Carlo de Carli’s ‘architectural’ furniture had a profound impact on design in the 20th century. Here, we look at a complete interior by the Italian pioneer, offered in our Design sale on 26 October
Carlo de Carli was 24 when he graduated from the Polytechnic University of Milan in 1934, having trained during a period of political upheaval that had shaken the country. He worked with the legendary architect and designer Giò Ponti before setting up a studio of his own, embarking upon a long career that would help shape 20th-century Italian design.
De Carli’s designs quickly became widely admired and were reproduced by major Italian manufacturers including Cassina and Tecno. A respected academic and writer, his philosophy centred on the rhythms and continuities in the relationships between space, material and the human body.
De Carli’s ethos was articulated most eloquently in the complete interior he created for Casa Galli in Milan. Offered in its entirety in the Design sale on 26 October, its furnishings were designed to fit around the lives of the home’s inhabitants — their structure influenced by nature, which de Carli viewed as the greatest designer of all.
De Carli had outlined his vision for a ‘new architecture’ in the year before he created Casa Galli. He argued that ‘a chair, an armchair or a table must be elements in which one can feel an individual presence’, and set out to design furniture that responded not to built structures, but to human lives — or, as he wrote, ‘the thinking and the actions of the people who live in that environment’.
The relationship between human form and design is particularly evident in de Carli’s chairs and beds, which, to some extent, dictate the pose of their user. Here again, he strived to create designs that incorporated the body’s movements and posture.
Writer Gianni Ottolini later described De Carli’s chairs as ‘body pods’ designed to receive ‘human gestures’, citing as an example the 1964 Model 914, which was shaped to allow the user to sit ‘informally with legs akimbo’.
The furniture De Carli created for Casa Galli spanned three rooms — spaces that were intended for eating, working and rest. De Carli was an advocate of space that ‘flowed’, and many of his designs incorporated details that suggested movement — from the curved edge of a table to the sloping line of a chair.
For de Carli, this sense of movement — or speed — was the ‘new rhythm of architecture’, and ‘the wonderful poetics of life in movement’ was something he continued to believe in passionately.