Compact apartment by Ettore Sottsass reveals pioneering design approach

Compact apartment by Ettore Sottsass reveals pioneering design approach

Triennale Design Museum presents Casa Lana, a new acquisition that faithfully reconstructs an apartment interior originally conceived by Ettore Sottsass in 1965

Designed in 1965 by Ettore Sottsass for his friend, the lithographer and printer Giovanni Lana, Casa Lana in Milan is the latest acquisition for the permanent collection of the Triennale di Milano. The cultural institution’s recent wave of acquisitions, arranged by its new design, fashion and crafts curator Marco Sammicheli, features some real gems by a host of Italian designers, including Carlo Mollino, Joe Colombo and Vico Magistretti. 

Casa Lana at Triennale Design Museum

A wood panelled corridor of Casa Lana by Ettore Sottsass featuring bright pink carpet and a triangular artwork on the wall

‘The opportunity to secure Casa Lana came to us thanks to the Lana heirs and to the generosity of the Ettore Sottsass Archive,’ says Sammicheli. ‘We could not miss this opportunity due to the extraordinary integrity of the apartment. It is as if Casa Lana was frozen in time, precisely as the architect designed it. This allows us to present a project in its totality, integrity and strength.’ 

Giovanni Lana did not have much of a budget when he commissioned Sottsass, but the friends came to an agreement, and the resulting compact apartment epitomises the Italian architect’s pioneering approach to design. 

Pioneering interior design by Ettore Sottsass

A study at Casa Lana with a desk on the right and chest of drawers
A a study area with desks and fold-down furniture

Packed full of clever spatial tricks and brilliantly executed, Casa Lana neatly demonstrates how some past issues remain significant today, and offers up unexpected solutions in terms of lifestyle, materiality and small-space living. It comprises a tight sequence of zones, or ‘rooms within a room’, dedicated to different functions. To save space, Sottsass eliminated corridors and emphasised the idea that all spaces have been conceived to be part of a whole. The combination of art and architecture is apparent in the different colours and materials that help define the various functions of each specific zone. 

‘Today, Triennale di Milano gives the world an extraordinary surprise: the faithful reconstruction of part of Casa Lana by Ettore Sottsass, that Triennale took apart and philologically reassembled thanks to the collaboration of Iskra Grisogono from the Sottsass archive, and the dialogue with the original owner’s family,’ comments Triennale president, architect Stefano Boeri. ‘From today, Milan hosts a veritable time machine, created by one of the geniuses of 20th century design.’

Adds Sammicheli: ‘The fact that Sottsass’ footsteps are still present in the original furniture is astonishing for us. That’s what makes this apartment exceptional.’ §


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