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Gaetano Pesce (1939 - )

Related: biomorphism - Italian design - architecture

Dalila chair (1980) - Gaetano Pesce
Image sourced here.

Gaetano Pesce

Tramonto a New York (1980) - Gaetano Pesce


Gaetano Pesce (b.1939) is an Italian architect and designer. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaetano Pesce [Jan 2006]

The Presence of Objects

Gaetano Pesce is one of the great creators of the twentieth century. Born in 1939 in La Spezia, a small port in Italy, he belongs to that generation of architects who led the critique of Functionalism in the 1960s, when city centres were being modernized by the construction of large complexes in the International Style, and home and work spaces were furnished according to Good Design. Through his writing and, especially, his projects, Pesce redefined the ideals and principles that govern the practice of architecture. His interest in new materials and his concern for the limits of dominant values and concepts led him to revise established dogma and the Rationalist design precepts that reduced complexity. He reintroduced the human figure into architecture, not as an ideal aesthetic model or ergonomic standard, but as a sensual presence, an essential mediation to the world, an object among objects. He recognized the importance of randomness in the creative and manufacturing processes and put forth the idea of the diversified industrial series.

The exhibition The Presence of Objects: Gaetano Pesce features a selection of objects and architectural projects developed over the past ten years. In addition, the displays in the Cultural Corridor present study models for the most important projects Pesce designed during his career, as well as invitation-objects to his major solo exhibitions.

The Presence of Objects

For Pesce, design and architecture are very powerful ways of inventing another world. In the qualities and configurations of the world sketched by Gaetano Pesce, the objects, in addition to being tools, are important mediators in the relationship that the individual has with his peers and with objects. Many of the pieces of furniture and buildings that he designs make us look and call out to our bodies: they have an anthropomorphic rather than a geometrical, abstract form, as well as flexible, translucent masses and a skinlike texture. For Pesce, objects can be “documents on reality”, either personal or collective: they can bear witness to life, communicate opinions, awaken one’s conscience through traditional means of representation, the figurative image, or more immediately through the kinaesthetic experience that they offer us. Some are unstable, reflecting the contemporary social and political situation. Tense, complex, uncertain, they shiver when we approach, and move when we touch them or use them. Since 1963 and the project Casa elastica, Pesce has created a soft, flexible environment — architecture that is sensual and female rather than rigid, mechanical and male.

Over the past ten years, Pesce has pursued his non-conventional exploration of materials, refusing to accept the separation between function and meaning, design and art. If, at times, Pesce’s explorations are full of fantasy, they are not fanciful. They are based on technical knowledge and born of a curiosity for new, synthetic materials, a knowledge developed through experimentation in his studio or in co-operation with industry. His relationship with technique is not neutral: it is political. He prefers working with plastics like polyurethane foam and polyester resin, whose processing does not require sophisticated and costly industrial equipment, thus permitting him to create small series. The treatment he gives these objects is, in a way, non-violent: matter can freely react to the ambient conditions and the handler’s moods. To the standardized series, he has thus opposed the diversified, pluralist series. Pesce thus transformed design and mass production. Over the past few years, the array of materials that he has been working with has grown to include traditional materials like felt and recycled paper and rags.

The Architecture

In architecture, more so than in design, the building depends on the commission. If, in the early days of his career, Pesce designed a series of manifest projects, in the past few years, he has had the opportunity of working for individuals and companies concerned about their corporate image. Although Pesce criticized Functionalism, he did not reject the Rationalist method, which takes into account the properties of the materials as much as the use of the object. He favoured technical and social experimentation, put forth new methods of building, as well as new ways of dwelling and working.

A designer of buildings, Pesce places great importance on the organization in plans. He proposes a fragmentation of volumetry and space that is accentuated by a diversification of materials, producing a functional architecture whose visual and tactile qualities are diverse. In the project for the residence of Mr. Hubin (1987-1988), which was to be erected in Gordes, France, these disparate elements are joined together with the human figure through the integration of a portrait of the owner, a major patron of the arts, into the landscape.

In his architectural projects – generally Gesamtkunstwerk (complete-art-work) – his desire to propose new ways of dwelling and to experiment technically prevail. This need even transforms his design techniques: the ink outlines on paper are replaced not by computer drawings, but by sketching in resin – a completely original approach. The exhibition presents several of these large coloured and translucent “skins”.

Organic Building

Project architect and designer with Gaetano Pesce, New York. 1990-1997 (Above is Organic Building, Japan, 1993)

THE ORGANIC BUILDING, 1990-1993. Project architect and designer. The 9 story office building totals 78,000 s.f. Extensive correspondence with the Japanese consulting architects via fax. Travel to Osaka site. The project involved exterior design work, lobby design along with various custom made interior furniture and fixtures for the lobby. Working drawings and material samples. The building is a reinforced concrete structure, clad with pre-cast lightweight concrete panels and fiberglass flower pots. Window frames in anodized aluminum. The facade is a vertical garden, with dozens of various types of plants. The building was declared an official city garden.


  • Gaetano Pesce
  • http://www.dolcevita.com/design/designers/pesce2.htm
  • http://www.gaetanopesce.com/


    1. Gaetano Pesce - Michael Webb [Amazon.com]
      Continuing to put great classic and contemporary design within everyone’s grasp, Chronicle Books proudly delivers the next four installments of the popular Compact Design Portfolio. Written by top design critics, these books cover modern masters whose work ranges from the cozily domestic to the aggressively avant-garde: Eva Zeisel, whose elegantly democratic housewares span a 70-year career; Ingo Maurer, who raises lamp and lighting design to a high art form; Gaetano Pesce, whose rejection of traditional good taste brought about revolutionary furniture design; and George Nelson, the impresario behind the Marshmallow sofa and other Herman Miller classics. Follow-ing the introductory essay, a visual gallery exhibits selections of the designers’ best work in photographs and sketches. Presented in an irresistible small format, this series encapsulates the life, work, and influence of the great designers of our time. --amazon book description [...]

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