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Piero Ambrogio Busnelli: The Passing of an Icon

On January 25, 2014, Piero Ambrogio Busnelli, founder of B&B Italia, passed away, leaving behind a design community deeply saddened by the loss.
On January 25, 2014, Piero Ambrogio Busnelli, founder of B&B Italia, passed away, leaving behind a design community deeply saddened by the loss.

On January 25, 2014, Piero Ambrogio Busnelli, founder of B&B Italia, passed away, leaving behind a design community deeply saddened by the loss. It is not only a great loss for the whole industry but also for Italy and for so many of us who were lucky enough to have had him touch our lives. He was a giant of geniuses and his legacy lives on.

A proponent of Italian design, Piero Busnelli was a forward-thinking pioneer with a genius for design, from development to production. He was a revolutionary and a visionary, an extraordinary ambassador for “Made in Italy” recognition across the globe. From the onset, Piero Busnelli built his company on a new industrial model, never daunted by new challenges. His innate dynamism and keen intuition led to unsurpassed design innovations, including an expanse to other domestic settings, like offices, contract furnishings and even cruise liners.

Piero Busnelli was born 87 years ago in Meda, Brianza. The remarkable story of bringing B&B Italia to life begins with a 1964 trip to Interplast in London. The small plant produced rubber ducks from polyurethane, a novel approach that inspired Piero Busnelli to impart the same type of production in furniture. This trip proved a catalyst for revolutionizing design and production. The handcrafted heritage of traditional Italian production would soon replaced by a new industrial culture of design.

In 1966, Piero Busnelli along with Cesare Cassina courageously founded C&B Italia. Without hesitation, they jumped full force into collaborations with established designers and pioneered innovative technologies. For the first time, cold-molded polyrethane foam was used to mass produce groundbreaking designs. Widely renowned designers like Afra and Tobia Scarpa, Mario Bellini, Gaetano Pesce, Ludovico Magistretti, Marco Zanuso and many others joined the company. The result? A series of awards for their accomplishments and growing international success.

The company’s conversion into B&B Italia in 1973 marked a momentous change in the life of Piero Busnelli. His insight and entrepreneurial vision now truly shined, making him a giant in the design industry and a role model for other design makers. B&B Italia accelerated the company’s race to beautify the world with highly diverse and unique projects. Some projects were architectural. Piero Busnelli, with his cunning eye for new talent, recruited now famous architects Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano for the company’s headquarters. Unknown at the time, the architects used the project as a prototype for their infamous Centre Pompidou in Paris.

At the same time, Piero Busnelli also supported the work of young designers like Antonio Citterio whose career was shaped by his early projects for the company. The carefully selected roster of designers embarked on groundbreaking pieces for B&B Italia with projects like Diesis, Sity, Domus, Charles and many more. These designs rewrote the history of Italian design.

As B&B Italia grew to became a legendary force in the design world, a new generation of designers were selected to produce iconic pieces. Designers such as Patricia UrquiolaPaolo PivaNaoto Fukasawa, and Jeffrey Bernett have gained notoriety for their innovative and research focused work at B&B Italia.

Although Piero Busnelli retired from B&B Italia ten years ago, his family has continued in his legacy. His sons, Giorgio Busnelli, CEO, and Emauele Busnelli, Managing Director, will ensure the mark of his greatness lives on in the company’s creativity, innovation and passion.

Since 1986 Luminaire has shared a special relationship with Piero Busnelli and B&B Italia as one of the most important dealers of the brand in the world. A true legend that reinvented Italian furniture design through innovative technologies, careful research and recruiting the best designers, Piero Busnelli will forever live on through the iconic products that were produced under his watch. We salute this incredible man who was larger than life and celebrate a life well lived, for Piero was a lover of life and packed so much in the years that he was with us.

“Piero, you chose the highest mountain and sat there on the top alone. It wasn’t that no one dared to climb that mountain but you chose the highest peak.” – Nargis and Nasir Kassamali

January 2014