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Founded in 1947 by Luigi Caccia Dominioni, Ignazio Gardella and Corrado Corradi Dell’Acqua, Azucena has always been held in the highest esteem as an Italian brand, combining formal elegance, understated luxury and an aesthetical purity in its collections, all manufactured to the highest standard.

Named after Azucena, the gypsy in the Italian opera Il Trovatore, the architects created this brand to bring together a number of collections to furnish buildings they had designed. At the same time they saw an opportunity to produce individual pieces as part of their series of furniture collections. This resulted in a range of iconic pieces - in particular the “Catilina” chair - recognisable for marrying different but very refined materials, reworked into traditional stylistic forms. B&B Italia acquired the historic brand, intending to preserve it as part of Italy’s rich heritage, and it is being relaunched in 2018 with a series of “modern classics” designed by the architect Luigi Caccia Dominioni from the late 1940s onwards. The collection includes chairs, sofas, tables and lamps that symbolise ‘made in Italy’ design and that return today as a showcase of style and quality.

From an aristocratic family, Caccia Dominioni cut a maverick figure and did not belong to any particular school of architecture. Whether designing a mansion or a lamp, a stately home or an apartment, a convent or a supermarket he dextrously moved between his projects. He was a quintessential Milanese (as he liked to define himself) and he expressed his ideas with precision often including an element of surprise in his work: industriousness that embraced change, a high regard for manual workmanship giving impetus for innovative solutions. He never deliberately created iconic pieces, a trademark or logo; on the contrary he constantly reinvented his ideas finding ingenious solutions and giving them an unexpected twist. He liked to describe himself as “Baroque” yet many of his objects are so essential in their nature they border on minimalist. How is this possible you may well ask. The leitmotif running through his work is not so much its style as the rigorous architectural approach adopted in his projects, whether large or small in scale. He used to say that “an apartment is a micro city” and those inhabiting it move around “mostly twisting and turning like water flowing down a river”. And this explains why nature’s bends and curves gracefully converge with the architect’s straight lines in some of his most famous designs such as the Catilina chair, the Fascia Specchiata table, the Toro series and the Cavalletto table. And there is a surprise awaiting you at every turn. His passion for history is evident in the love he felt for everyday objects adapting them for the booming, post-war period that had transformed people’s lives at home. He recognised that you must not forget if you want to innovate but that hankering after the past can impede progress. We have a tactile example of this concept in the ABCD armchair and even in the “draped” Poltrona lamp. The same is true of the Nonaro garden furniture that would not look out of place in a Renaissance fresco yet tell the story of contemporary design. There is more than a touch of irony and light heartedness in many of Luigi Caccia Dominioni’s designs that can border on the surreal. A nun transformed into a lampshade in Monachella, a funnel stretching upwards in the floor lamp Imbuto and the racing car seat in the cockpit at home in the Pole Position. And the name of the cast iron table lamp - Base Ghisa - says it all. Like so many of his contemporaries, Caccia experimented with the scale of objects, enlarging and shrinking them and playing with their proportions. We can see this in Chinotto, a small armchair with an enormous padded base and also in the Cilindro ottoman that resembles a giant stopper or pencil rubber. In the right surroundings they work their own magic so as to appear larger in a more confined space which is exactly what Caccia Dominioni believed: “I’ve always adored small spaces and I’ve dedicated myself to making them appear larger”. Caccia Dominioni’s objects are timeless and it’s hard not to fall in love with them. They are a repository of history, stories and ideas that only reveal themselves over time. This explains why he always said his objects should be “contemplated and used”. This is why he always enjoyed such sophisticated patronage, and was loved by fellow architects and designers who gradually assimilated his ideas bringing them to the attention of a far wider public. He was no superstar, but thanks to his refinement and originality his work served as a benchmark for an entire generation of designers and today we can with justification call him an “influencer of influencers”.
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