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Gae Aulenti

Gae Aulenti (born Gaetana Aulenti 4 December 1927) is an Italian architect, lighting and interior designer, and industrial designer. She is well known for several large-scale museum projects, including Musée d’Orsay in Paris (1980–86), the Contemporary Art Gallery at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Palazzo Grassi in Venice (1985–86), and the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco (2000–2003).

Gae was one of the few women designing in the postwar period in Italy, and created many elegant pieces.

A native of Palazzolo dello Stella (Friuli), she studied in Milan. She worked for the design magazine Casabella from 1955 until 1965 as an art director, and become part of a group of young professionals influenced by the philosophy of Ernesto Nathan Rogers. Aulenti has also occasionally worked as a stage designer for Luca Ronconi.

Gae studied to be an architect at the Milan Polytechnic Faculty of Architecture and graduated in 1959. She worked for the magazine Casabella Continuita doing graphic design work and later served on the board of directors for the re-named Lotus International magaizine. Gae taught, after getting her doctorate, at Venice School of Architecture from 1960-1962 and at the Milan School of Architecture from 1964- 1967. During this time Gae also designed for a department store, La Rinascente and later designed furniture for Zanotta, where she created two of her most well known pieces,the “April” folding chair which was made from stainless steel with a removable cover, and her “Sanmarco” table constructed from plate- glass. She then also served as vice- president of the Association Of Industrial Design.

Gae worked in the post-war period of Italy while creating pieces that spanned across a wide variety of styles and influences. She did however always want the focus of the room to be the occupants, she believed the people make the room a room and to not overpower. She had a modest style, Vogue has her saying “advice to whoever asks me how to make a home is to not have anything, just a few shelves for books, some pillows to sit on. And then, to take a stand against the ephemeral, against passing trends…and to return to lasting values.”

Aulenti was given first prize at the 1964 Milan Triennial for her piece in the Italian Pavilion. Her piece was a room with mirrored wall with cutout silhouettes of women inspired by Picasso. It was entitled “Arrivo al Mare”. She also served on the Executive Board for the Triennial from 1977- 1980.

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Momentary lapses of inspiration

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