The New School Archives Digital Collections

Giuseppe Zambonini


life 1942 – 1990


Giuseppe Zambonini (1942-1990), was born in Viterbo, Italy. As an adolescent, he moved to Verona with his family. After secondary school, Zambonini studied architecture at the University of Florence, working with Leonardo Benevolo and Leonardo Ricci, and went on to the Istituto Universitario di Architettura in Venice,where he studied with Carlo Scarpa, who directed his thesis on the architectural history of Verona. Other influential professors included Carlo Aymonino, Ignazio Gardella, and Aldo Rossi. Zamonini received his diploma in 1971.
While at the university, Zambonini collaborated with the experimental theater company at Ca’ Foscari, University of Venice, directing plays that were performed widely in northeastern Italy, and that won awards at several European festivals. In 1970, Zambonini became artistic and technical director of the Roman Theatre in Verona, where he was responsible for some sixty performances each summer.

Theater brought Zambonini to the United States in late 1971, to take up an appointment at the Kennedy Center. After budget cuts eliminated the position, Zambonini accepted a teaching position at The New York School of Interior Design (NYSID) in New York City. In 1973, Zambonini became NYSID’s academic dean, in which position he revised the curriculum and secured state accreditation for an undergraduate degree program. He left NYSID in 1977 to found the Open Atelier of Design (initially OADA, the Open Atelier of Design and Architecture), with a vision to combine a design school with an apprentice program and working design studio, seeking to balance practice and application with theory and history, and to build atelier into a studio that would execute work at the highest level of craftsmanship. Through the Open Atelier, Zambonini merged interior design, architecture, industrial design and theater, emphasizing process exploration through drawing and full-scale making. In his widely published redesign of industrial loft spaces, Zambonini employed partial walls and “skirts” reminiscent of stage sets, using natural light and flexible spatial arrangements that enabled the coherent coexistence of new and old. Instructors and lecturers at the Open Atelier included Marco Frascari, Michael Kalil, George Ranalli, Lauretta Vinciarelli, Peter Eisenman, Richard Serra, Steven Holl, Jean Gardner, Allan Wexler, among others. 

In 1982, Zambonini was included in the first group of the New York Architecture League’s Emerging Voices. Also in 1982, Zambonini paid tribute to his mentor, Carlos Scarpa, by organizing the first U.S. exhibition devoted to the architect's work, and, in 1985, he led an AIA-sponsored study tour of Scarpa’s buildings in Italy. While leading the OAD, Zambonini also taught at the Yale Graduate School of Architecture, from 1981 through 1988; at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, from 1985 through 1988; and frequently served as guest critic at universities across the U.S. In the summer of 1988, Zambonini accepted an appointment as director of the architecture program at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. On July 7, 1990, Zambonini accidentally choked to death at his home in Atlanta. Survivors include his wife, Claudia Zambonini, their daughter, Donata, a brother, and two sisters.

Related collections

Giuseppe Zambonini papers
Giuseppe Zambonini papers
Open Atelier of Design Lecture Series

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