Italian architect and designer, Marco Zanuso (1916-2001) born in Milan, was one of the postwar designers shaping the international idea of “good design.” After receiving his degree in architecture at the Politecnico di Milano, he began his career as an architect, designer and city planner. Additionally, Zanuso was editor-in-chief of Domus magazine, the preeminent publication on architecture and design founded by Gio Ponti in 1928, from 1947-1949. As one of the leaders in the Italian Modern Movement he was a pioneer in furniture design, working with metal tubing and creating a new joining mechanism that allowed a fabric seat to be suspended from a tubular steel frame.

In the late 1940s, Zanuso began collaborating with Arflex, an Italian manufacturing company, to create a furniture collection using a newly developed polyurethane foam and elastic tape. It was for Arflex, he designed a series of pieces that would become icons of the modernist movement, among them, the Lady Armchair (1951) and the Sleep-o-matic sofa (1954). Between 1957-1959, Zanuso began collaborating with German industrial designer Richard Saper. It was with Saper, he created work devoted to the relationship of the user to the object. Together they pioneered a new aesthetic known as techno-functionalism, designing objects such as the Grillo telephone (1966) and the Brionvega (1962), the first fully-transistor television. These pieces were characterized by bright colors, synthetic materials and sculptural shapes. Zanuso’s work can be found in museums throughout the world including MoMA, the Met and the Triennale in Milan.

Marco Zanuso “Lady” lounge chair

One of Zanuso’s iconic pieces, the “Lady” lounge chair (1951), was the first armchair to incorporate expanded polyurethane and foam rubber. The armchair showcased a new system of springing, while the slender brass, slim-line legs suspend the body of the chair in an animated fashion.

Marco Zanuso “Sleep-o-matic” sofa

Forward-thinking Zanuso designed this “Sleep-o-Matic” sofa (1954) for Arflex with an internal metal mechanism that can easily be opened to become a sofa bed. Tubular metal structure with foam rubber padding.

Zanuso’s Model 275 table lamp for Oluce (1963-1965). This stunning table lamp was not intended as just an operational lamp, but to illuminate an environment, with its primary role being to light an entire portion of a room. In addition to its sculptural shape, its large adjustable dome-like Perspex diffuser is supported by a curved lacquered metal base.

This set of exquisite lounge chairs, was designed by Zanuso for Arflex in 1955. Again, the comfortably plush foam form sits atop slimline extruded metal legs. These chairs would make the perfect addition to any reading room or library. (photo: Stamford Modern)

The curved three-seat “Triennale” sofa, designed by Zanuso in 1951 for Arflex, is a prime example of the designer’s ability to combine form, function and comfort in iconic modern furniture design.

Marco Zanuso Grillo folding telephone

The amazing Grillo folding telephone was designed by Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper in 1965 for the Italian arm of Siemens Telecommunications. Named “cricket” after the typical ring resembling the insect’s stridulating, the piece is equally functional and decorative simultaneously. Made of ABS plastic, it was available in a multitude of bright saturated colors. (photo: Casati Gallery) 

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