The Work of Carlo Mollino
December 7, 2008, 3:04 pm
Filed under: Architecture, Design, Rural Architecture

[Photo courtesy Carlo Mollino arabesques, Electa Press]

There’s a good chance that your college design professors never introduced you to the work of Carlo Mollino (1905 – 1973). Of the 7 architecture degrees here in our office – not one of us ever heard of the guy until recently. Maybe our professors didn’t want to create any more illusion around the profession of architecture than already exists (with Mollino’s playboy, jet-set lifestyle and all). Maybe it’s that architecture was only one of many hobbies for Mollino; who’s interests included car racing, flying airplanes and skiing. Or maybe it was that, later in life, he developed an affinity for photographing street hookers in his hometown of Turin. Tough to say, but here’s your primer on Mollino. For any of you that did happen to study him – we’d love to know how the guy was portrayed in academics.

Mollino has a strong portfolio of furniture design. The “Trestle Structure Table” (1949) below seems to have a heavy influence from his father, an Italian engineer. The design fits nicely into the northwest contemporary design philosophy that we’re still working to refine, 60 years later.

[Photo courtesy Carlo Mollino arabesques, Electa Press]
Although not as technical, the “Table for Colonna House” (1954) also exhibits an elegant and refined form.

[Photo courtesy Carlo Mollino arabesques, Electa Press]

The gorgeous “2690 Cavour” desk is still in production by Zanotta and can be purchased here.


It was Mollino’s ski lodge architecture that first caught our eye. There is such a strong design intention with his alpine projects; the contrast it creates with most of the ski lodge architecture here in the northwest is embarassing. Mollino’s designs better represent the nature and luxury of skiing. The structures themselves reflect the elegance and craft of gliding down the slopes on a set of attenuated wood skis. The unbuilt Furggen station, below, creates patterns and rhythms from the required structural elements. The project also incorporates cable-car transportation to the structure – when’s the last time you worked a cable car into a project?

[Photo courtesy Carlo Mollino arabesques, Electa Press]

The Lago Nero Sledge-Lift Station (1947) in Salice d’Ulzio explores spatial form, structural expression and separation of materials. The finished geometry is indicative of current modern design – only Mollino was experimenting with these forms 60 years ago… and getting them built.


[Photos courtesy Carlo Mollino arabesques, Electa Press]

Apartment building in Aosta (1953). So clean and modern it would still push the envelope of design in most American cities.

[Photo courtesy Carlo Mollino arabesques, Electa Press]

Chamber of Commerce of Turin (1972). One of the few buildings from the 70’s that doesn’t make us cringe.

[Photo courtesy Carlo Mollino arabesques, Electa Press]

Teatro Regio in Turin (1973). Did we mention that he had an erotic side to him?

[Photo courtesy Carlo Mollino arabesques, Electa Press]

Casa del Sole Building in Cervinia (1955)

[Photo courtesy Museo Carlo Mollino]

Mollino next to one of his aerobatic biplanes which crashed in 1958.

[Photo courtesy Carlo Mollino arabesques, Electa Press]

Mollino’s design for a aerobatic airplane (1962)

[Photo courtesy Carlo Mollino arabesques, Electa Press]

Mollino in his Bisiluro race-car design (1955) which utilized an asymmetrical geometry made of two separate hulls: one for the driver and the other for the engine.



[Photos courtesy Carlo Mollino arabesques, Electa Press]

In addition to being an accomplished downhill skier, Mollino helped document the art of skiing through photographs and text books on technique.


[Photos courtesy Carlo Mollino arabesques, Electa Press]

So let’s see, we’ve got architecture, interiors, furniture, race cars, airplanes, skiing, did we leave anything out? Oh, right, the photo collections of scantily clad Italian prostitutes. You didn’t think we were going to leave that out did you? Afterall – we’re not your college architecture professors. Between 1956 and 1962 Mollino used traditional photography methods, from 1962 until his death in 1973 Mollino adopted Polaroid technology for the series.  If you’re doing your math like we are, you’re putting together that this was a 17 year project for Mollino.  Alrighty-then.



[Photos courtesy Carlo Mollino arabesques, Electa Press]

So there you go, the cliff notes on Carlo Mollino. Overachieving-genius, James-Bond-like stud, jet-setting-renaissance ladies-man or eccentric, fruity-ass, crazy guy with too much energy. Whadaya think?

If you are taken by Mollino’s life and work we highly recommend getting one of his books in your hands. The selections above are only a fraction of the thorough documentation available on each project and aspect of his life. “Carlo Mollino arabesques” by Electa press is our personal fav, and it can be purchase here or here.


12 Comments so far
Leave a comment

A renaissance man or just plain crazy, either way he had an extraordinary eye for design. I never heard of this guy either.

Comment by Keyser

Finally! Some nudity on the BUILDblog

Comment by Anonymous

Finally, some nudity on this blog!

Comment by Kilroy

What it is about playboy industrial designers? This guy was the Italian version of Raymond Loewy.

Great find! I am putting Arabesques on my wishlist now.

Comment by Goodchemistry

What? No horse riding or polo? Hardly a gentleman’s architect. I still want one of those 2690 Cavour desks though.

Comment by Gus

This character is completely fascinating. Am I to assume that Build will be emulating some of his style in the new year?

Comment by Samuel

Wow! Quite possibly the best looking prostitutes I’ve ever seen.

Comment by kelly

Bravo, gentlemen. Clearly an outstanding sensibility at work here; delighted with your edgy, compelling lens on the genesis of modernism and your elegant, spare admixture of the canonical with the undiscovered.

Dig the swank babe pics, too.

Comment by Donald

didn’t the find thousands of undeveloped nude by mollino when he died? i remember reading that in domus…

Comment by mike

Odd that you would rely on your antiquated professors to inform you of someone every contemporary architect and student should know about; not new news, however, yet it always alarms me when folks find something for the first time, that which should have been part of your core understanding of design and architecture preceding your studies, or at least during. I sold vintage modern furniture, designed by important folks, for a very long time and that would be like discovering Ray and Charles Eames, long into my career-Call me old fashion.

Comment by Laura

Hey Laura, back to Condescension 101 for you. Your wobbly, error-ridden prose exposes only your own education lacunae. LOL. Take 2 humility pills and check back with us later.

Comment by Donald

[…] blog has posted a nice condensed overview of the work of mid-century Italian architect / designer / photographer / race car driver Carlo […]

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