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BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

EMILIO AMBASZ

ARCHITECT AND INDUSTRIAL DESIGNER

Architect, inventor, and above all, visionary, he is considered the prophet of green architecture. His work has had an indelible influence on the history of architecture and design with his bold and futuristic creations.
 
What is the project you haven't done yet but would like to realize?

“I really want to redesign Paradise, but I'm not in a hurry.” This is how Emilio Ambasz, the precursor of green architecture, defined as its 'father, poet, and prophet,' responded to La Repubblica, a well-known Italian newspaper.
 
Green architecture, but not only that.

Born in Argentina (Resistencia, 1943) and cosmopolitan in life, Ambasz is a designer, architect, planner, graphic artist, creative, storyteller, and curator with exceptional capabilities. He could experiment, innovate, be provocative, and open new horizons like few others in the history of architecture and contemporary design.
 
Recently defined by the New York Times as 'the man of many hats,' Ambasz is indeed the author of extraordinary works, creator of scenarios in every field of intervention – from fabulous productions to organizing globally renowned exhibitions, to designing objects and products of surprising variety and success present in every corner of the Earth.
 
He, who has always wished to be remembered as an 'inventor', playing with contradictions and paradoxes by developing, with a brilliant touch, an architectural vocabulary outside the canonical tradition: at times creating archetypal homes with strong primordial appeal, while at times buildings combining technology and Nature, at times large constructions hidden in the surrounding landscape, at times hospitals as true healing gardens. Or by designing the first green skyscrapers, prototypes of floating offices, bold waterfronts, futuristic master plans.


His work carries a message that reconciles "technology and primitivism" (Terence Riley, former director of the Department of Architecture and Design at MoMA, NY), Alessandro Mendini has called him "creator of sophisticated earthly paradises".   His poetic research where the natural and artificial merge and blur answer to his dictum that for architects: "…it is an ethical obligation: to demonstrate that another future is possible; to affirm a different mod of life to avoid perpetuating the present."
 
Pioneer and highly sophisticated interpreter of a message of reconciliation between the natural kingdom and the artificial world, he inspired generations of architects with his philosophy summarized in the formula Green over the Grey, with works still at the centre of international debate, poetics, and design discipline. This is evidenced by some of his most famous creations, recounted in the movie Green over Grey-Emilio Ambasz (2024): La Casa de Retiro Espiritual in Seville (1975, Spain), a stunning and dreamlike call to the primordial notion of home, one of the most celebrated optical illusions in the world; the Lucille Halsell Conservatory at the San Antonio Botanical Garden (1982, Texas, USA), an extraordinary work that unfolds between underground paths and tectonic explosions of polymorphic crystals; the ACROS Building in Fukuoka (1990, Japan), a powerful 100,000 sqm pyramid building in the city center that returned the land it stands on to the community; the Hospital of the Guardian Angel in Venice-Mestre (2008, Italy), defined as the first 'health garden.'
 
Precursor to the debate on the relationship between humans and the environment, Ambasz is  the protagonist of Emerging Ecologies: the first exhibition of works (150) that examined the relationship between architecture and the environmental movement in the United States organized in 2023 by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. An institution where he performed for seven years as the curator of Architecture and Design and organized, among other renowned initiatives, the extraordinarily successful exhibition Italy: the New Domestic Landscape, bringing Italian design objects to the global stage. Within MoMA, the 'Emilio Ambasz Research Institute (EA/RI) for the joint study of the built and natural environment' has been established since 2020.
 
Ambasz is also known for his multifaceted interests and fields of action in the design world, boasting over 220 industrial and mechanical patents: from high-efficiency engines to modular furniture, from street lamps to interior spotlights, from flexible pens to expandable briefcases, from ergonomic handles to wrist computers, from sinuous water containers to folding notebooks, dental hygiene systems, billfold TV, desk accessories, water-color sets, components, three-dimensional graphics, Ambasz has conducted his personal research in the field of industrial and mechanical design for the development of components and products from which an incredible sequence of ideas emerged capable of changing entire production systems.

“Ambasz – according to Japanese architect Tadao Ando - in his brilliant insight, appears to have embarked – and he brought us with him – into a realm of architecture previously unknown to human experience. Someday we may just call again his approach, Architecture. Ambasz has started a trend in the recent work of many other architects…There is, I believe, no prior example of nature governing architectural creation with such power and haunting seduction. This is especially true of his attempts to transform nature into architecture on a grand urban scale. We can see this in his Fukuoka project, that we are presented with ideas and images which are quite outstanding.”
 
His inventions in the world of seating are fundamental, including Vertebra in 1975 - Compasso d'Oro prize in 1981, a multi-award-winning product worldwide and present in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Metropolitan Museum (also in New York, along with other of his creations) - the world's first automatic ergonomic chair (1975), developed with G. Piretti, which gave birth to a new industry for the entire sector. Or the Qualis models (Compasso d'Oro, 1991) and Stacker (Gold Award at the International Forum for Design, 2003), to name a few.
 
Emilio Ambasz has been honoured with major solo exhibitions worldwide, from MoMA in New York (twice) to the Triennale di Milano (twice), to the Reina Sofia in Madrid, passing through Tokyo, Geneva, Bordeaux, Zurich, Chicago, Philadelphia, Mexico City, San Diego, Saint Louis, to celebrate his unique design, creative flair, and moral commitment.
 
A devoted architect immersed in the environment he works in, designer and inventor able to combine inventiveness, innovation, production, and aesthetics, curator capable of synthesizing dream and reality, intellectual link between radicalism and academia, Ambasz represented the United States at the 1976 Venice International Architecture Biennale, was Honorary Fellow at the American Institute of Architects (US), Honorary International Fellow at the Royal Institute of British Architects (UK), and, since 2023, Honorary Member of the Italian National Institute of Architecture (IT), from which he also received the Lifetime Achievement Award, a first for a non-Italian architect. His recent honorary degrees in Engineering (at the University of Bologna in 2021) and in Systemic Design (Polytechnic University of Turin, 2023), the numerous accolades (including 4 Compasso d'Oro prizes and the President’s Award Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization), while the dozens of honours and awards obtained worldwide are countless.


“I would call Emilio’s architecture propitiatory designs seeking to invoke the presence of architecture – affirmed Italian architect and designer Ettore Sottsass. Each element of his edifices is a bit like the talismanic instrument of a wager, of a hidden ritual to fascinate some immense natural divinity. Maybe they are aspects of a liturgy, performed to obtain forgiveness for the scars we inflict every day on the planet, or, maybe they are part of a magic ritual performed to re-establish harmony with those strange celestial rotations which Indians and Greeks, a long time ago, had already intuited. This is a very unique way of imagining architecture, certainly a new way, a special way, or perhaps it is a very ancient way. …I see him as an imaginative and illuminated man seeking to penetrate beyond the ‘daily’, or better still, seeking, even for an instant, to place daily existence in some exalted architectural domain.


Refined bearer of a mystical and poetic vision of his work, he has stated: “I consider architecture as the search for a spiritual home. An architect can be the guardian of the desert of cities created by man or be the magician who creates eternal forms. The context in which the architect is called to operate may change, but the task remains the same: to give poetic form to the pragmatic.”
 
“Who is Emilio Ambasz?” his friend and designer Alessandro Mendini asked him: “everyone knows that two enemies live within you: Emilio and Ambasz. Perhaps Emilio represents the visionary architect and Ambasz the pragmatic industrial designer?” The Maestro replied: “Ambasz is a worried man, because he wants his products to be well received by people. Emilio is an anguished person, because he hopes his architecture will make him beloved by angels.”

BIOGRAPHY

EMILIO AMBASZ CURRICULUM VITAE

 

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