The Componibili modular container system designed by Anna Castelli Ferrieri for Kartell in 1967 (square) and 1969 (round).

The Componibili modular container system designed by Anna Castelli Ferrieri for Kartell in 1967 (square) and 1969 (round).

This year the Componibili collection celebrates 50 years since its creator, Anna Castelli Ferrieri, dreamt up a unique design system that transformed plastic from lab ware to luxury item, inspiring a generation of designers including Patricia Urquiola.

The Componibili represents the experimental exuberance and optimism of post-war Italy and a movement of designers and architects including Anna Castelli Ferrieri, Pier and Achille Castiglioni, Gae Aulenti  Ettore Sottsass, Franco Albini and Joe Colombo, who were all at the forefront of the industrial design revolution that changed the landscape of design internationally.

Paving the way for new materials and ideas, Anna was a pioneering architect and amongst the first group of women to graduate from the Milan Polytechnic in 1943. During her studies, she spent 2 years in the studio of neo-rationalist architect Franco Albini where she entered into the debate on modern architecture. It was here that she was also introduced to the Bauhaus school of thinking based on simplicity and functionality.

It is not true that what is useful is beautiful.  It is what is beautiful that is useful. Beauty can improve people’s way of life and thinking.
— Anna Castelli Ferrieri
Architect Anna Castelli Ferrieri in 1974, photographed in her Milan studio by Valerio Castelli. Photo courtesy Kartell.

Architect Anna Castelli Ferrieri in 1974, photographed in her Milan studio by Valerio Castelli. Photo courtesy Kartell.

After graduating as an architect, Anna established her own practice in 1946, and, three years later, went on to found the Kartell company with her husband Guilio Castelli, together turning it into one of the world’s most prestigious design manufacturers. Joining Kartell as art director in 1976, Anna laid the group's foundations and identity on strong geometric shapes, bold colour and highly polished finishes.

"Their ideas, their design for production" advertising campaign for Kartell, featuring designers including Joe Colombo and Anna Castelli Ferrieri. Photo courtesy Kartell.

"Their ideas, their design for production" advertising campaign for Kartell, featuring designers including Joe Colombo and Anna Castelli Ferrieri. Photo courtesy Kartell.

Anna engaged designers including Joe Colombo, Richard Sapper and Gae Aulenti to transform plastic into furniture and accessories at a time when plastics were associated with industry and not the home, proving that strong, high-quality plastic was both economical and practical, and, with the help of eye-catching and quirky advertising campaigns, also glamorous. This approach produced some of the most remarkable designs of the 1960s and 70s, and continues to inspire collections today, including the Jellies Family by Patricia Urquiola launched by Kartell in 2015.

The first accessories collection for Kartell designed by Anna Castelli Ferrieri in the 1960s inspired the latest Jellies Family designed by Patricia Urquiola in 2015 (below). Photo courtesy Kartell.

The first accessories collection for Kartell designed by Anna Castelli Ferrieri in the 1960s inspired the latest Jellies Family designed by Patricia Urquiola in 2015 (below). Photo courtesy Kartell.

Within architecture circles, Anna is renowned for more than 50 projects, including Kartell's signature fire-engine red Milan headquarters, technical offices for Alfa Romeo in Arese, and the Castel headquarters in Milan. Yet, it is still the 1967-designed Componibili modular storage system that remains her most recognisable legacy. 

The Kartell HQ in Milan designed in 1966 by Anna Castelli Ferrieri and Ignazio Gardella. Photo courtesy Kartell.

The Kartell HQ in Milan designed in 1966 by Anna Castelli Ferrieri and Ignazio Gardella. Photo courtesy Kartell.

In production since its first release at the Milan Furniture Fair in 1967, the Componibili remains one of Kartell's most popular designs and is often credited with opening up a new typology of modern furniture during the experimental heyday of Italian post-war manufacturing. All made possible by the adventurous leaps and bounds of 1960s material technology and the future-focused spirit of Anna Castelli Ferrieri.

The Kartell Collection is available exclusively from Space Furniture – Australia – and Space Furniture – Asia

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