A Feat of Engineering: Franco Albini's Veliero Bookcase

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.

Franco Albini’s studio in Milan, now open to the public as the Franco Albini Foundation.

Franco Albini’s studio in Milan, now open to the public as the Franco Albini Foundation.

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.

Franco Albini’s home in Milan, with the original Veliero Bookcase built in 1940. The Bookcase was destroyed 15 years later, when vibrations from his son’s loud music caused the glass to shatter and break. Cassina worked with aeronautical engineers to reinforce the design’s structure, releasing it to the public in 2012.

Franco Albini’s home in Milan, with the original Veliero Bookcase built in 1940. The Bookcase was destroyed 15 years later, when vibrations from his son’s loud music caused the glass to shatter and break. Cassina worked with aeronautical engineers to reinforce the design’s structure, releasing it to the public in 2012.

Cover image via Cassina.

WAKS.WORKS: the Elevated Functionalism of Leticia Wouk Almino and Beom Jun Kim

WAKS.WORKS: the Elevated Functionalism of Leticia Wouk Almino and Beom Jun Kim

Picturing Grace Farms

Picturing Grace Farms