Colour, style, versatility, intelligence and innovation, all those are words that perfectly suit Gae Aulenti, an exceptional woman who arose from the post-war period and blessed us with some of the most breathtaking museums of the world and tons of unforgettable furniture.
Gaetana Aulenti was born in Palazzolo dello Stella in 1927 (Milan, Italy) in a wealthy family who wanted her to find a husband and get married straight away. However, that wasn’t exactly what she had in mind so she decided to study architecture in the Milan Polytechnic University and graduated in 1953 (there were only 2 women out of 20 students in her class).
The moment it’s loudly announced that red is in fashion, I want to dress in green.
That quote shows how Aulenti understood architecture and how she put that into practice. Her designs are a combination of tradition and innovation but what makes her buildings stand out is that they “profundly interact with their surroundings” as she once said and thus, they provide the city a completely new soul. She followed the Neoliberty movement that rejected monotony and coldness. Oppositely, it endorsed the constructive traditions and the individualism of each country. She took part actively in this movement through the Casabella magazine whith which she collaborated for several years.
The work of Aulenti is all over the world, from the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco to the Piazza Cardona in Milan and even here in Spain we have one of her design, the National Art Museum. But what really made her career took off was the renovation of the train station of Orsay into a museum, the well known Musée d’Orsay. As every great masterpiece, it was subject of criticism; nevertheless, it did not affect Aulenti’s reputation negatively, nothing further from reality. In fact, from then onwards, she was asked to renovate and design a number of museums such as the already mentioned (Asian Art Museum and the National Art Museum of Cataluña).
In addition to that, she was also asked to arrange several sets for Gioachino Rossini’s and Luca Ronconi’s operas in La Scala, Milan.
Moreover, Aulenti was an icon in the “made in italy” industry design. She is the creator of some of the most representative pieces of furniture of her period . The most famous ones are the chair of the Locus Solus series, the Stringa sofa and the Jumbo table .
Additionally , Aulenti was a professor in the Venice School of Architecture (1960-1962) and in the Milan School of Architecturen(1964-1967).
Lastly , I feel like it is important to mention that Gae aulenti has a square in Milan named after her.
Information about her life and her work:
Aldo Rossi, ICONO AD, Architectural Digest, accessed 9 October 2020, https://www.revistaad.es/decoracion/iconos/articulos/icono-ad-gae-aulenti/22377
Vanesa Orosa, Diseñadoras Pioneras, NEO 2, accessed 9 October 2020,
“Piazza Gae Aulenti / AECOM” 31 May 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 13 Oct 2020.
<https://www.archdaily.com/379624/piazza-gae-aulenti-aecom> ISSN 0719-8884
I want to be an architect (Quiero ser arquitecto) by Alberto Campo Baeza.
Essencial. This is the book I wish I had read a year ago when I was all freaked out and had no idea about what I wanted to do with my life. I would have ended up I the same place but at least I would not have doubted my decision so many times.
With this book, Campo Baeza gives a brief but complete idea of what becoming an architect involves. But what is admirable is the way he expresses his ideas; it is as if you were talking to him face to face. He clears up all the doubts one can have when deciding to become an architect. Moreover, he encourages you to do so even though he warnes you about the sacrifice it implies.
The book is organized in three parts: the introduction in which he introduces the topic and gives a beautiful description of the job of an architect; then the body , that is divided in eight parts and where he discusses subjects related to architecture, and finally a conclusion where he encourages people to study this degree.
In the introduction, he makes a superb parallelism between architecture and walking up and down stairs. At first I did not quite get it but once I understood it I found it pretty accurate and imaginative.
What I would highlight about the first part, What being an architect is, is the fact that he mentions a ton of other professions such as cooking, writing and medicine. I think that what he tries to achieve with this is to make architecture more comprehensible since sometimes it can be a little bit abstract and difficult to understand. It reminded me of something that I was told not so long ago: architects are like chefs: they are the only ones who know how the cake will be once it is finished and their job is to make sure that the process and the resault are perfect. I wonder if she had read this book, as well.
I also took notice that he emphasized the importance of light, just as Zumthor did. it is impressive how something as simple as light can be so decisive when it comes to designing and building.
Next, he talks about where to study architecture. His opinion is obviously biased by teh Univertity hestudied in and were he currently teaches. In this sense, I have appreciated some information about the other universities.I understand that he did not want to criticise any college; however, it seemed to me that he was doing propaganda of the UPM.
Then, we get to one of the most important parts: how do we study architecture? And the answer seems to be pretty straightforwad, with effort. He puts an special emphasis in the Projects subject. Again, couldn’t say wether his statements are based on facts or is also biased (he teaches this subject). I feel like all the teachers think that their subject is the most important one and that we should focus mainly on that one. One thing that I found really inspiring is his opinion on the Final Degree Project. He argues that it is a tool not an end. I hope to feel like that when my time comes, I don’t want my final project to be some taks that I end up hating. I mean, after so many years it doesn’t seem fair to me to finish depressed and stressed out, I would like to finish proud of what Ihave become.
The next topic he covers in what can be done before starting the degree. And this gave me anxiety to be honest. I feel so unprepared right now. Nevertheless, I will try my best to succeed because I may not have dreamed to be an architect since I as five but now it is my dream and I am fully commited.
After that, he proceeds to recommend a cuople of books related to not only architecture but also to othe topics. He also includes some classics such as Le Petit Prince. I will definitely read some of them . I am really looking forward to reading Meditación sobre la Técnica and Historia Crítica a la Arquitectura Contemporánea. I agree that reading helps you to open your mind, something that seems to me quite important for an architect.
Subsequently, he addresses the elephant in the room: the job opportunites. I swear that every time I told somebody that I had decided to study this degree, I could sense the pity they felt for me. It is true that here in Spain the unemployment rate among architects is worrying compared to previous decades but so are the ones of any other profession. In addition to that, as Campo Baeza says, this degree allows you tu develope several skills; therefore, there is a wide range of job opportunities.
In the last part, there is a brief summary of the work of six spanish architects who I had barely heard about. It is curious how little architects are known. If you ask anybody in the street the name of five writers, musicians or actor and actresses they will probaly have no problem whatsoever. However it is not likely that they will know five architects. And why is that? I mean, their job is pretty important, at the end of the day we all live in houses and study in schools, go to stadiums, hospitals, malls… Why are people not intereted in who designed all of that?
The last part is the one I found the most moving. Here the author makes clear how deeply in love he is with architecture and really made me want to feel the same someday.