15 March 2016
In October 1939, the Istrian architect Giuseppe Pagano wrote a long and enthusiastic article for the magazine Casabella on Villa Pestarini (1938), built in Milan to a design by Franco Albini. He was struck by the building’s unique blend of “the fantasy of art and the reality of the profession,” something which Gio Ponti would later call a “fantasy of precisions”: a balance of technique, form and poetry that made Albini one of the masters of the Italian architecture and design of the 20th century. It was the Villa Pestarini project that led to his search for an ideal model of seating, an archetype that would identify the essential elements of the chair and its possible uses inside the home. It was a quest that took him fifteen years, with a series of periodical improvements dictated by the need to arrive at the “essence of the form,” and that culminated in the celebrated Luisa armchair. The last and definitive version was the one designed for the Poggi firm of Pavia, which was awarded the ADI Compasso d’Oro prize in 1955. The structural solution of this armchair is based on two side pieces in the shape of a trestle, joined together by crossbars. The upper part of the trestle, which serves as an arm, is connected to the other side with a bar to support the back. Two more crosspieces located in the middle of the trestle complete the structure: one at the back that is the point of anchorage of the seat, and one at the front that acts as a free support, on which the seat can bend and slide in relation to the weight it has to bear. The result is a formal synthesis in which seat and back are two geometric planes suspended on a slender wooden structure: a timeless object made of pure material and technique. Since 2008 Luisa has been produced as part of Cassina’s I Maestri series, along with other pieces of furniture designed by Franco Albini.