Marco Zanuso (1916-) was one of a group of Italian designers from Milan shaping the international concept of "good design" in the postwar years. Trained in architecture at the Milan Polytechnic, he opened his own design office in 1945. From the beginning of his career, at Domus where he served as the editor from 1947-49 and at Casabella where he was editor from 1952-56, he helped to establish the theories and ideals of the energetic modern design movement. As a professor of architecture, design and town planning at the Polytechnic from the late 1940s until the 1980s, he also had a distinct influence over the next generation of designers coming out of Italy.
The major works of his career run a broad spectrum from early experiments in bent metal to luxurious, plush furniture to sleek industrial designs in plastic. The underlying motif throughout each phase of his work is that he was pioneering the use and market accessibility of every different material he worked with. Some of his first work to be shown at all, and certainly to be shown outside of Italy, was at the "Low-Cost Furniture" competition sponsored by the MoMA in 1948. His design featured a metal frame chair that used a breakthrough method to join the fabric seat to the frame. In 1948 Pirelli opened a new division, Arflex, to design seating with foam rubber upholstery. They commissioned Zanuso to produce their first models. His "Antropus" chair came out in 1949, followed by the "Lady" chair, which won first prize at the 1951 Milan Triennial. Zanuso lauded the new material, "One could revolutionize not only the system of upholstery but also the structural manufacturing and formal potential...our prototypes acquired visually exciting and new contours...with industrial standards that werepreviously unimaginable."
In 1957 he partnered with German designer Richard Sapper. One of their first projects was a small, stackable child's chair (1961) in non-reinforced plastic. This piece was light, functional and playful, manufactured in several bright colors and it was among the furniture designs responsible for convincing people that plastic was a viable and appropriate material for the modern home. Zanuso and Sapper were hired in 1959 as consultants to Brionvega, an Italian company trying to produce stylish electronics that could compete with those being made in Japan and Germany. They designed a series of radios and televisions that became enduring icons of an aesthetic known as "techno-functionalism." Their rounded, compact and portable "Doney 14" (1962) was the first completely transistor television. Working with the language of sculptural minimalism they designed the successful folding "Grillo" telephone for Siemens (1966). This was one of the first phones to put the dial and the earpiece on the same unit.
In a 1972 they designed a series of dwellings for the "New Domestic Landscape" show at the MoMA. Each stacking unit, like ultramodern teepees, unfolded to a living area complete with all the facilities and many of the accessories of a small apartment. Zanuso wrote that they were, "designed for all situations that require immediately available, easily transportable living quarters." As with the rest of their work, the hallmarks of these designs were elegance and imagination.