Luigi Caccia Dominioni Biography & Interview

Luigi Caccia Dominioni
Luigi Caccia Dominioni
Classic Designs » Designers » Luigi Caccia Dominioni Biography & Interview

Luigi Caccia Dominioni – (Milan 1913 – 2016)

When reading architecture at the Milan Politecnico he was to meet Livio and Piergiacomo Castiglioni, Enrico Peresutti, Ernesto Rogers and Marco Zanuso.

He graduated from there in 1936 and in that year opened an architectural studio with the Castiglioni brothers.

He has been very active both as architect and in the field of design and can be considered one of its pioneers in Italy.

Luigi Caccia Dominioni Office Design Milan
Luigi Caccia Dominioni Office Design Milan

Working with the Castiglioni brothers he designed the silver cutlery set entitled Caccia in 1938 and the innovative Bakelite radio produced by Phonola in 1940. The latter met with the enthusiastic approval of visitors to the 7th Milan Triennale and was indeed the first radio receiver not pretend to be a piece of furniture but possessed of its own autonomous form created by its bakelite shell. As such it came to be thought of as one of the first objects of industrial design.

With Ignazion Gardella he founded the Azucena company in 1947 with the specific aim of making high quality furnishings and objects of decor in small runs. Pieces designed for Azucena include the table Cavalletto, the lamp Imbuto and the armchair Catilina.

We was awarded the Compasso d’Oro in 1960 for his chair T12, designed with Livio and Piergiacomo Castiglioni for the Palini company.

In subsequent years he also collaborated with the Simon company for whom his projects include such furniture as the Mantova and Gonzaga series.

The Compasso d’Oro was once again his in 1984 for his door Super, made by the manufacturer Lualdi.

From the work of recent years the desks bearing the names Pipistrello and Ovale from Azucena stand out as worthy of special mention.

Luigi Caccia Dominioni Interview:

Which European country has had the biggest influence on your work?

All of them and none of them. If anything has really influenced it is not so much one nation or another as the Basilica of S. Ambrogio and the atrium of Ansperto that I have seen countless times from earliest childhood throughout my life, – its quadrature and relaxed and peaceful form have enveloped and influenced me, as have its brickwork, tiles and colours.

It has stood there before me all my life and still does so from dawn to dusk each day. If I had to name a city it would be Rome, both Roman and Baroque Rome, there are parts of Rome that is home to the most beautiful stuff in the whole world. Rome for its sculpture – Venice for its paintings and Paris its urban design.

Paris remains an extraordinary city where I feel completely at home, as if I had always lived there, while France has the beautiful Nancy, San Stanislas Place and the Place de la Carrière.

For me Vienna provides a very important link with Milan, the clean and “modern” views in its architecture having so much influenced that of Lombardy over the last hundred years and also my own work, I must also mention the architecture of Engadina in Switzerland where walls dominate, with very little glass and the smallest of windows to obliquely catch a little light or sun. These have all been important to me. 

Which European countries most appreciate your work?

I don’t know about its being appreciated! It seems to me that I have worked well particularly in France and Switzerland. I am however much better known in Italy and my work is approved in those areas where I have most worked, namely in Lombardy, Liguria, and the Veneto and especially in the cities of Milan, Bologna, Genoa, Verona and Valtellina. 

Which European countries are in your view most interested in design?

In my opinion we have to say Denmark, Germany, Sweden and Finland. The Italians were rather slow in showing real interest but over the last few years there has been a radical change in public perceptions and much ground has been gained as more mature and illuminated judgements are made of our works.

This latter design has been quite different in kind from that coming out of the Scandinavian countries which seems to have fallen somewhat out of favour as the Italian product has moved forward. We really need, however, to look at the picture on a case by case basis.  

What cultural exchange between European countries has produced the best results in design terms?

I have no answer to that question.    

Which European Universities or Schools of Art were been most involved in the affirmation of design in the period 1945-78?

These represented an important reference point for the Scandinavian countries. Italy was brought to life by the Triennali di Milano in the years from 1930 to 1950. First Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden were predominant. We appeared here and there and did a few things.

A spring was then triggered and Italian design gradually took off with new and different products, particularly emphasising higher quality. Perhaps it was Milan that was at the centre of this revival. After Giò Ponti, Milan was to destined become ever more lively and vital.

The scene was populated by such figures as Joe Colombo, the Albini, the B.B.P.R. (Banfi, Belgioioso, Peressutti, Rogers) and later Marco Zanuso, Livio and Piergiacomo Castiglioni, as well as myself, Angelo Mangiarotti, Vico Magistretti and then also Achille Castiglioni, brother to the previous two. All of these were extremely active in the period from 1940 to 1970.    

Is design promoted more by public bodies or by private industry in your country?

Private industry is more a driving force than are the public institutions. The former seeks out the aesthetic quality that is the intrinsic value of design. Where that latter chooses to be involved it does have a particular influence, however, on account of the scale of its commissions.    

Would it be appropriate to speak of a European design style?

There remain differences between the products of the Scandinavian countries and those of what we could call central Europe, though as things stand at this time central Europe also really includes Spain, France and Italy.

In its time Austria, and Vienna in particular, had a exceptionally fruitful period as with its production of such extraordinary furniture as that of the Thonet family. Finland and the Scandinavians then followed with Denmark also going through a period of particular quality.

It seems to be that at the present time Italy is in the foremost position creating some truly beautiful things and with a different type of design, really quite different. A word of caution however, because some really ugly objects of design and furniture are also manufactured and sold.  

Written by Simon
I am a published writer, journalist and photo-journalist. I have an MA in Creative Writing and Journalism from the University of Wales and my journalism has been published in a number of UK national newspapers including 'the Observer'. I have life long interest in creative design, art and function and this website is an exploration of that in all its forms and guises.