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Born as Alexander Schawinsky in 1904 in Basel, Switzerland. Descendant of a Jewish family, he studied in Basel and Zurich and was later trained in architecture in Cologne, Germany. After briefly attending at the Basel School of Arts and Crafts, he enrolled in the Bauhaus in 1924 where focused on stage design and experimental photography, also becoming the assistant of Oskar Schlemmer. In 1933 when the Nazi took power, he emigrated to Italy working as a graphic and type designer at famous Studio Boggeri of Milan, serving major companies including Cinzano, Illy, Motta, and Olivetti for which he designed Studio 42 typewriter. In 1936 he moved to U.S.A. to teach at Black Mountain College with Josef Albers, also exhibiting his work at New York’s MoMA and collaborating on architectural projects with former Bauhaus masters Gropius and Breuer. In 1941 he moved to New York and taught painting at the City College (1943-46) and the New York University (1950-54). From 1961 onwards, he spent his free time on Lake Maggiore, Piedmont, where built a holiday house. He died in 1979 in Locarno, Switzerland.