Umberto Riva

Umberto Riva Nationality: ITALY

Umberto Riva (Milan, 1928) is an Italian architect and designer.

He studied architecture in Venice, where he graduated in 1959 and began his career in Milan in 1960.

His work expresses the unfolding of two parallel lines of linguistic research builded on one another, a more expressionistic line and the other more rational and purist.

His industrial design artifacts are noticeably sculptural, they do not look like mini buildings as architects product design work can. His designs for furniture and lights need to be experienced empirically, they invite use.

Riva’s reflections on his approach, and indeed the work itself it, reveal his work to empirically “grounded”  in an engagement with life as it is lived- concretely and in the first person so to speak.

And there is also something of the everyday folded into his work. This is especially evident in his furniture with its direct presentation of familiar forms, craft technique and traditional materials. At the same time as being comfortably familiar, Riva’s furniture is also elegant and refined. All of his designs are worked out in the medium of meticulous pencil drawings which become a record of the whole design process – in effect, in one telling document.

In a similar way his bold light fittings – some of which are still in production – combine aspects of the sculptural, a familiar materiality, the implication of craft technique and a stylistic timelessness that invokes the objet-type mentality of Corbusier, a forerunner Riva considers singular.

In 2003 he received the Gold Medal for Italian Architecture.