Posts Tagged ‘Anna Castelli Ferrieri’

(smow) blog Design Calendar: August 6th 1920 – Happy Birthday Anna Castelli Ferrieri!

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

“Plastic was equivalent with America for us. Only Bakelite came from Europe. Right? But after the war, everything plastic came to Italy from the States. Purely commercial stuff, but every year a new material came on the market”, recalled Italian architect and designer Anna Castelli Ferrieri in a 1997 interview, “We wanted to try out what all can be made with these new materials”1

And try she did. With an élan that resulted in an enviable portfolio of products that have not only become established design classics in their own right but which helped establish Italian manufacturer Kartell’s reputation at the forefront of plastic research and design.

Born in Milan on August 6th 1920 Anna Ferrieri studied architecture at the Politecnico di Milano before establishing her own architecture practice in 1946. In the early 1960s, in context of a hotel renovation project undertaken with Ignazio Gardella, Anna Castelli Ferrieri found herself, more or less, forced to design a table – unable as she was to find anything on the market which matched her specifications. As fate would have it, her husband Giulio Castelli had in 1949 established a small plastics company called Kartell. Following an initial specialisation on industrial and scientific objects and components, Kartell moved throughout the 1950s ever more towards domestic, household objects before in 1964 releasing their first piece of furniture – Richard Sapper and Marco Zanuso’s K1340 stackable children’s chair. Against her better judgement Anna Castelli Ferrieri decided to mix private and professional and co-operated with Kartell on the hotel furniture project, the result was Ignazio Gardella and Anna Castelli Ferrieri’s much celebrated large oval dinning table: and the start of a long, if unintended, professional relationship between Anna Castelli Ferrieri and Giulio Castelli. In 1966 Anna Castelli Ferrieri planned and built a new production and administrative complex for Kartell in the southern suburbs of Milan before moving on to develop numerous successful furniture design projects for the company, the best known and most important being without question being the Componibili modular storage system from 1969.

For Anna Castelli Ferrieri the advantages of the new synthetic materials were clear, “With plastics new production process became available. With the old processes one often required several components made of different materials. That meant waste. With plastic everything could be made in one process, from one material, in one piece. And the results weren’t just cheaper, but also more attractive.”2 This passion for plastic never waned and throughout her career she remained an uncritical fan of plastics, even suggesting, somewhat controversially, that “plastic is the only ecological material that exists today. You should leave the wood in the forests. We should not work with anything that can come to an end, can run out.”3 That said, Anna Castelli Ferrieri was also very aware of a designer’s responsibility, stating in 1997 that, “I continue on my own way, conscious of the responsibility I take upon myself whenever I add a new presence to an already overcrowded physical world.”4 For Anna Castelli Ferrieri that included developing new processes for recycling plastic waste and indeed new forms of more durable, less resource intensive plastics. Research that remains a central focus of Kartell’s commercial activity.

Anna Castelli Ferrieri’s design career was however much more than just Kartell and plastics. In addition to co-founding the Italian Industrial Design Association and teaching at both Milan University and the Domus Academy, Anna Castelli Ferrieri co-operated with companies as varied as Arflex, Matteo Grassi or Barovier & Toso and spent five years as the Italian correspondent of the London based publication Architectural Design.

Anna Castelli Ferrieri died in Milan on June 22nd 2006 aged 87.

But for today, Happy Birthday Anna Castelli Ferrieri!

1.  Hufnagl, Florian (ed.) Plastics + design die Neue Sammlung, Staatliches Museum für Angewandte Kunst, München , Arnoldsche Verlag, Stuttgart 1997

2. Quoted in, Jürgs, Britta “Vom Salzstreuer bis zum Automobil: Designerinnen”, AvivA Verlag, Berlin, 2002

3.  Hufnagl, Florian (ed.) Plastics + design die Neue Sammlung, Staatliches Museum für Angewandte Kunst, München , Arnoldsche Verlag, Stuttgart 1997

4. Quoted in “Anna Castelli Ferrieri, 87, Force in Postwar Modern Italian Design, Dies” New York Times, June 28, 2006 http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/28/arts/design/28ferrieri.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C{%222%22%3A%22RI%3A14%22} accessed 05.08.2014

August 6th 1920 Happy Birthday Anna Castelli Ferrieri

Happy Birthday Anna Castelli Ferrieri!

Anna Castelli Ferrieri

Thursday, August 5th, 2010
Anna Castelli Ferrieri (

Anna Castelli Ferrieri (1920-2006)

August 6th marks the 90th anniversary of the birth of the Italian architect, designer and Kartell co-founder Anna Castelli Ferrieri.

Despite initial flirtations with modernism, including a trip to Paris to visit Le Corbusier, the young Anna Castelli Ferrieri was drawn ever more to the Italian neo-rationalism  – especially that practiced by Franco Albini.

And although Kartell products may not be physically reminiscent of the work of Albini, the ethos behind the company and its approach to design are clearly rooted in Albini’s mix of traditional Italian design combined with modern approaches and affordable materials.

In addition to helping establish the golden era contemporary Italian design in the 1960s and 1970s as characterized by the likes of Joe Colombo or Ettore Sottsass,  Anna Castelli Ferrieri also contributed to the Italian design canon with her 1969 Componibili modular storage system; a system that remains a classic of contemporary Italian design.

From 1976 until her retirement in 1987 Anna Castelli Ferrieri served as artistic director by Kartell and oversaw the establishment of Kartell at the forefront of the development and utilization of modern plastics in product design.

Anna Castelli Ferrieri died on June 22nd 2006 aged 87.

Componibili by Anna Castelli Ferrieri for Kartell

Componibili by Anna Castelli Ferrieri for Kartell