Tomaso Buzzi, a protagonist
of the Italian modern taste

The first event organised by the Institute of Art History in 2014 – the 60th anniversary year of its foundation – is an international conference to commemorate the great 20th-century architect and designer Tomaso Buzzi.

The Glass Study Centre at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini is a permanent centre for research on glass, established in 2012 within the Institute of Art History (which in 2014 celebrated its 60th anniversary) with the support of Pentagram Stiftung. On the 21st February 2014 the Glass Study Centre organised a symposium on the distinguished architect and designer Tomaso Buzzi (1900-1981). This conference prepared the academic and research ground for the autumn exhibition entitled “Tomaso Buzzi at Venini” (13th September 2014 – 11th January 2015), curated by Marino Barovier which focused on Buzzi’s works in the years when he collaborated with the Murano glassworks (1932-1933).

A friend and collaborator of Gio Ponti, Buzzi became one of the most important creators of the Italian taste in the 1930s and ’40s, and set the benchmark for many artists in the following years. He was not only an architect and industrial and interior designer; he also collaborated with the magazine Domus, and worked for some prominent members of the Italian aristocracy: Volpi, Cini and Visconti, to mention but a few. Buzzi was involved in projects for important buildings such as the Villa Necchi Campiglio in Milan, recently restored by the FAI, and Palladio’s Villa Maser at Treviso. In Venice, he worked on renovations for Palazzo Papadopoli, Palazzo Labia and Palazzo Cini at San Vio, where he made two small but significant contributions between 1956 and 1958: the creation of the charming Rococo-style oval room and the addition of a spiral staircase.

Chaired by Valerio Terraroli (University of Verona), the morning session started with Marco Solari, the artist’s nephew, who presented Buzzi’s phantasmagorical experience; blending music and colours, which in 1956 led him to acquire La Scarzuola, a 13th-century monastery with annexed church at Montegabbione (Terni). Buzzi’s intention was to redesign it as a kind of “ideal city”. Lucia Borromeo (FAI – Fondo Ambiente Italiano) described Buzzi’s work for the Villa Necchi Campiglio in Milan in 1938, three years after it had been designed by Piero Portaluppi; Roberto Dulio and Cecilia Rostagni (Politecnico di Milano) illustrated Buzzi and Ponti’s taste in the famous magazine Domus. Elena Pontiggia (Accademia di Brera, Milan) investigated Milanese culture during the major exhibitions of the 1930s, which featured Buzzi’s work; Alberto Anselmi (IUAV, Venice) focused on Buzzi’s activities in Rome; while Elena Portinari (Ca’ Foscari, Venice) closed the morning session with a talk on Buzzi and Venice.

The afternoon session, chaired by Lucia Borromeo, opened with a talk by Irene de Guttry and Maria Paola Maino (Archivi Arte Applicate, Rome) which illustrated Tomaso Buzzi’s activities as an interior designer and his involvement in the world of ceramics. Silvia Chiesa (lecturer in art history) presented new elements that have emerged from the architect’s invaluable archives, while Giovanna D’Amia (Politecnico di Milano) explored Buzzi’s relationship with the Valtellina area (he was born in Sondrio on the 30th September 1900). Paola Tognon (IULM, Milano) investigated Buzzi’s Ideario, with all its antique and modern glass, stone, ceramics and wood; Alberto Giorgio Cassani (Accademia di Belle Arti, Venice), author of a successful monograph on Buzzi, investigated his theatrical interests. Valerio Terraroli closed the afternoon session with a lecture on the complex relationship between Buzzi and Ponti, which was initially friendly and prolific but ended in an irreparable rift.

  • T.Buzzi, drawing for Zoomorphic vase in the shape of a cow’s head, 1932, Buzzi Archive, La Scarzuola
  • T.Buzzi, drawing for Vase with sea-horses (o unicorni), 1932-33, Buzzi Archive, La Scarzuola
  • T.Buzzi, sketches of glass bowls of different coloured layers, 1932-1933, Buzzi Archive, La Scarzuola
  • T.Buzzi, drawing of Double mouth vase , Buzzi Archive, La Scarzuola
  • T.Buzzi, sketches of Coppa delle Mani, 1932-1933, Buzzi Archive, La Scarzuola