Gae Aulenti was born in 1927 in Palazzolo dello Stella, in the province of Udine.
She graduated from Milan’s Politecnico in 1953 and in 1956 began a professional career in the city that would span architectural, interior and industrial design as well as theatre‑set design.
Between 1955 and 1965 she was part of the editorial staff at Casabella-Continuità, a design magazine directed by Ernesto Nathan Rogers. The publication was at the forefront of architectural debate in those years and it was there that Gae Aulenti established the foundations for her professional identity. From the very outset her projects expressed a desire to link together multiple aspects from the architectural universe. She created numerous industrial design products to complete architectural projects. The most renowned of these include the Pipistrello and King Sun lamps for the Olivetti showrooms in Paris and Buenos Aires (1966-67), the Bugia lamp, which she designed with Piero Castiglioni for the Musée d’Orsay (Paris, 1986) and the Cestello lamp for Palazzo Grassi (Venice, 1986). Her objects were produced by firms like Knoll, Fontana Arte, Kartell and Artemide. They were never purely decorative and instead represent the finishing touch for the architectural space that house them. In the Eighties she directed the design team behind the Musée d’Orsay (1980-86), transforming Paris’s Gare d’Orsay in to one of the most important art museums in the world. After came the new fit-out of the Musée National d’Art Moderne in the Centre Pompidou (1982-85) and the refurbishment of Palazzo Grassi in Venice (1985-86), where she curated numerous temporary exhibitions, from “Futurismo & Futurismi” (1986) through to “Da Puvis de Chavannes a Matisse e Picasso. Verso l’Arte Moderna” (2002).
Her architectural work also includes Palazzo Italia at Expo ’92 in Seville; the new Gallery for Temporary Exhibitions at Milan’s Triennale (1994); the conversion to a museum of the former Papal Stables at the Quirinal Palace in Rome; the redevelopment of Piazzale Cadorna in Milan (2000); the Museo and Dante stations of the Naples underground and the redesign of piazza Cavour and piazza Dante in Naples (1999-2002). A further two important museums completed her architectural work: the new Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, which opened to the public in 2003, and the National Museum of Catalan Art in Barcelona, that was completed in December 2004. The year 2012 saw the unveiling of the new Perugia Airport, that Gae Aulenti designed for the 150th anniversary of the Unification of Italy, and the refurbishment of Palazzo Branciforte in Palermo, along with the redevelopment project of the Sant’Agostino church complex in Modena.
Her most important prizes and awards include: Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur (Paris, 1987); Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (1990); Praemium lmperiale Prize for Architecture from The Japan Art Association (Tokyo, 1991); Cavaliere di Gran Croce (Rome, 1995); honorary degree from the Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, USA, 2001); Gold Medal for her Career (Milan, 2012).