Gaetana “Gae” Aulenti was born in Palazzolo dello Stella (Udine) in 1927 and died in Milan in 2012. After completing a degree in architecture at the Polytechnic of Milan, she gained her professional experience in Milan of the 1950s. As a reaction against rationalism, she committed herself to recovering traditional architectural values, becoming part of the movement later defined as “Neo-liberty”. Some of her most important architectural projects included: the requalification of the “Gare d’Orsay”, the setting up of the “Musée d’Orsay”, as well as the setting up of the “National Museum of Modern Art” at the “Centre Pompidou” in Paris; the creation of the “Museum of Catalan Art” in Barcelona; the renovation of “Palazzo Grassi” in Venice; the creation of the “Museum of Asian Art” in San Francisco; the renovation of the “Ex Scuderie Papali” at the Quirinal Palace in Rome.
Aulenti was able to create architecture that integrated perfectly with the pre-existing urban environment, almost indistinguishable from the original form. In this way she also tried to transfer into the architectural space the many different levels of intensity of the elements that define the urban landscape. She made the words of the great English poet Thomas Stearn Eliott her own: “… tradition isn’t inherited, it is built day by day. I haven’t changed my mind”. Her way of thinking was however obscured by a certain sense of disappointment: “We are living through a very difficult time, not just for architecture, but for all the arts. For me it is essential that a piece of work points to the future. For this reason I call it prophetic”.
Gae Aulenti began her collaboration with Snaidero in 1993, interpreting an ambitious and innovative project. The idea of bringing natural, authentic, living materials into the kitchen: such as marble for doors, wood and coloured glass. All these design elements allowed her to reconcile building tradition with technological innovation. The result was “Etra”, a kitchen that reflected the idea of a domestic environment completely coherent with her design philosophy. It was characterised by practicality combined with a strong sense of tradition, correctly proportioned lines and elegance were employed to redesign the essential nature of the spaces and their functionality. Aulenti strongly believed that in the world of industrial design, as with architecture, it is fundamental to be able to conceive of pure, simple and elementary forms, which when released from ephemeral and un-influential fashions, become long-lasting and convincing.