Carlo Pagani, architect, was born in Milan in 1913, and died in the same city in 1999. His professional life features three distinct periods, the first witnessed him drawing up cultural, architectural and interior décor magazines during World War 2. The second period (1949-1970 circa) witnessed his focus on designing interiors for department stores such as la Rinascente in Italy, and others abroad. The third period, from 1970 to the early 1990s, was dedicated to sailing.
Pagani attended the School of Architecture in Milan, and then the one in Rome where he graduated in 1939. On returning to Milan, he joined Giò Ponti’s studio. Giò Ponti had been his professor when he was a student. He initially partnered the firm in an architectural design project, and then was gradually included in the editorial board of the magazine “Domus”. In 1940 he followed Ponti, who created the magazine “Stile” published by Garzanti, and became its Editor-in-Chief until 1943.
Always in 1943, he was invited to jointly direct “Domus” with Melchiorre Bega. The magazine’s editorial board had been moved to Bergamo due to the war. Pagani called Lina Bo to join him, and later directed “I quaderni di Domus” and “A” with her. They were highly productive years for Carlo Pagani, a time when he established stimulating high standard cultural relations with architects, artists, art critics and friends that lasted a lifetime. The three months in 1943 when he was called to arms as Artillery Officer form a brief pause. The ship on which he was stationed suffered a torpedo attack and he was injured. He clung for nine hours to a raft before being saved.
Ponti’s personality and friendship were essential in his cultural and professional training. In 1946-1949 Pagani actively worked as architect and was also Assistant for the Restoration and Stylistic and Construction Features of Monuments at the School of Architecture, Milan Polytechnic.
In spring 1949 he visited the United States with some Directors of la Rinascente to study the philosophy of American department stores. During the months spent on the opposite shores of the Atlantic, he also had the opportunity to meet leading figures on the architectural scene, such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Richard Neutra.
On his return, he started designing the interiors of la Rinascente in Piazza Duomo, which opened in December 1950. Hence he commenced his long-standing partnership that involved him for more than twenty years in the creation of the department store’s branches throughout Italy, precisely in Rome (in the district of Colonna and in Piazza Fiume), Naples, Cagliari, Catania, Genoa and Upim. He was also in charge of fittings for exhibition events. For la Rinascente in Milan he summoned artists and graphic designers: Campigli created a large mosaic for the entrance in via San Raffaele; Clerici, the large panels for the Lingerie Department on the 4th floor; and Max Huber designed the brand, thus starting a long-standing partnership with the Group.
In 1954 la Rinascente acknowledged the growing importance of its creative initiatives, and established the Compasso d’Oro Award, whose jury was made up of the company’s Top Management and architects Giò Ponti, Marco Zanuso and Alberto Rosselli.
In 1950 la Rinascente was Europe’s leading department store with a new technical and distribution layout. The Group offered Pagani the opportunity to specialise in a new international design sector that led him to work both in Europe and in Africa.
He also designed three buildings in Milan, to be precise in viale Piave, in piazza Buonarrotti and in piazza San Fedele. In 1955 he won a competition with the multi-storeyed Ramses Building in Cairo. Always in 1955 Hoepli published his book Architettura italiana oggi, with preface by Richard Neutra. It was the first book to be published in Italy after the war, and its 296 pages on 90 works by 100 designers documented the Italian architecture of the period.
Early in the 1970s, moved by a deep passion for sailing, Carlo Pagani became an architect of interiors for the Riva Boatyard in Sarnico. He also designed large vessels for private clients in several Italian and foreign boatyards. His business as architect continued especially with the interiors of houses, and also with consultations that took him abroad to Canada and the United States, Iraq and Ethiopia, continuing his international business tradition related to friendships and the esteem of historical clients.
The selection published on the Web portal includes 9 photographic albums, particularly 4 albums centred on la Rinascente’s new branch in Piazza del Duomo, Milan (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th floor) that was inaugurated on 4 December 1950. Arch. Pagani worked on this project as designer of shop windows, entrances, interior architecture and décor. There is also a collection of photographs of interiors of la Rinascente’s head office in Catania, dated 1959, an album on the Product Aesthetics Exhibition held in 1953, and the 1954 Compasso d’Oro Award that was hosted at the Palazzo dell’Arte, Milan. This material documents the exhibition dedicated to Spanish handicrafts in 1955 with photographs portraying fittings at the Spanish Exhibition in the framework of the event Sei mesi col mondo (literally: “Six months with the world”) in 1963. And finally, an album dedicated to the Antiques Exhibition promoted by la Rinascente in Palazzo Strozzi (Florence), and the creation of new settings at la Rinascente Club and at the Council Hall of its Milan head office.
Besides these, there are some lose photographs portraying the Architect with other leading figures; an excerpt of the Us and You Conference held by Arch. Pagani at the International Congress on European Department Stores, Venice, 1966; the 1950 Programme for the Home Furnishings Department and an interesting Report on interior architectural design, both drawn up by Pagani, and a press review selection in the Archive. Concluding, a curious ship logbook is proposed with a day-to-day account of the Architect’s journey to Japan with Longo Dente and Lacagnina to seek products and materials.