Cini Boeri in Her Studio

Table of Contents

Cini Boeri (1924-2020) was a dominant figure in 20th-century Italian design and architecture. Along with Gae Aulenti, she was one of the few women who received timely recognition for her contributions to the design world. She shared her positioning between industrial product design, interior design, and building design with other women architects of her generation, like Anna Castelli Ferrieri, Franca Helg, and Nanda Vigo.

Early Life and Education

Born Maria Cristina Mariani Dameno, Boeri retained the surname Boeri after her brief marriage to renowned neurologist Renato Boeri. She studied at the Politecnico di Milano, graduating in Architecture in 1951. Then, she trained in Marco Zanuso’s studio, often dealing with interiors and furnishings, such as a nursery in Gubbio in 1960. In 1963, she opened her Milan studio, which she would run for nearly six decades until her passing.

Cini Boeri Design Philosophy

Boeri was a significant figure during the golden decades of Italian design between the ’50s and ’70s. Moreover, she was deeply involved in the zeitgeist of the time, which she managed to express through some very personal and brilliant insights. For Boeri, like Achille Castiglioni, Vico Magistretti, and other greats of the time, the designer’s task was to democratize a better quality of life by reinventing and refining everyday objects. This was an anti-elitist vision of the discipline. Indeed, the project product was not a luxury that only a few could possess. It is an essential comfort to be used in modern life with as wide an audience as possible.

Iconic Cini Boeri Design

She created her most surprising objects within this framework, such as the many seats she designed for Arflex. For example, in 1967, she designed  Bobo armchairs and sofas (offered in four sizes to accommodate users with varying levels of mobility). Furthermore, in 1972, she developed the Strips system, which is infinitely reconfigurable according to users’ needs. With this project, she won the Compasso d’Oro prize. Moreover, in 1967, she designed the Serpentone (1967), a sofa that could be literally bought “by the meter” and then rolled or unrolled at will in one’s own home.

The Serpentone best represents Boeri’s ability to reconcile technical innovation – a block of polyurethane foam, without soul and without covering – and reflection on possible spaces and forms of conviviality alternative to traditional ones.

Cini Boeri and the Experimentation with Materials

The same vision and pleasure in experimentation with materials can be found in a later project: the Ghost armchair for FIAM (1987). It is not an object for everyone but almost an outsider born from a now-changed cultural and commercial context. Indeed, the Ghost is an entirely transparent armchair made of a single curved glass sheet, a solid platform built in the most fragile materials.

In addition to the many seats, Boeri’s production ranges from office furniture, for example, for Rosenthal and Knoll, to lamps, even for Arteluce and Stilnovo.

Cini Boeri and Architecture

Cini Boeri’s architectural journey is marked by significant projects, primarily focused on houses. One of her remarkable creations was the Bunker House, built in 1967 on Maddalena Island. For this project, Cini Boeri took inspiration from the Savoy forts along the Sardinian coastline. Indeed, this enigmatic structure seamlessly blended into its surroundings while also standing out as something unique. Boeri’s design, with its primitive configuration and strategic positioning, offered a vacation-like experience, inviting inhabitants to break away from their daily routines.

Another notable project is the House in the Woods of Osmate, Varese, completed in 1969. Here, Boeri’s pursuit of simplified volumes resulted in a visually striking, almost brutalist aesthetic, thanks to the exposed concrete facades. The architecture harmoniously interacts with the existing natural landscape, minimizing the impact on the surrounding birch trees.

Moreover, Boeri’s exploration of domestic spaces reached its pinnacle with the home project showcased at the Triennale in Milan in 1986. Indeed, the design reflected maturely on shared and solitary moments within a couple’s residence. It combined areas for social interactions with private spaces, fostering a sense of mutual responsibility.

From the mid-80s onwards, Boeri’s architectural production experienced a quantitative decline while maintaining an experimental spirit. Projects like Casa La Sbandata in Maddalena (2004) and the three-level apartment in Milan (2008) showcased her continued brilliance and innovative urgency.

It is important to acknowledge the overall trajectory of Boeri’s career, yet this should not overshadow the absolute value of her work. In fact, her lesser-known but culturally significant interventions, such as the refined transformations of the historic building in the small Sardinian town of Ghilarza between the 70s and 80s, deserve rediscovery.

Through these insights, we gain a deeper understanding of Cini Boeri’s journey, appreciating her unique style, creations, and the influences that shaped her architectural legacy.

Notable Architectural Projects by Cini Boeri

Cini Boeri has left an indelible mark on architecture through her numerous innovative projects. Here, we highlight some of her most notable works:

The 1960s and the 1970s

  • 1966-67 Holiday House “Rotonda” at Punta Cannone (La Maddalena, Sardinia, Italy): This holiday house brilliantly demonstrates Boeri’s ability to integrate her designs with the existing natural environment.
  • 1967 Vacation home “Bunker” at the Gulf of Abbataggia (La Maddalena, Sardinia, Italy): Another exceptional holiday house, the “Bunker,” shows Boeri’s experimentation with structural forms.
  • 1968 Four row houses in Angera (Varese): These four terraced houses illustrate Boeri’s thoughtful approach to communal living spaces.

Holiday House "Rotonda" at Punta Cannone (La Maddalena, Sardinia, Italy)

Vacation home "Bunker" at the Gulf of Abbataggia (La Maddalena, Sardinia, Italy)

  • 1969 House in the Woods in Osmate (Varese): The “House in the Forest” is a testament to her ability to combine modern architecture with natural surroundings.
  • 1969-72 Vacation home in Alzate Brianza (Como): This holiday home further develops Boeri’s harmonious designs.
  • 1970 Antonio Gramsci’s museum house in Ghilarza (Oristano, Sardinia, Italy): The Antonio Gramsci museum home manifests Boeri’s respect for historical contexts and her ability to integrate modern elements with historic structures.
  • 1976 Showroom Knoll International in Paris: This showroom displays Boeri’s talent in creating functional commercial spaces.
  • 1978-81 Aragonese Tower in Ghilarza (Oristano, Sardinia, Italy): The Aragonese Tower embodies her skill in transforming historic buildings.

Vacation home in Alzate Brianza (Como)

Aragonese Tower in Ghilarza (Oristano, Sardinia, Italy)

The 1980s, the 1990s and the 2000s

  • 1989 Villa in Alsace (Porrentruy, Switzerland): This villa in Alsace showcases her capacity to design grand residential spaces. 
  • 1992-93 Three-level villa (Piacenza): The three-level villa exemplifies her innovative approach to vertical living spaces.
  • 1997 EDS Office Buildings in Pomezia (Rome): The EDS office buildings demonstrate her proficiency in designing modern professional environments.

Villa in Alsace (Porrentruy, Switzerland)

Three-level villa (Piacenza)

  • 1998-07 Monza Cathedral Hypogeum Museum: The underground museum of the Monza Cathedral is a testament to her unique blend of contemporary design and historical conservation.
  • 2003-04 Vacation home “La Sbandata” in Stagno Storto (La Maddalena, Sardinia, Italy): The “La Sbandata” holiday house is an example of her later work, still marked by her signature style.
  • 2009-12 Old Parish Winery in Campagnatico (Grosseto): The Pieve Vecchia winery highlights Boeri’s ability to create designs that enhance the functionality of their space. 

Vacation home "La Sbandata" in Stagno Storto (La Maddalena, Sardinia, Italy)

Old Parish Winery in Campagnatico (Grosseto)

These projects collectively underscore Cini Boeri’s distinctive style, innovative designs, and the profound impact she has had on the architectural landscape.

Most Notable Design Projects by Cini Boeri

Cini Boeri left an indelible mark in the world of design. Her works range from fascinating furniture design to innovative lighting solutions. Some of her most notable design projects include:

The 1960s

  • Borgogna chair for Arflex (1964): A chair on wheels fitted with various accessories. The chair features an adjustable stand and light, with foam padding.

Borgogna Chair by Arflex, 1964

  • Bobo and Bobolungo armchairs for Arflex (1967): These two armchairs have seats made exclusively with expanded polyurethane foams without a rigid internal structure.

Bobolungo by Arflex, 1967

  • Cubotto drawer for Arflex (1968): A cubic element with drawers on the sides. The structure is made of wood with a plastic laminate covering. Noted in the “Compasso d’Oro” prize (1970).

Cubotto Drawer by Cini Boeri for Arflex, 1968

  • Model 602 table lamp for Arteluce (1968): A table lamp made from rigid PVC tubes inserted onto a painted metal base. A reflective cap was inserted into the tube.

Model 602 Table Lamp by Arteluce, 1968

  • Wardrobe-bookcase for Arflex (1969): A laminate wardrobe-bookcase with modular elements mounted on wheels.

Wardrobe-Bookcase by Cini Boeri for Arflex, 1969

From 1970 to 1974

  • Bacone sofa for Arflex (1970): A sofa with polyurethane foam padding on a rigid structure.

Bacone Sofa by Cini Boeri for Arflex, 1970

  • Gradual system for Gavina (1971): A system of sofas connectable to each other with 30° and 60° wedge-shaped cabinets. This allows for the organization of different configurations.

Gradual System by Cini Boeri for Gavina, 1971

  • Serpentone sofa for Arflex (1971): This is a continuous seating solution created by the union of polyurethane slats.

Serpentone Sofa by Cini Boeri for Arflex, 1971

  • Lunario table for Gavina (1971): A table with an eccentric steel base and a wood or crystal top.

Lunario Table by Cini Boeri for Gavina, 1971

  • Model 235 ceiling lamp for Arteluce (1971): A ceiling spotlight made from painted metal for directional light.

Model 235 Ceiling Lamp by Arteluce, 1971

  • Strips armchair with Laura Griziotti for Arflex (1972): Like the other elements of the Strips series, the armchair is made from blocks of foamed polyurethane glued onto a plywood base resting on wheels. Winner of the “Compasso d’Oro” prize (1979).

Strips Series by Cini Boeri and Laura Griziotti for Arflex, 1972

  • Strips Bed with Laura Griziotti for Arflex (1972): The Strips series bed is made up of a volume, almost a mattress, supported (without legs) directly on the ground. Winner of the “Compasso d’Oro” prize (1979).

Strips Bed by Arflex, 1972

  • Botolo chair for Arflex (1973): A seating solution made from molded polyurethane foam, distinguished by the support structure of three chrome-plated tubular metal elements.

Botolo Chair by Arflex, 1973

  • Lucetta table lamp for Stilnovo (1973): A table lamp in white durethan with a black PVC border.

Lucetta Table Lamp by Stilnovo, 1973

  • Bengodi sofa for Arflex (1974): A couch on a rigid structure with mixed padding of polyurethane foams and acrylic fibers.

Bengodi Sofa by Arflex, 1974

From 1975 to 1979

  • Taboga armchair for Arflex (1975): An armchair with a cover inserted on a removable structure in tubular iron. Mentioned in “Compasso d’Oro” (1979).

Taboga Armchair by Cini Boeri for Arflex, 1975

  • Abat-jour table lamp for Arteluce (1975): A table lamp with a pyramidal marble base, perspex diffuser, and metal tip.

Abat-Jour Table Lamp by Cini Boeri for Arteluce, 1975

  • Brigadier sofa for Knoll (1976): A sofa with a lacquered wooden frame. The backrest and seat panels are slid onto the two side parallelepipeds on guides.

Brigadier Sofa by Cini Boeri for Knoll, 1976

  • Bonte sofa for Arflex (1978): A sofa with elements that can be variously combined and padded with polyurethane foams on a rigid structure.

Bonte Sofa by Arflex, 1978

  • Tuttoletto bed for Arflex (1978): Composed elements of furniture and bed platform.

Tuttoletto by Cini Boeri for Arflex, 1978

  • Accademia floor lamp for Artemide (1978): A floor lamp with a metal base and a triangular fabric diffuser.

Accademia Floor Lamp by Cini Boeri for Artemide, 1978

  • Strips with Legs armchair with Laura Griziotti for Arflex (1979): A re-edition of the namesake armchair with wooden legs.

Strips Armchair with Legs by Arflex, 1979

The 1980s

  • Steps storage unit with Laura Griziotti for Estel (1982): Lacquered wood storage furniture.

Steps Storage Unit by Cini Boeri and Laura Griziotti for Estel, 1982

  • Ditto table lamp for Tronconi (1982): A rotating table lamp with a metal base and stem; perspex shade.

Ditto Table Lamp by Tronconi, 1982

  • Pacific sofas for Arflex (1983): Series of sofas formed by a seating base in different sizes, to which different padded corner elements are applied, with the function of backrest and armrests.

Pacific Sofa by Arflex 1983

  • Shadows table for ICF (1983): A table consisting of two glass plates with a satin perimeter band. The structure is made of iron and wood.

Shadows Table by Cini Boeri for ICF, 1983

  • Chiara lamp for Venini (1984): A ceiling and table lamp that also has a floor version. It has a blown glass diffuser in three color variants.

Chiara Table Lamp by Venini, 1984

  • Past sofa for Arflex (1986): Among the many seats designed for Arflex by Cini Boeri is the Past sofa, also produced in the corner version.

Past Sofa by Arflex, 1986

  • Ghost armchair with Tomu Katayanagi for Fiam (1987): A curved glass armchair. It derives its shape from the possibilities offered thanks to the technological innovations of the new processes.

Ghost Armchair by Cini Boeri and Tomu Katayanagi for Fiam, 1987

  • Feltro ceiling lamp for Venini (1989): A suspension lamp with three adjustable steel cables, with the plate in blown glass.

Feltro Ceiling Lamp by Venini, 1989

  • Lucia ceiling lamp for Venini (1989): The lamp mounts halogen dichroic bulbs in the small colored glass diffusers.

Lucia Ceiling Lamp by Venini, 1989

Cini Boeri’s design projects demonstrate her innovative use of materials and her remarkable design sensibility, making her one of the most influential figures in modern design.

Conclusion

Indeed, when we delve into design and architecture, Cini Boeri’s work is an influential beacon. Her innovative ideas and unique designs have significantly shaped our perception and understanding of modern architecture. Firstly, her pioneering exploration of domestic spaces has transformed our home design approach. She laid the groundwork for fostering harmony and interaction in residential settings by creating a delicate balance between communal and private spaces. Secondly, her unwavering commitment to blending architecture with the natural landscape demonstrates a profound respect for the environment. This philosophy has since become a guiding principle for contemporary architects worldwide. Furthermore, Boeri’s enduring experimental spirit, even as her architectural production decreased, is a testament to her ongoing quest for invention and innovation. In conclusion, Cini Boeri’s remarkable contributions have left an indelible mark on design and architecture, inspiring new generations to push boundaries and redefine conventions.

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