Jun 20, 2018

The vessel bookshelf by Albini

Designed in 1940, the Franco Albini’s vessel bookshelf was renovated by Cassina in 2011. Still to this day, 10 years from when the first sketches were created, with its transparent glass shelves and steel stay rods, it preserves a sense of lightness like no others.

If the Italian rationalism had a face, it would be Franco Albini’s. One of the most famous Italian architects and designers, he knew how to express rigor with unique poetry. He knew how to give its own projects, being them building or objects, a sense of tangible lightness. As a demonstration, there are the buildings he designed and, especially, the furniture pieces. And it is among these that we find the famous Vessel bookshelf, with its air and light, with its tactile and visual lightness.


Designed in 1940 and renewed in 2011 by Cassina, it seems to be made of air and light. More than these ones though, it is actually made of tempered glass, brass, steel, and wood. Franco Albini designed it for his own house. But it was too meaningful and too emblematic to remain a one-of-a-kind piece. Finding in her designs the world of the nautical carpentry, the designer Franca Helg gave it the name that would have helped it made history: Vessel. Because it really looks like a boat, this unworldly bookshelf.

Thanks to a complex structure, the tempered glass shelves seem to fluctuate in the air, supported by ash wood poles and steadied by thin iron stay rods. Franco Albini perfected over and over again the first prototype. He conducted many tests and experiments. Until, in the ‘60s, that first bookshelf collapsed. It had structural problems, but its brilliance had to be preserved. So the Fondazione Franco Albini suggested to Cassina to design it again. A challenge accepted and won, an intense work that consisted in the analysis of images and documents, and in a strong partnership between the architect Marco Albini and expert civil and naval engineerings. The result is a bookshelf that has fixed its structural issues, still preserving the lightness of the original project in its entirety. A bookshelf that is an icon of Italian design.

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