50 years of Agape: exploring five decades of innovative bathroom design

Italian bathroom brand Agape turns 50, and founders Emanuele and Giampaolo Benedini celebrate with an exhibition looking back at their personal and professional journey

Agape bathtub
Agape Spoon Bathtub, designed by Benedini Associati in 1998. The photgraph by Josè Rodriguez is part of Agape's anniversary celebration at its Bosco campus near Mantua
(Image credit: Josè Rodriguez)

'We actually wanted to do something else: an Agape tale – 1973/2023.' The unusual title chosen by Emanuele and Giampaolo Benedini to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Agape through an exhibition (until 31 March 2024) at the bathroom company's Bosco campus, near Mantova.

'We actually wanted to do something else: an Agape tale – 1973/2023'

Agape founders, Emanuele and Giampaolo Benedini

Agape founders, brothers Emanuele and Giampaolo Benedini

(Image credit: Mark Seelen)

As the title suggests, the story of Agape has an accidental beginning: the company was given to Emanuele and Giampaolo Benedini as a gift by their parents in 1973. Maybe they would have preferred to do something else, and from a certain point on, as demonstrated by the story of the brand, they did something else. Indeed, the two brothers, both architects, pioneered a revolutionary design ethos in a space that, in the 1970s, was conventionally and uninspiringly utilitarian.

Agape bathrooms anniversary

Aerial view of Agape Bosco

(Image credit: Marzio Bondavalli)

Agape reimagined and portrayed the bathroom as a haven of well-being, necessitating the same meticulous planning to the other commonly much more respected, at the time, spaces within a home. ‘This is a special occasion for us,’ says Emanuele Benedini. ‘This exhibition is a tribute that expresses our gratitude to all of the creatives who have partnered with us over the years. There have been quite a few, which I believe is also a reflection of my determination to steer Agape's path towards an ever-expanding realm of creativity.’

Agape sede Bosco near Mantova

(Image credit: Giorgio Possenti)

The location of the exhibition is significant. The "Bosco" location houses Agape's completely renovated brand showroom, which is immersed in green fields, a few steps from the placid flow of the Mincio river, a few miles from Mantova and a couple of hours from Milan. Emanuele and Giampaolo Benedini regard it as a gathering, design, and social space. ‘We decided to host the exhibit at Agape Bosco due to our deep connection to this venue and, more broadly, to the entire area,’ Emanuele Benedini explains. ‘This was an in-house project that we completed with the help of our research and development and marketing departments. As a result, it provides a double source of accomplishment.’

Agape Bathrooms through the years

Agape bathroom design archives

Mantus, 1974

(Image credit: Courtesy Agape)

The exhibition begins with a series of archival photographs, from the dark wood Mantus series (1973) and its traditional lines, designed for the Spanish department store El Corte Ingles. 

Agape bathroom design archives

Erion, design Benedini Associati, 1975

(Image credit: Courtesy Agape)

With Erion, a modular furniture system, we can see the first step towards a more architectural approach. Following that, the vibrant colours of the Seventies and Eighties are represented by Makerio, or by the Secchia Rapita basin, designed by Giampaolo Benedini for his young daughter Camilla, with wall mounts that could be adjusted over time to accommodate the child's growth.

Agape bathroom design archive

The Secchia Rapita basin

(Image credit: Courtesy Agape)

Along with the images, products and prototypes guide us through the brand's history: the crucial choice to expand the design to other designers in 1992 is summed up by the unmistakable poetics of Enzo Mari's Calvino accessories series.

Agape bathtub by PAtricia Urquiola

Vieques, vasca - Design Patricia Urquiola, 2008

(Image credit: Andrea Ferrari)

Agape washbasin by Mangiarotti

Bjhon 1, lavabo - Design Angelo Mangiarotti, 2011

(Image credit: Andrea Ferrari)

The Spoon bathtub achieved great success a few years later, marking an important milestone in the Agape catalogue. As were the Pear washbasins and sanitary ware, which were designed by Patricia Urquiola in 2003. The relationship with Angelo Mangiarotti was also important, as evidenced by pieces such as the washbasin Bjhon 1, decorated by Giuseppe Pasquali.

A brand grown from creative collaborations

Agape bathrooms anniversary

A cart from Patricia Urquiola celebrating Agape's 50th anniversary

(Image credit: Courtesy Agape)

To summarise the collaborations, on display is a variety of brand interpretations by creative minds and designers working along Agape. ‘The vibrant and affectionate relationship that we have fostered with our designers and creative friends is well summed up by the reinterpretation of the drop, the emblem of Agape that we asked them to recreate,’ Emanuele Benedini explains. 

Agape bathrooms anniversary card

Britt Moran (left) and Emiliano Salci (right) of Dimorestudio

(Image credit: Courtesy Agape)

As a result, on display is the graphic and elegant essentiality by Elisa Ossino, the symbolism by Studiopepe, a double interpretation by Dimorestudio, the elaborate depth by Patricia Urquiola, and the playful 'pinwheel effect' by Bibi Benedini, Giampaolo Benedini's wife, who has been an essential protagonist of the brand's development since the beginning.

Agape bathrooms anniversary

Konstantin Grcic

(Image credit: Courtesy Agape)

Angelo Mangiarotti said that happiness comes from correctness, as recalled by a sign in the bright showroom overlooking the fields outside. ‘Reconstructing Agape's journey was also important on a personal level, as it allowed us to recognise how influential our parents were in our lives’ Benedini concludes. ‘As I always say, “It's better to be lucky than wealthy.” This has been our experience in recent years. We've always pushed our creative horizons and goals forward.’

The exhibition 'We actually wanted to do something else: an Agape tale – 1973/2023' is on view until 31 March 2024

Agape Bosco
Via Po Barna 69
46031 - Bagnolo San Vito


Cristina Kiran Piotti is an Italian-Indian freelance journalist. After completing her studies in journalism in Milan, she pursued a master's degree in the economic relations between Italy and India at the Ca' Foscari Challenge School in Venice. She splits her time between Milan and Mumbai and, since 2008, she has concentrated her work mostly on design, current affairs, and culture stories, often drawing on her enduring passion for geopolitics. She writes for several publications in both English and Italian, and she is a consultant for communication firms and publishing houses.