In the Balance

A Custom 'Stadera' Desk for Casa Marcenaro

Casa Marcenero, 1954. Image courtesy of the Fondazione Franco Albini and Casati Gallery.

A custom commission for the home of Caterina Marcenaro, museum curator and Director of the Fine Art Office of Genova, this 1951 Stadera desk served as the prototype for the many iterations of the unit that would come in the decade to follow. Franco Albini fashioned the design after stadera weighing scales, equipping the elegant writing table with an asymmetrical, twin-level top and a moveable cabinet with five drawers set on castors. 

Parallel to his ideation for the Stadera desk, Albini was also working to conceive the new museography for several museums in Genova that were tended to by Marcenaro. During this process, Albini placed medieval stone sculptures atop moveable metal pedestals and platforms, freeing the historic works from the physical and psychological barriers of vitrines. Of particular note was Albini's treatment of Fragment from the Tomb of Margaret of Brabant, which he supported using an hydraulic system. This radical reinvention of exhibition design clearly dovetails with the Stadera desk: not only does the desk share visual similarity with Albini's mechanized museum pedestals, but also evidences the conceptual and material reconsideration of weight — the design is, after all, named after scales. 

Left, installation view, Giovanni Pisano, Fragment from the Tomb of Margaret of Brabant, 1313. Right, design drawing, Franco Albini, hydraulic lifting device

After the Casa Marcenero design was complete, Albini reworked the desk to feature a marble top for the offices of the Istituto Nazionale della Previdenza Sociale in Parma. One year later he further adjusted the design by adding drawer blocks beneath the top, this time for production by the American company Altamira. The final chapter of the Stadera's trajectory came in 1961, ten years after Albini first conceived the design, when a minimalist iteration became part of the F.lli Poggi catalog. 

Stadera desk, Design 0/43 – Casa Marcenaro, 10.22.1951. Image courtesy of the Fondazione Franco Albini and Casati Gallery.

Sketch of the Stadera desk. Image courtesy of the Fondazione Franco Albini and Casati Gallery.

Visions of Italian Design

For more than 20 years Ugo Alfano Casati has been bringing fresh and interesting modern and contemporary Italian design to market. From rare and custom works by Italy’s most notable architects to classic forms and more recent limited edition works from the most radical and forward thinking minds, Casati’s vision of Italian Design is one of quality, beauty and historical significance. 

An Italian himself, Casati grew up in Milan. He worked for Alessi and Bodum in Paris before relocating to Chicago where he opened Casati Gallery to bring Italian design to the American market. He focused on Italian designs of the post-war era to present day, developing relationships with artists, designers, foundations and archives, adding valuable context and introducing new scholarship in the field alongside his elegant offerings. 

In 2007, Casati and Wright teamed together to create a book dedicated to the designs of Angelo Mangiarotti. The award-winning publication, featured full-color images and was published in English and Italian introducing the innovative designer to the broader market. 

Casati’s interest in fine craftsmanship and originality soon grew to include emerging design and he began to produce editions by makers whose aesthetics complimented his Italian sensibility: Jonathan Nesci, Philippe Nigro, among others. 

This special curated auction celebrates Casati Gallery and marks the beginning of Casati Projects, a new phase for Ugo Alfano Casati who endeavors to bring renewed energy and experience to the field of Italian design through curatorial and consulting services for discerning collectors and institutions across the globe.