modern italian kitchen designer Gae Aulenti

Gae Aulenti

"Architecture must provide indications that also hold value for others, that help others to learn new things, like a kind of training in good intentions."

Gaetana “Gae” Aulenti was born in Palazzolo dello Stella (Udine) in 1927 and died in Milan in 2012. After completing a degree in architecture at the Polytechnic of Milan, she gained her professional experience in Milan in the 1950s. As a reaction against rationalism, she committed herself to bringing back traditional architectural values, becoming part of the movement later defined as “Neo-liberty”.

Some of Ms. Aulenti’s most important architectural projects included: the renovation of the “Gare d'Orsay”, the “Musée d'Orsay”, and the “National Museum of Modern Art” at the “Centre Pompidou” in Paris; the “Museum of Catalan Art” in Barcelona; the renovation of “Palazzo Grassi” in Venice; the “Museum of Asian Art” in San Francisco; and the renovation of the “Ex Scuderie Papali” at the Quirinal Palace in Rome.

Aulenti was able to create architecture that integrated perfectly with the pre-existing urban environment, almost indistinguishable from the original form. She always tried to bring the many different levels of intensity of the urban landscape into the architectural space. She made the words of the great English poet Thomas Stearn Eliott her own: “...tradition isn't inherited, it is built day by day. I haven't changed my mind”. Her way of thinking was however obscured by a certain sense of disappointment: “We are living through a very difficult time, not just for architecture, but for all the arts. For me, a piece of work must point to the future; it must be prophetic.”

Gae Aulenti began her collaboration with Snaidero in 1993, taking on an ambitious and innovative project. Reconciling tradition with technological innovation, she used marble, wood and colored glass to design “Etra.” This luxury modern kitchen reflected the idea of a domestic environment completely coherent with Ms. Aulenti’s design philosophy: practicality combined with traditional craftsmanship and correctly proportioned lines that redefine the functionality of the space.

Aulenti strongly believed that in the world of industrial design, as with architecture, it is fundamental to create pure, elementary forms that are stripped of un-influential fashion, so they can last forever. That was achieved with “Etra.”

Etra modern italian kitchen design

Project | Etra

With this luxury kitchen, Snaidero and Aulenti presented features that are a staple of today's modern kitchen design but were very new at the time: 1) fewer upper cabinets for a cleaner look at eye level; 2) shelving as a functional and aesthetic solution; and 3) light as an architectural element.