The Editor-in-Chief of the New York Times’ ” T Magazine” Deborah Needleman, together with Roberto Peregalli and Laura Sartori Rimini of the design firm Studio Peregalli, hosted a stylish party at the stunning Palazzo Crespi to ccelbrate the 100th birthday of the late architect and set designer Renzo Mongiardino.
Renzo Mongiardino is about to be the subject of a cover story in T’s new issue, on newsstands April 17th.
It was an appropriate venue, given the honoree, Renzo Mongiardino – designed the Palazzo Crespi in his signature glamorous, romantic style, and his touch is evident throughout the space
Roberto Peregalli and Laura Sartori Rimini of the design firm Studio Peregalli, who co-hosted along with T’s editor-in-chief Deborah Needleman, designed a special guest arrivals photographers backdrop inspired by Mongiardino’s work.
What better way to spend a beautiful evening in Milan than on the terrace of a grand palazzo, taking in the scent of wisteria in full bloom
Guests milled about the Palazzo Crespi and its backyard, enjoying drinks, conversation, spring weather and a ballroom piano performance by Michele Sganga.
About Renzo Mongiardino
Born – Genoa on the 12th May 1916
Died – Milan on the 16th Jan 1998
He was an Italian architect, interior designer and production designer. He was nominated for two Academy Awards in the category Best Art Direction.
In 1936 Renzo Mongiardino moved from Genoa to Milan to study architecture
In 1942 he graduated from the Politecnico di Milano, together with Giò Ponti.
Beginning in 1944, Mongiardino collaborated with Domus magazine, writing many articles.
During this period he also began his multifaceted career, focusing primarily on the creation of residential and theatre environments.
In the early fifties Mongiardino began to establish himself as an architect, working from his home and studio in central Milan, on the elegant Via Bianca Maria.
Mongiardino was responsible for creating some of the most important and enchanting houses of the second half of twentieth century, created for an international and prestigious clientele of cultured collectors and entrepreneurs including Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, Aristotle Onassis, Gianni Agnelli and Marella Agnelli, Lee Radziwill and Stanisław Albrecht Radziwiłł, Gianni Versace, Edmond and Lily Safra, Princess Firyal of Jordan, Valentino Garavani, the Rothschild family and the Hearst family.
Also starting in the late fifties Mongiardino began his career as “production designer” in Theatre and Cinema together with Franco Zeffirelli, Peter Hall, Giancarlo Menotti and Raymond Rouleau.
In 1993 Rizzoli published “Roomscapes”, a lessons-learned monograph about Mongiardino in which revealed some of his standards of interior design, without forgetting his irreplaceable craftsmen and assistants able to transform his aesthetic dreams into reality; united to his “elective affinity that arrives after years of cooperation and in continuous exercise of affectionate understanding”.
After the arson of theatre “La Fenice” in 1996, Gae Aulenti assigned Mongiardino the project for the interior theatre refurbishment, a project which he was not able to complete.
Mongiardino died in Milan on 16 January 1998.
T’s Magazine’s Culture Issue features a cover story and a rare look back to the fantastical vision of Renzo Mongiardino, the Italian architect and set designer whose groundbreaking work is just as powerful and beautiful now as ever.
For the issue, T photographed three rarely seen and still intact Mongiardino projects: Villa Garani in Florence, Villa Carrara in Rome, and the Mondadori / Zanussi apartment in Milan.
Though he was often referred to as the greatest designer of the twentieth century, Renzo Mongiardino was never a household name—not even in his native Italy, where he lived and worked until his death in 1998 at the age of eighty-one. Instead, he was that most rarefied of talents: a designer’s designer, a creator of dazzling special effects that were built on a foundation of exacting scholarship.
Atmosphere, not authenticity, was the secret of his success; after all, he was, first and foremost, a set designer. Who can forget the Renaissance earthiness of the sets for the rough-and-tumble Zeffirelli film The Taming of the Shrew? His décors were similarly dramatic. Whether executed for a French aristocrat like Baron Guy de Rothschild, a Manhattan financier like Peter Sharp or an international presence like Gianni Versace, a house by Renzo Mongiardino was a miracle of stage-set trickery. Floors were paved in marble that was not marble; walls were paneled with Neoclassical boiseries that had been conjured out of paint and shadows; sofas and chairs were upholstered in sumptuous velvets skillfully aged by an artisan who then scribbled on them with colored pens from an office-supply store.
“Illusion comes into being as part of the pleasure,” he wrote in Roomscapes, a treatise on his specialty, which he preferred to call “decorative architecture.” The same painters, carpenters, gilders and model makers who manufactured Mongiardino’s sets for stage and screen worked on the maestro’s interiors as well (including Lila de Nobili, a painter and designer whose work in the Italian theater world was every bit as revered as his own).
Stainless-steel modernism held no allure for the extravagantly bearded designer, who was born in 1916 and raised in a Baroque palazzo in Genoa. Its romantic shadows and sparkling chandeliers were the spirit behind the Proustian nostalgia of his work. However, though he was fond of quoting a maxim of Honoré de Balzac’s—”The wise man goes back to the origins of ancient times”—Mongiardino was a twentieth-century talent and therefore more than willing to harness up-to-date materials in his quest to resuscitate the past. It was a contradiction neatly mirrored in the designer’s ancestry: His father was a self-made millionaire who had introduced color television to Italy, while his mother was from a venerable Genoese family.
Plywood could be exactingly painted to mimic multitudinous effects: Moroccan tilework, Renaissance intarsia, Turkish carpets. Cardboard was pressed, painted and gilded in the manner of tooled cordovan leather. And more often than not, a room’s monumental architectural features—cornices, capitals, chimneypieces—turned out to be exquisitely molded plastic. Certainly none of this sleight of hand was inexpensive. One can only imagine what it must have cost to dress a room with colorful Sicilian scarves, lacquered and then delicately enriched with floral overpainting, as the designer did in the 1960s for Stanislas and Lee Radziwill’s house in Oxfordshire, England.
Wherever Renzo Mongiardino’s commissions took him, he always succeeded in creating brand-new rooms that were nevertheless imbued with the wonders of the past. His aesthetic suggested a more theatrical, highly emotional cousin of the “humble elegance” espoused by his English contemporary John Fowler. Steeped in history and romance, his interiors never failed to evoke what one admirer called “the corrosive breath of the breeze of melancholy.”