A Feat of Engineering: Franco Albini's Veliero Bookcase
The first time I saw Franco Albini's Veliero Bookcase was a sort of turning point for me.
I was a sculpture student and totally apart from the worlds of furniture and architecture, but when I saw the Veliero I understood that a piece of furniture could itself be as powerful as a painting or sculpture. Beyond that, furniture like Albini's could be composed with colors and textures and forms to create whole spaces that were often more powerful than a single artwork.
Albini understood that the scale and structure of a bookcase, and its use as a room divider in modern, open plan apartments was an opportunity to create a dramatic statement, akin to museum-scale abstract paintings.
He elevated the form of the bookshelf, blew it up in scale and used structural techniques more common to transportation engineering - sailboats and suspension bridges - to hang shelves from tensile wire cords. (Albini later went on to design the way-finding graphics for Milan's subway system.)
The result is a strong graphic statement whose v-shaped ash supports makes you wish you could see them lines up in a series. The $31,000 price tag at Cassina, who introduced Albini's 1940 prototype to the public in 2012, might be why I've yet to.
Cover image via Cassina.