When you think of Italy what do you think of? Spaghetti may come to mind, but does a spaghetti lamp? Some of the world’s most gifted artists are Italian, so it comes as no surprise that Gaetano Pesce has created some of the most genius pieces in design as well as some of the most striking architecture around. He is undoubtedly one of the most independent thinkers in the design world.
Architect, artist, and designer Gaetano Pesce was born in 1939, in La Spezia, Italy, and spent his childhood in Padua and Florence. Studying architecture at the University of Venice, where he studied with notable teachers like Carlo Scarpa and Ernesto Rogers, he graduated in 1965. Working at some of the best companies like Vitra and Cassina, he is best known for “Organic Building” in Osaka, Japan. The client wanted a free standing garden, but in crowded Osaka this was impossible. Pesce decided to designed the building itself to be a vertical garden, which had been suggested in designs for years, but never effectively developed. The building is visually stunning with the vertical garden concealing a complex computer-controlled hydrating system of pipes that sustain the plants. Organic building
was declared a landmark by the city of Osaka, who has taken full responsibility for its maintenance.
Gaetano Pesce was one of the leaders of the ‘Italian’ radical group of the 1960’s. Pesce lived in Padua, Italy until 1967, working as an artist and making films. In 1968, he developed “UP”, a seating furniture line made of polyurethane foam. It wasn’t until the furniture was brought home and unpacked that
the chairs and sofas and tables would absorb enough air to plump up the polyurethane foam. He has been able to individualize even serially produced modern furniture by using materials that leave a certain amount to chance in the manufacturing process.
Pesce loved to experiment with new materials, like the foam he used to create the chairs and other pieces. From resin, a thick and sticky substance produced by most plants, he has created 10,000 different types of vases. Pesce, even today, experiments with unusual materials, always inserting the principal of individuality into each piece he creates.
The principal exhibits of Gaetano Pesce include, from 1972, “Italy, The New Domestic Landscape” at the Metropolitan
Museum of Modern Art. There was a one-man show “Le Future est Peut- Etre Passé?” at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs of the Louvre, in 1975. In 1984 at the Centre Pompidou he had an exhibit called, “Architecture et Industrie.” Many Pesce works are featured as part of permanent collections at major museums including, MOMA in New York, Musee des Arts in Paris, and the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco.
Gaetano Pesce has won several awards for his designs. He won the Chrysler Design Award in 1993, in 1995 the Interior Design Magazine Award for his collapsible chair/ umbrella, the Design Excellence Award of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, as well as Designer of the Year 2006 from the German magazine “Archiektur und Wohnen.”
Residing in New York since 1980, he has been a guest professor at several notable institutions. They include such prestigious schools as Cooper Union New York, and Institut d”Architecture ET d’ Etudes Urbaines in Strasbourg. He has also taught at Yale, at the Universitities of Quebec and Montreal, as well as the Institutes of Architecture in Hong Kong and Sao Paolo.
Using the theories that design and architecture should be “representations of reality” and be a “document of their time”, Pesce has delivered some of the most original and thought provoking designs of the 20th century. A spaghetti lamp or the
many vases made of plant resin, Gaetano Pesce has worked to make his designs as individual as he is.