In Memoriam – Architecture? Desist! It’s a men’s job, she was once told. But in her beliefs “architecture is a science looking after humanity,” therefore beyond gender. Cini Boeri, explored the full spectrum of the design project: from industrial furniture to residential architecture. Her work is characterized by an elegant and practical playfulness with a both elegant and pop imprint.
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Born Maria Cristina Mariani Dameno in 1924 in Milan, Cini Boeri grew up in an anti-fascist family and, during World War II, she even couriered important documents in support of the opposition movement. In 1951 she was one of the only three women to graduate in architecture at the Politecnico university. Her career began under the guidance of Giò Ponti and Marco Zanuso, in 1963 she opened her own studio, Cini Boeri Architetti, working on both residential and commercial projects as well as developing industrial designs for leading company such as Artemide, Knoll, Magis and Artflex.
Elegant functionality and a practical approach infuse all her projects with a pop attitude. Designed for Artflex in 1971, The Serpentone – big snake in English – is a quirky sofa made from vertical polyurethane foam panels strung together like a concertina. Conceived to be bought by the metre to fit any desired space, the design earned her the prestigious Compasso D’Oro award of Italian design.
Cini Boeri’s functional designs always match the psychological relationship between man and his environment. The Strips modular seating system (1972) is a precursor of Tetris and consists in oversized foam bricks that can be composed in endless configurations for any possible living room.
FIAM Italia’s Ghost Chair (1987) brings cutting edge innovation back to exquisite simplicity. The seat is made from a single single 12mm thick glass sheet, bent to its extreme to guarantee both safe stability and comfort. The Lunaro table series designed for Gavina in 1970 echoes ripples of water or light, essential elements to our human existence.
After Knoll acquired Gavina, Boeri collaborated with the company on numerous projects including the interiors of showrooms in Italy, France, Germany and California. In 1978 she designed also the glossy Brigadier sofa which comes in a sober color palette, while in 2009 she debuted the Cini Boeri Lounge Collection.
Among her most notable architecture projects is the brutalist clifftop Casa Bunker and the ‘embracing’ Villa Rotonda, both completed in Sardinia in the 60’s. Thanks to its fragmented architecture, not a single birch tree had to be torn down to build the Casa nel bosco [1969 ] in Lombardy.
Cini Boeri is survived by her three sons Stefano, Sandro and Tito. “There is nothing serious and elitist in the essentiality of her architecture, just as there is nothing austere and penitent in the minimalism of her furniture design projects,” remembers her son and acclaimed architect Stefano Boeri. “On the contrary, the seriality of Serpentone, like that of Strips, reveals a playful modular value that’s even present in their names while the sinuous shapes of the Ghost or the Villa Rotonda are an ironic break with the aesthetic stylistic features of rationalism.”
Her advice for the new generation female designers? “You have to be curious- that’s the way to learn, even at my age. I believe that an architect must be able to relate to the society in which he or she lives, or rather, the society in which he or she would like to live. Architects should be aware of the politics, the economy and the environment where they operate, and make sure their choices are in harmony with these spheres.” Said Cini Boeri in an interview with CONTEXT Gallery.