The Crespi Touch
Bronze discs that open up like clamshells and fold back to become side tables; sleek cubes that transform into full-size dining tables; clean-lined boxes that contain multilevel shelving. Looking at the work of Italian designer-architect Gabriella Crespi, it’s hard to believe that her highly functional pieces were created decades ago. Crespi’s bamboo creations first caught the attention of VE in the form of a rather stylish ice bucket (as seen in the June-July 2018 issue). It turns out that it formed part of a series of bamboo objects she’d created in the 1970s known as ‘Rising Sun’. This was a material that she loved, and said it: “unites strength and flexibility.” Crespi liked to play with its possibilities, but above all what seemed to attract her attention is the colour and round shape of the cane – the lines and rhythm of the material paying tribute to the sun’s blessings. Fan shapes made of bamboo stems irradiating from a central golden sun, decorate chairs, trays, planters, screens and tables – amongst them, a collection of her most famous ‘Fungo’, mushroom-shaped lamps.
Indeed throughout her career Gabriella Crespi experimented with a most diverse range of materials, from metals to Plexiglas, stone to glass. A versatility handled in her own way, setting cold, reflective surfaces of metal alongside the warm and snug textures of rattan. Her designs were certainly never intended for the mass market (going by the prices today, they’re certainly still at the top end of the market!) – and her high- end collections were the result of expert Italian artisans bringing her sketches and wax prototypes to life.
Born in 1922, Crespi studied architecture at the Politecnico in Milan, where she earned a degree – unusual for an Italian girl at the time.
She found her inspiration in the forces of nature and was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier. Appreciating Le Corbusier’s habit of collecting objects – such as seashells or driftwood, in him she appreciated the way he took nature as a model and his minimalist approach to design.
Crespi began her career as a designer in the 1950s with her first production of objects, the ‘Small Lune Collection’, which were steel moon-shaped sculptures. She liked the moon’s cosmic dimension and mysterious aura.
By the 1960s, she had established a creative relationship with Maison Dior, where she would be commissioned to create objects, and later furniture. She would remain closely associated with the
company for the next 20 years.