Gae Aulenti -- World-Renowned Italian Architect
Leading figure in contemporary architecture; she designed such famous structures as the famous Musée d'Orsay in Paris, and the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
Great architects are known for combining their skills in math, science, engineering and the arts in designing buildings and structures that are not only aesthetically appealing but serve a desired purpose. Gae Aulenti was one of those architects. Merging this expertise with a keen eye for detail and an appreciation of cultural and historic values in the urban environment, she has become known as a leading figure of contemporary architecture.
Born in 1927 in Palazzolo dello Stella, Italy, Gae (pronounced "guy") studied to be an architect at the Milan Polytechnic University. After graduating, she worked for the design magazine Casabella-Continuità from 1955 until 1965 as an art director, doing graphic design work and later served on the board of directors for the renamed Lotus International magazine.
Why She's Important: Gae became known as a leading figure in contemporary architecture based on her unique approach to architectural design which centered on her "extraordinary ability" to combine cultural and historic values with the urban environment. In addition, she was one of the few Italian women to rise to prominence in architecture and design in the post World War II years. She is perhaps best known for: designing the Musée d'Orsay historical art museum in Paris (which she converted from an 80-year-old train station), designing the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, restoring the historic 200-year old Palazzo Grassi art museum in Venice, Italy, and designing the exhibition space for the Contemporary Art Gallery at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
She also converted the old Italian embassy in Berlin into an Academy of Science, and restored an exhibition hall in Barcelona as a museum of Catalan art.
Other Achievements: She later taught architecture at universities in Milan and Venice and started doing interior design projects. She went on to become a celebrated furniture designer, some of her work influenced by Pop Art. Lighting was another specialty, which she drew on in designing sets for opera houses throughout Europe.
Education: After graduating from the Milan Polytechnic University, she obtained her doctorate degree in Architecture and taught and lectured throughout Europe, including at the Venice School of Architecture from 1960–1962, and the Milan School of Architecture from 1964- 1967. She also served as vice-president of the Italian Association Of Industrial Design.
In Her Own Words: "I originally decided to study architecture in defiance of my parents' hope that I would become a 'nice society girl.'" She died in 2012 at age 84 in Milan, Italy after a long illness.