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Gae Aulenti (1928–2012)

Gae Aulenti, the Italian architect credited with transforming a Paris train station into the Musée d’Orsay, has passed away at the age of eighty-four, reports Douglas Martin of the New York Times. Called “the most important female architect since the beginning of time,” by former architecture critic of the New York Times Herbert Muschamp, Aulenti is best known for her capacity to fuse historic and cultural values into urban structures. Martin writes that her work, especially on the Musée d’Orsay, was seen as “a giant step for someone whose influence had been as an industrial designer and as a leader of a young generation of Italian theorists who had questioned the tenets of modernist architecture.”

Aulenti grew up near Trieste, Italy and decided to study architecture as a way to resist her parents' desire that she become a “nice society girl.” In 1954 she was one of two women to graduate from the Milan Polytechnic School of Architecture. She and her peers adamantly rejected the architecture of Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and Walter Gropius. They called themselves the “Neo Liberty” movement: “More than anything, we were trying to recognize our own identity,” she once said. In addition to work including the National Museum of Modern Art at the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris and the restoration of the Palazzo Grassi as an art museum in Venice, Aulenti has created showrooms for Fiat, shops for Olivetti, pens and watches for Louis Vuitton, and a coffee table on wheels that is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.