On occasion of the Salone del Mobile 2018, Luigi Caccia Dominioni (1913- 2016) returns to the spotlight in his beloved city, Milan, with an exhibition at the Umanitaria promoted by B&B Italia to display his cultural heritage.
The company has recently signed a license agreement for the exclusive production and distribution of a selection of his original iconic pieces, including some of the most emblematic products in the history of Italian design: the Catilina chair (in the low, small and stool versions); the armchairs ABCD (with its sofa extension), Toro (with its ottoman version), Nonaro (also with the sofa and chair with armrests) and Chinotto; the Cilindro ottoman; the Cavalletto, Fasce Cromate and Fascia Specchiata tables and small tables; and the lamps Lampada Poltrona, Base Ghisa, Monachella, and Imbuto.
Luigi Caccia Dominioni was born in Milan on 7 December 1913 in a beautiful home in front of the Basilica di S. Ambrogio, which marked his entry as an architect in the postwar period in Milan. With his reserved aristocratic temperament, he was an epitome of the most authentic Milanese personality: quiet and hard-working, the type of person who considered work to be civil service, to be carried out every day without the need for recognition between the solitude of his drafting table and the organised confusion of the building site. His felt at home among the masons, artisans and construction foremen whom he considered to be companions on the same journey. He was a nobleman with a simple heart and natural elegance, and was very able in transforming the Milanese dialect into an international language, understandable by anyone thanks to a visual and spatial language that appears universal, as well as for the elegance of his solutions.
Caccia Dominioni received his degree from the Milan Polytechnic University in 1936, as the city was developing and aspiring to be modern and measure itself against the rest of Europe, though without losing the stubborn, proud faith in an ideal “Milanese identity”. This was actually a claim to a position: to belong to a specific place and a culture that naturally combined pragmatic action with elegance, manifested through large and small scale projects that communicated without interruption from the inside towards the exterior of the architecture.
If Milan began to emerge as the capital of design at that time, it was because of architects like Luigi Caccia Dominioni and Gio Ponti, who realised that the truest intimate essence of what was going to become industrial art was nothing other than the result of careful planning and unbiased design of objects that were used every day. It was no accident that Ponti was among the first to recognise Caccia Dominioni as a trend-setter for style in the future: his original style is called “Caccia style” for this very reason. Ponti wrote, Caccia Dominioni does not furnish homes. Instead, he “interprets them and expresses their personality”, giving “a value (of environment or space) to the sequence of rooms”.
When design was still a hypothesis not based on an authentic industrial reality, Caccia understood its simultaneous polyhedral and unitary nature, and did not reduce his work to simply designing objects and furniture. Instead, he highlighted potential inspirations of behaviours. Chairs and armchairs like Catilina, for example, or Chinotto, with their structure and proportions, make it possible to combine relaxing comfort with a poised position of the body, a demonstration of the almost didactic value of a piece of furniture in teaching virtuous behaviour.
After all, the starting point was never the abstract formulation of useful design, but rather the personal need to provide answers to demands for quality in the home, also destined to confer
dignity to middle-class life in a city that was on its way to becoming the epicentre of the Italian miracle. As Pier Carlo Santini wrote in a pointed comment, “civil” architecture enjoyed “acceptance in the measure in which the public is able to think of the ideal home in terms of attainable aspirations”.
Therefore, we can see that it is the actual value of this approach to design that B&B Italia intends to preserve and spread through this initiative. The vast production resulting from Caccia Dominioni’s design adventure is, in fact, a legacy that has taken on the characteristics of what we know as “modern classics”, and B&B Italia wants to protect it with a tribute, a remembrance of the architect and his timeless work.