Melchiorre Bega (1898–1976) architect, interior designer

Melchiorre Bega was born in Crevalcore, Italy, into a family of cabinetmakers. He received his degree and license as Professor of Architecture from the Fine Arts Academy of Bologna. His early career was largely dedicated to the renovation and furnishing of old buildings, hotels and businesses, notably in Bologna, Rome, and Milan, but he soon achieved wider success creating luxurious residential and commercial spaces for an international clientele. In 1923 he designed and co-managed a production factory on Via Maggiore in Bologna. Here Bega designed and produced furniture, as well as developed a production system for self-supporting spiral staircases in plywood, which were used in many bars and shops. He also designed the first standup coffee bar for Bar Viscardi, Bologna. This would become a modern design staple in Italy and beyond.

Like his contemporary, Gio Ponti, Bega was an early advocate of the modern style. In 1937 he created a sensation in Domus Magazine with his design pronouncements for the 20th century, rejecting the prevalent Deco style for one that was more concerned with purity of form and function. His design aesthetic hinged on analyzing people’s living needs, and his attention to detail was consistent with his belief that many small elements could make for better living. The elegant functionalism of Bega’s designs became a trademark evident in all his furniture. Yet despite his numerous commissions, examples of his inter-war period furniture are relatively rare. 

From 1941-1944 Bega was editor of Domus Magazine, and his work was frequently photographed by Giorgio Casali, who photographed some of the most important Italian architects and designers of the time. Having established himself in Italy as well as abroad, after the war Bega devoted himself to architectural and urban planning. Rebuilding Italy was a huge task, and where much of the resulting architecture was indistinguishable, Bega’s stands out as extraordinary. He managed to respond to the tremendous demand for homes, universities, and public buildings with total professionalism without compromising his ethical and aesthetic sense. 

In the 1950s Bega became especially renowned for grand architectural commissions, including the Axel Springer Building in Berlin, and the Torre Galfa in Milan, projects that projected elegantly skyward. Built in 1956, the Galfa Tower became a veritable symbol of the enterprise and industry of Milan, and Gio Ponti called it a work of “perfectly proportioned mass, pure linear simplicity.” This could be said of many of Bega’s works, e.g., the lighting fixtures he designed for Milan Central Station. Produced by Stilnovo in 1959, these tubular acrylic and painted metal fixtures are at once monumental, yet elegantly simple in line and form.

Throughout the 1950s and into the 60s, Bega was one of the major architects doing design commissions for important Italian furniture companies. Notable among these were his designs for the Altamira Company in Italy, including many pieces for the American market. All of Bega’s designs involved collaborations with master craftsmen, and skillfully incorporated various materials and techniques, such as wood and metal work, and glass etching. Along with quality craftsmanship, his pieces are distinguished by distinctively graceful lines, functional stylization, and appealing comfort features. Thus they are known to fetch estimable prices at auction. Recognized as a powerhouse of Italian architecture and design, Bega’s prolific range of works are emblematic of the Modernism of Milan, and have become sought after worldwide.

Important Works
Padiglione Motta (anni trenta)
Grande Albergo (Cattolica) 1939
Torre Galfa (Milano) 1956
Palazzo di Piazza Ravegnana Bologna
Palazzo INA Assicurazioni Milano
Casa di Enzo Biagi Pontecchio Marconi
Nuova Sede Stipel (Milano)
Il Palazzo dei Noli Padova
Autogrill Lazzaroni Saronno
Palazzo dei congressi (Bologna)
Padiglioni Perugina
Domus Omnium (Milano)
Axel Springer Berlino
Torre SIP (Genova)
Fiera di Milano

Melchiorre Bega, architetto, by Stefano Zironi, Milano Domus, 1983
The Style Of Bega - works, projects, ideas…