Gae Aulenti

 Gae Aulenti 

1927-2012 (Italy) 

Born as Gaetana Aulenti, a native of Palazzolo dello Stella(Friuli), Gaetana Aulenti (Gae, as she was known, is pronounced “guy”)studied to be an architect at theMilan Polytechnic University, Faculty of Architecture and graduated as one of two women in a class of 20 in 1954.She grew up playing the piano and reading books. 

Aulenti began her career as a private-practicing architect and freelance designer out of Milan in 1954. Her architectural practice included many interior flat designs for corporate clients including Fiat, Banca Commerciale Italiana, Pirelli, Olivetti, and Knoll InternationalHer freelance design work included products for Poltronova, Candle, Ideal Standard, Louis Vuitton, and Artemide to name a few.  

Branching into written publication, Aulenti joined the editorial staff at the design magazine Casabella-Continuità from 1955 until 1965 as an art director, doing graphic design work, and later served on the board of directors for the renamed Lotus International magazine (based in Milan from 1974 onwards).  

Aulenti taught, after getting her doctorate, at Venice School of Architecture as an assistant instructor in architectural composition from 1960–1962 and at the Milan School of Architecture from 1964-1967.During that time, she also designed for a department store,La Rinascenteand later designed furniture forZanotta, 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. Transitioning from teaching, Aulenti joined Luca Ronconi as a collaborator in figurative research for Laboratorio di Progettazione Teatrale out of Prato, Florence (1976-79). 

In 1981 she was chosen to turn the 1900 Beaux Arts Gare d'Orsay train station, a spectacular landmark originally designed byVictor Laloux, into theMusée d’Orsay, a museum of mainly French art from 1848 to 1915. Her work on the Musée d’Orsay led to commissions to create a space for the National Museum of Modern Art at theCentre Georges PompidouinParis; the restoration of thePalazzo Grassias an art museum inVenice; the conversion of an old Italian embassy inBerlininto an Academy of Science; and the restoration of a 1929 exhibition hall inBarcelonaasMuseu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. InSan Francisco, she converted the city’sBeaux ArtMain Library into amuseum of Asian art.In 2011, Aulenti oversaw the expansion ofPerugia Airport. 

Aulenti also occasionally worked as a stage designer for Luca Ronconi, including forSamstag aus Licht(1984). She also planned six stores for the fashion designerAdrienne Vittadini, including one on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles. (She even designed the mannequins.)  Her career ended with over 200 built works.