The Italian designer and architect Franco Albini is known as a key figure in the Neo-Rationalist movement. Born near Milan in 1905, he graduated from the city’s Politecnico in 1929. In 1931, he set up his own Milanese practice. His early architectural work focused on workers’ housing, a pursuit he would return to after the war. In the interim, however, he developed designs that would become signatures of his style. He favoured a simple palette of raw and inexpensive materials, yet he combined the artisanal qualities of traditional Italian work with the elegant minimalism of modernist forms.
A central example of his design work is the eponymous ‘Albini Desk’ designed in 1928, for which he combined steel, glass, and wood in an iconic balance. The piece was produced for Knoll in 1949. There followed a series of chairs for various producers, of which the two woven cane pieces ‘Margherita’ and ‘Gala’ are particularly noteworthy. Yet his architectural output, one which peaked in the early 1960s, was no less important. Around this time in Milan, he designed a series of subway stations, as well as various museums in Genoa. In 1964, a television set he designed was displayed at the Milan Triennial, in a sense harking back to one of his first successful works, a radio he designed in 1939, in which a glass casing was used to expose the intricate mechanisms of the radio, belying Albini’s recurrent interest in the interface between simplicity, craftsmanship, and historical relevance. It was a mixture that saw Albini highly and regularly decorated by various international prizes.