Design Beyond Boundaries | The Limitless Imagination of Dominico Parisi

Design Beyond Boundaries | The Limitless Imagination of Dominico Parisi

Considered by many, not least himself, a modern Renaissance man, Dominico, or Ico, Parisi was one of the chief driving forces behind the development of Italian Modernism. Alongside contemporaries such as Gio Ponti, Paolo Buffa, Carlo Molino, and Carlo di Carli, he exercised widespread influence on architecture, photography, and furniture design, laying the foundation of a stylistic period revered to this day.

6 July 2023

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Born in Palermo, Sicily, in 1916 his family relocated to Como in 1925 where his father worked as an art teacher, Parisi was exposed to a classical artistic education from a young age. Following the completion of his formal education in 1936 he studied under Rationalist architect Giuseppe Terragni for whom he carried out a photographic study of Casa del Fascio.

The Rationalist philosophy, derived from Pythagorean relationship of mathematical harmony in relation to the harmony of reality, favoured mathematical precision and minimal ornamentation. Its influence proved a seminal to the development of Parisi’s own style, often taking on simple yet pronounced forms, executed in symmetry. This was something which he achieved by working in softer woods finished in veneers, in secession from the contemporarily favoured, and much harder, teak.

 

Ico Parisi (Italian, 1916-1996) and Luisa Parisi (Italian, 1914-1990) (£12,000-15,000)

Ico Parisi (Italian, 1916-1996) and Luisa Parisi (Italian, 1914-1990) (£12,000-15,000)

 

In 1945 Ico organised the first contemporary furniture exhibition in Como, marking a clear departure from the bulky styles which governed the pre-war Art Deco era, transitioning into what would become Italian Mid-Century Modernism. The emerging furniture, unlike its predecessors, was light and defined by geometry, working along clean simple lines, synthesising these with contemporary developments in architecture.

Between 1948 and 1950, Ico and his wife Luisa, whom he married in 1947, devoted their efforts and new studio La Reuta, to the symbiosis of exterior architecture and interior design. Working with prominent architects of the time, such as Gio Ponti (who had been Luisa’s mentor) they developed some of the leading examples of Mid-Century interiors, such as the Padiglione di soggiorno for the Milanese Triennale in 1954. The furnishings within reflected the tent-like structure of the pavilion, working in harmony and earning Parisi the gold medal of the Triennale.

 

A pair of side tables (£1,800)

A pair of side tables (£1,800)

 

Parisi’s distinctive style would come to a halt in the late 1960s, having come to define and master every facet of the Italian Mid-Century era. Gio Ponti once famously wrote to him expressing his awe, calling Parisi a master and stating all he had left to do was to retire in oblivion. Turning his gaze to a more literal interpretation of the socio-utopian philosophy which had defined much of his early work and influences, he presented the Contenitoriumani project in 1968. Taking the form of foam recesses cut after human forms he set out to re-define the spaces he had created two decades earlier. This pursuit culminated in his last big project, Operazione Arcevia, a Modernist artist’s collective of interdisciplinary thinking making up a community of creativity, carried out between 1972 and 1976, and exhibited in 1978.

Ico Parisi never stopped creating, and La Reuta remained active up until the year before his death in 1996. Never wishing to be pigeonholed as a designer, an architect, or a furniture maker, he continuously pushed the boundaries of design philosophy, looking increasingly at the relationship between design and humanity. His projects have since become the basis not only for development in designs, but philosophy and psychology as well – a true Renaissance man indeed.


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