Osvaldo Borsani

Milan, Italy

The Life of Osvaldo Borsani

Osvaldo Borsani was an Italian modernist designer who was instrumental in bringing modernism to Italy. Born in 1911, his father owned Atelier di Varedo, a company known for creating bespoke furnishings and interiors in an Art Deco style. His father, Gaetano, trained him to work in the family business while Osvaldo was attending art school. High quality was paramount at the Atelier so they would often take a lot of time over the craftsmanship to ensure the pieces were just right. The family was well educated and quite upper class, so Osvaldo Borsani's good education exposed him to modernism.

Osvaldo Borsani's Style

Osvaldo Borsani is probably the most famous, in terms of interior design, for his contribution to sofas and lounge chairs . The P40 Lounge, the D70 Sofa and the P11O "Canada" Chair were all very famous creations. Osvaldo Borsani also designed and built Villa Borsani - a rare surviving example of Osvaldo Borsani's architecture - during a transitional phase where he moved away from his father's traditionalism and towards modernism. He eventually blended both of these styles to create a new way of working, demonstrated perfectly by the Villa Borsani. While studying at the Politecnico di Milano, Osvaldo received the silver medal at the fifth Triennale exhibition for Casa Minima, a proposal for rationalist inspired housing. This thrust him into the spotlight, and fame soon followed. With the family business, he was given more room to experiment and be creative; in 1953 he partnered with his brother to form Tecno.

Collaborations and Tecno

Borsani, in his lifetime, collaborated with many other designers and architects, who then became lifelong friends. This list includes Lucio Fontana, Agenor Fabbri, Fausto Melotti, Roberto Crippa, Aligi Sassu and Gio and Arnaldo Pomodoro, to name a few. They joined forces on a range of interior and furniture designs, spawning creations that would become iconic. Borsani also traveled North to experience the works from his favourite designers, like Le Corbusier and Marcel Breuer . These influences are very evident in his chairs, and in other pieces designed for Tecno.The company Tecno continued to be a family buissness, Borsani's daughter and son-in-law became the sole designers, where for more than 30 years they were famed for their research-based technological approach. .

How to Spot a Borsani

Osvaldo Borsani's work is easy to spot due to its use of modern styles and craftsmanship. The brick and stucco architecture of the house, as well as the wisteria of the garden illustrates the clean lines of modernity, but the rich wooden mullions and casings are more inspired by designers such as Frank Lloyd Wright than Le Corbusier. The importance of quality is also reflected in the interiors - a crisscrossing marble staircase with a solid walnut handrail and support slats made of tempered class is a good example of the high calibre of his work. While respecting traditional craftsmanship, Osvaldo Borsani also embraced the burgeoning modernist style, marrying the two to create a hallmark all his own. Highly influential, his knack for timelessness and quality is something towards which all designers should aspire.