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Maria Giuseppina Grasso Cannizzo: Sicilian Creativity

Maria Giuseppina Grasso Cannizzo

Maria Giuseppina Grasso Cannizzo: Sicilian Creativity
By Luigi Prestinenza Puglisi -

Gae Aulenti and Maria Giuseppina Grasso Cannizzo are the only two Italians featured in issue n° 732 of Casabella dedicated to women architects. The magazine reviews Aulenti’s life and works and illustrates Cannizzo’s Parisi Sortino house. As Aulenti is a national icon, a must for any popular magazine, Casabella’s review is really an acknowledgement of Maria Giuseppina. Her works were shown at the interiors exhibition curated by Mirko Zardini at the 2004 Venice Biennial, and were rightly nominated for the Triennale Gold Medal and the Mies Award. Were it not for her stubborn perfectionism that obliges her to go for selective, meticulously thought-out production, exhibitions and publications on her works would abound. In her native Sicily, Grasso Cannizzo is a byword for unswervingly professional design genius that is nonetheless willing to look to the contemporary world. She is adored by the younger generation but feared by the universities of Siracusa and Palermo that hardly acknowledge her existence. Neither have ever offered her a chair although she is the island’s most renowned architect.
How is it that someone like Cannizzo who has produced so relatively little, mostly apartment refurbishments or shopping mall interiors, has met with such acclaim or studied indifference? My answer was prompted by Casabella’s pairing of Cannizzo and Gae Aulenti, author of so many monumental works. In an old history-of-art book, Giulio Carlo Argan explains the difference between Benvenuto Cellini’s small salt cellar and a towering statue of Gianbologna: the Gianbologna statue, he said, is an ornament for a square; Cellini’s salt cellar is a table monument. In the case of Cannizzo, although small, her work is imbued with an extraordinary intensity – unlike so many designers who churn out hundred of cubic metres. Trained as a restorer under Professor Franco Minissi – the author of key museum and archaeological projects that blend ancient and new – Maria Giuseppina’s final...

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