Design decoded: ‘Albero’ bookcase by Gianfranco Frattini

We explore the remaking of this Italian classic – a freestanding, rotating, fully adjustable storage unitby Poltrona Frau

Albero bookshelf in walnut wood by Poltrona Frau
Poltrona Frau

Italian architect Gianfranco Frattini, who joined the great Gio Ponti’s studio in 1953, having graduated from Milan Polytechnic, was known for his love of wood. Going onto establish his own design studio and becoming one of the founders of the ADI (Association of Industrial Design) in 1956, he created furniture for Cassina, Arteluce, Knoll and Artemide – the 1969 ‘Boalum’ floor light that he designed with Achille Castiglioni is a highlight.

It was probably his working relationship with cabinet-maker Pierluigi Ghianda from Bovisio Masciago, a region close to Milan known for its furniture expertise and production, that proved most fruitful, particularly when it came to designing in timber. With Ghianda, Frattini learned the craft of manufacturing, leading him to create the ‘Rotating Bookcase with Extensible Uprights’ as it was originally known.


Designed in the late 1950s in the neo-liberty style – a design movement meant as the antidote to modernism – it won third prize at the Selettiva design competition in 1959. Floor-to-ceiling shelving was popular in that era, but this model stood out for its sculptural quality and ability to rotate, inviting it to be placed as either a room’s centrepiece or in a corner. These were reasons enough for Poltrona Frau to buy the rights to reissue it in 2014 as part of its ‘Icons’ collection.

Handcrafted at the Tolentino headquarters, the bookshelf was renamed ‘Albero’, which translates as ‘tree’ – a pertinent name for its elongated, trunk-like form. A supporting frame of four vertical pillars is made from solid Canaletto walnut, the central rack, pinion joint and shelves are also encased in a Canaletto veneer, while neat iron caps on the ceiling and ground – supporting and securing the structure – are covered with a non-slip rubber foot. True to the original, a 360-degree swivel axis mechanism allows full rotation with an option for between eight to 12 shelves. From £12,240

This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration November 2019

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