Photography lesson

Casa Lana: a lesson and a poem by Ettore Sottsass

On an ordinary day, a Wednesday, in a not-so-ordinary month of February (it will soon be exactly two years since the pandemic began), I go back to see Casa Lana again at the Milan Triennale, but in peace this time, without the hordes who attended the opening in December. Casa Lana is the entire living room of an Ettore Sottsass house designed for his friend and colleague Giovanni Lana in the late sixties, donated by his wife Barbara Radice Sottsass with the support of the Lana family and rebuilt at the Triennale. It is located on the top floor of the Palazzo dell’Arte, in a room permanently dedicated to the celebration of the work and to the memory of the great master (finally!).

Crossing the suspension bridge leading to the hall I am greeted by an explosion of colors: the walls of the large hall in which Casa Lana is installed are orange-red and cyan blue, colors chosen by Christoph Radl, the graphic artist and designer who worked with Sottsass . On the walls of the room, exhibits accompany the visitor to the entrance of the house, right in the middle of the room. Dedicated to Sottsass’ treasured theme, “Structure and Color”, the exhibition curated by Marco Sammicheli includes small drawings, large paintings, photographs and sketches bearing witness to the architect’s continuous reflections on space and objects, shapes and colors. Sometimes ironic, sometimes enigmatic, his work says more than any speech. One drawing particularly strikes me: a room in which a blue carpet decorated with small twigs “floods” through the front door as if it were water, with a yellow table set in the middle (Tappeti and tappezzerie, Carpets and wallpapers, 1992-2003). Sottsass viewed color and structure as the same thing, two interchangeable concepts, two sides of the same coin, so that neither prevailed over the other.

I finally enter the house itself, walking around the outside, whose wood-clad walls hide the cupboards. Two right-angle turns and I’m in the middle, surrounded by shelves, with three sofas arranged in a U, two blue and one red. This indoor sanctuary also includes a dining table, peninsula, desk, piano, and a drop-down table for a typewriter and calculator. I am at the heart of the house, where life has taken place. I turn left again, along a hallway with a coat rack and a high shelf to store pictures. I find myself at the entrance. The project is a rhomboid in which Sottsass encloses the whole meaning of inhabiting it, including everything that is necessary: ​​counters, shelves, tables, a telephone, hangers, but also paintings, panels of colored squares , ceramic vases and trays, a record player and hi-fi speakers. Clean, linear and practical, but also fun, light and relaxed.

Sottsass published Casa Lana in Domus magazine in 1967, beginning the feature article with an axonometric layout of the living room. He wanted the photographs on the following pages to show it inhabited, with the shoes of the guests piled up in the entrance hall, the coats on the pegs, and the children sitting on the sofas or lying on the floor, talking, listening to music , eat, play the piano. A kind of relaxed, happy and curious event; just like man. In the text, Sottsass describes the project in an apparently literal way, adding small notes summarizing his philosophy: with this type of home layout, he says, “you always have an idea life, because everything is there, in a small square where you can walk around and meet people”. The perfect summary of the concept of fluid space, combining practicality and beauty; a masterful lesson in interior design and, at the same time, a three-dimensional poem.

Antonelle Galli

Images: Courtesy of the Milan Triennale
Credits_Delfino Sisto Legnani and Alessandro Saletta