infiltrate even under the building
©Angelo Mangiarotti

Angelo Mangiarotti, who died in 2012, was one of the last giants of post-war Italian architecture and design. A protean creator, his architectural achievements, his ingenuity in design, and the carnal beauty of his furniture pieces continue to enchant enlightened amateurs

François Boutard

Cover photo credit: Design Market