B&B Italia founder Piero Ambrogio Busnelli
dies aged 87

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News: Piero Ambrogio Busnelli, founder of Italian furniture brand B&B Italia, has died aged 87.

One of the great pioneers of Italian contemporary design, Busnelli founded B&B Italia in 1973, after previously co-founding C&B Italia with Cesare Cassina.

From the outset Busnelli worked with leading designers to create a series of iconic furniture products, including three Compasso d'Oro Award winners: Mario Bellini's 1972 Le Bambole armchair; Studio Kairos' 1983 Sisamo wardrobe system; and Antonio Citterio's 1987 Sity sofa system.

In 1989 B&B Italia was the recipient of the first ever Compasso d'Oro Award to be given to a company. The award was given for "the constant work of integration carried out in order to combine the values of scientific and technological research with those necessary to the functionality and expressiveness of its products."

The company is based in Novedrate in Italy's Como province, in a building designed by architects Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano in 1972.

In 2011, Busnelli's sons Giorgio and Emanuele brought the company back under family ownership after a majority stake was sold to private equity firm Opera in 2002.

Piero Ambrogio Busnelli was born in Meda on 13 April 1926 and died on 25 January 2014.

Here is a statement from B&B Italia:


Piero Ambrogio Busnelli, founder of B&B Italia, died on 25 January 2014. He was a visionary entrepreneur on the scene of design and an extraordinary ambassador of "Made in Italy" in the world.

The furnishing sector has lost a great interpreter in the history of Italian design, a pioneer who believed in it from the onset by furthering its success in the world with farsighted initiative.

Born in 1926, he grew up in Meda (Milan-Brianza), distinguishing himself from a young age for determination and courage to explore new avenues, especially in the professional framework. His experience as entrepreneur began in 1952 but Piero Ambrogio Busnelli's dream of an "Industry For Design" came true in 1966, when he created C&B along with Cesare Cassina. A man of great courage and determination, Busnelli never hesitated to leave the handcrafted heritage of his native land for a new industrial culture of design that embraces an all-round approach and focuses on exports throughout the world.

By introducing an extraordinary technology for the production of padded furnishings (cold polyurethane foam moulding) to the sector through his own initiative, and by partnering several widely renown designers (Afra and Tobia Scarpa, Mario Bellini, Gaetano Pesce, Ludovico Magistretti, Marco Zanuso and many others), the company won a series of awards and recorded growing international success.

In 1973 the company's conversion into B&B Italia marked a momentous change in the life of Piero Ambrogio Busnelli. His insight and entrepreneurial vision take shape and accelerate the company's race to carry out highly qualifying projects, both architectural (the headquarters were designed by R. Piano and R. Rogers) and in terms of product, with icon items, such as Sisamo, Sity, Domus, Charles and many more. These were projects that contributed to write the history of Italian design, with the contribution of a new generation of designers (Antonio Citterio, Patricia Urquiola, Paolo Piva, Naoto Fukasawa, Jeffrey Bernett and several others).

From the onset, Piero Ambrogio Busnelli built his company by referring to a new industrial model, without ever being daunted by challenges. His innate dynamism and great intuition led him to extend the innovation process and seek other domestic settings, finally also including offices, contract furnishings and cruise liners.

Four Compasso d'Oro Awards acknowledged a series of successful items: Le Bambole in 1972, Sisamo in 1984, Sity in 1987 and, finally, in 1989, the first Compasso d'Oro Award ever assigned to a company, and unquestionably the most appreciated, rewarded B&B Italia "For the constant work of integration carried out in order to combine the values of scientific and technological research with those necessary to the functionality and expressiveness of its products."

Today the company is managed by the second generation of the family that has been guiding it for many years along the path of international growth.

  • Bea Petersen

    So sad to hear, he was a true innovator and has left a lasting legacy on the face of European design.