A leading figure in Italian design in the middle decades of the 20th century, Mollino worked in a number of fields, including architecture, furniture, and interior design as well as aeroplane and racing car design. He originally trained as an architect at the Architectural School of Turin, gaining a diploma in 1931, after which he worked for five years with his engineer father.
Amongst early notable achievements was the award of first prize in the 1934 competition for the House of Fascism in Voghera. Although committed to the pursuit of a contemporary design idiom he preferred organic forms rather than the rectilinear forms often associated with the International Style and its Italian variant, Rationalism. He looked instead to sources such as the flowing lines of Art Nouveau, Futurism and contemporary Surrealism, several characteristics of which inspired the furniture designs that he began working on from 1937. In the 1940s and 1950s he designed apartments and furnishing in Turin, including the Casa Minola (1944) and the Casa Orengo (1949). In his furniture he experimented with the expressive possibilities of bent plywood, exploring organic, sculptural forms. This was shared with a number of other designers in the 1940s, including Charles and Ray Eames and Eero Saarinen in the USA whose work had been published in Domus magazine. In Italy there had also been interest in organic form as a more humanizing alternative to the standardized austerity of Rationalism, as evidenced in Bruno Zevi's book Verso un architettura organico (1945) and the founding in the previous year in Rome of the Association for Organic Architecture. One of Mollino's best‐known designs in this genre was his Arabesco table (1950), with an eloquently sculptural bent plywood base and glass top shaped in the form of a woman's torso. He also attracted attention with his exhibits at the X Milan Triennale of 1951 and his project for a Carpenter's House at the following Triennale in 1954. However, in the mid‐1950s Mollino largely turned away from furniture towards the design of aeroplanes and racing cars, although he maintained an interest in education. From 1952 he taught in the Faculty of Architecture at Turin, becoming Head of Faculty ten years later, although he was to gain a reputation amongst students for missing many of his classes. In the 1980s his work underwent a re‐evaluation, Zanotta reissuing his Fenis chair (1962) in 1985 and the Pompidou Centre in Paris dedicating an exhibition to his work in 1989: L'Étrange Univers de L'architecte Carlo Mollino.
Subjects: Art & Architecture