Mollino the Mysterious
By Fulvio and Napoleone Ferrari
The furnishings by Carlo Mollino—each unique—are often prized for their sinuously organic forms, for the skill with which they were executed and the rare quality of the materials employed. While another component of his work is not immediately visible—the literary culture and in particular the knowledge of ancient cultures with which he organizes his work—which in turn makes a deep understanding of his projects all the more problematic. We can assert that each of his works is in reality a visual narrative. What is the novel of his house in Agra about? It is the construction of a sort of autocratic Alpine shack disposed on and almost hidden by a dune looking onto Lake Maggiore. The roof of the house is tiled in alternating brown and dark green so that seen from the top of the hill it is perfectly well blended into its surroundings, an obvious connection to ancient Japanese houses. Not only that, the sparse furniture of these houses is frequently hidden or made invisible, just as with the piece with drop leaf here under examination which, because it was originally hidden in the wall, has hardly had an autonomous life of its own as it is virtually hidden in the composition of this interior.
An attentive critic might compare this method of composing things to that of the construction of a sequence of his famous Polaroids in which Mollino starts by portraying a perfectly dressed body and little by little reveals its shape thus leading us to the heart of beauty and its enigma.
Another reference: this time concerning only the material—the perfection of the Oriental interior is rendered by the statuesque white marble with which he has created the shelf for the Minola House. The material, which shows no personality from veining or color, abstracts itself into pure form, a contoured eave, a tongue sticking out of the wall. We will see this tongue in the library/writing desk for the office of the Le Roi ball room. There, an exposed surface juts out of the structure of this piece of furniture to form a little writing desk. This manner of proceeding, resolving the matter with the same unexpected solution, we see applied as well to the wooden mountain dwelling in a tongue forming a sinuous terrace. Our ‘mysterious’ Mollino, in reality, ably invents forms that can contain other ones, novel forms, buildings that function in surprising manners, as with the piece for the Casa Cattaneo Agra which has on its left side a functional tall cupboard. The interior has milky lacquered surfaces, rounded corners and reflective black material that is alluring and sensual. An attentive critic might compare this method of composing things to that of the construction of a sequence of his famous Polaroids in which Mollino starts by portraying a perfectly dressed body and little by little reveals its shape thus leading us to the heart of beauty and its enigma.
Mollino turned his attention to the most refined ‘mechanical structure’ there is: the female body.
And how does Maestro Mollino resolve the mystery of beauty? Simple: Since architecture, furniture, and apartments are made of matter, one must know how to operate the laws of matter, those laws that make nature the most complex, fascinating, and marvelous ‘matter’ around us. To grasp these laws means being able to operate using our most sophisticated of possible software. And how was Mollino able to master the laws of nature? Once again the solution is simpler than one might imagine. Mollino turned his attention to the most refined ‘mechanical structure’ there is: the female body. He has studied it at length over the course of years, drawing its form, like a studious schoolboy. That is how Mollino has transformed himself not into an organic architect, but into an architect capable of creating organisms. And this may be considered the secret ‘peak’ of his ability.