Villa Borsani: Casa Libera! // By Ambra Medda in Collaboration with Archivio Osvaldo Borsani
Osvaldo Borsani was a visionary figure of Italian twentieth-century design; an architect, designer, and entrepreneur who transformed his father’s furniture atelier into an international brand, co-founding Tecno in 1953 with his twin brother Fulgenzio. He was a pioneer of industrial design, with an approach that combined artisanal knowledge with technical innovation, and was in constant pursuit of the perfect balance between engineered utility and aesthetic beauty.
15 May 2018 will see the launch of a retrospective exhibition, the first of its kind, at Triennale di Milano. “Osvaldo Borsani” is curated by Norman Foster and Tommaso Fantoni, the grandson of Osvaldo. The show will trace the arc of Borsani’s career, presenting over 300 objects: from unique pieces to industrial icons, alongside an incredibly rich array of archival materials. In anticipation of this expansive exhibition, the Archivio Osvaldo Borsani has invited Ambra Medda to curate a special preview at the Villa Borsani during Salone del Mobile; an unprecedented chance for the international design community to glimpse the private world of an influential yet unsung figure of design history.
Between 1939 and 1945, Borsani designed and built Villa Borsani just north of Milan in Varedo, the same town where Tecno’s factory was a hive of activity for over half a century. Originally conceived as a home for his brother’s family, the Villa was occupied by three generations of Borsani’s until 2008. The extensive archives, housed on the grounds of the Villa, are painstakingly catalogued, and contain thousands of documents including scale drawings, watercolors, photographs and letters spanning the fifty years of Borsani’s career. His curiosity was endless, and demonstrated by his sheer creative output; the archive holds drawings of a multitude of designs including gates, carpets, stained glass windows, cradles, telephone holders, and beehives.
Driven by a life-long philosophy of collaboration, Borsani commissioned artists including Adriano Spilimbergo, Fausto Melotti, Lucio Fontana, Guglielmo Ulrich and Agenore Fabbri to create unique pieces—ranging from mosaics to wall sconces—to embellish the Villa’s interiors. These original features remain beautifully preserved to this day, and are manifestations of the extraordinary exchange of ideas between Italy’s brightest minds in art, architecture, and design during the post-war era.
Villa Borsani: Casa Libera! is envisioned as a celebration of a modernist jewel and a joyous rediscovery of a place suspended in time. The title itself, with its distinctly Milanese connotations, alludes to a feeling of possibility and a chance for people to gather in an unexpected place; not only finding themselves in the historic Villa, but also within the larger setting of Varedo. Casa Libera! captures the welcoming atmosphere Ambra seeks to create through subtle and specific interventions including fragrance, sound, and floral arrangements.
The Villa--which has been unoccupied for nearly a decade--will be brought to life through surprising yet considered elements. Ambra will collaborate with Auckland-based creatives including artist Harry Were, florist Sophie Wolanski, and the multi-talented stylist Katie Lockhart, to imbue the still house with vibrancy and soulfulness.
Ambra notes, “You can immediately feel that this was the beloved home of an architect and a father: exquisitely detailed, extremely functional, built to entertain and yet a place for children to grow. I wanted to highlight the incredible quality apparent within every feature, which is so rare nowadays, whilst preserving an authentic experience.”
This extraordinary residence is set within 3,000 square meters of gardens that feature ivy-covered pergolas. Visitors will be encouraged to enjoy a unique opportunity to experience design history; to spend time in the space and browse highlights from the archive. Following Salone, the Villa will be open by appointment only until 15 September.
In addition to the Salone and Triennale di Milano exhibitions, the Archivio is also announcing a new volume on the complete works, OSVALDO BORSANI: architect, designer, entrepreneur, written by Giampiero Bosoni, which will be published by Skira in April.
About Archivio Osvaldo Borsani
The Archivio Osvaldo Borsan (A.O.B.), which has existed since the 1930s, was reconfigured in 1991 with the primary aim of preserving and cataloguing the archival records of a leading figure in twentieth-century Italian design. Located inside the Villa Borsani in Varedo, the Archivio houses material from the 1920s onwards, including thousands of original watercolors, technical drawings, and photographs. It also contains the epistolary testimonies of Borsani’s relationships with the most celebrated artists, architects, and exponents of Italian culture of his time. The Archivio is the only institution authorized to certify the authenticity of Osvaldo Borsani’s work. The A.O.B.’s board of directors includes Valeria Borsani Fantoni, Marco Fantoni, Tommaso Fantoni, and Federico Borsani.
16.05.2018 - 15.09.2018
OSVALDO BORSANI, Exhibition
Triennale di Milano
16 May – 15 September 2018
Exhibition Curated by Norman Foster and Tommaso Fantoni
Design and Content by Norman Foster Foundation and Archivio Osvaldo Borsani with Triennale di Milano
Triennale di Milano
Viale Alemagna 6, Milan
Opening hours: Tue-Sun 10.30am-8.30pm