Born into a family of architects, he graduated in engineering from the Politecnico di Milano university in 1928 (while he received his degree in architecture from the IUAV in 1949). His long professional activity, which began before his graduation at the end of the 1920s with his father Arnaldo Gardella, produced an enormous quantity of projects and realizations.
His projects, over the years, changed according to changing architectural tendencies, often anticipating them, but always containing elements that diverged from the current with which they might be associated. Gardella is one of the Italian Rationalists, but his use of local construction techniques, like the famous brick screen of the Dispensario in Alessandria, makes him a heretic. In the 1950s he came closer to regionalism currents, but his buildings maintained an abstraction that distanced them from the most famous works of Neoliberty or Neorealism.
In the 1960s and 1970s he seemed to adhere to a strictly professional form of practice like the Modern Movement or the International Style. His Uffici Alfa Romeo (1969) opposed the use of industrial materials and the development of a complex program. But Gardella strictly controlled the form, imposing a symmetrical composition. In the 1980s he seemed to stick to the Postmodern, but he did not in reality share its principles.
Gardella's architecture maintains a composure that could be called classic. This can be deduced from the extreme refinement of his details, which are comparable to those of his contemporary and friend Franco Albini, whether by control of the complete design of a building or because of the design of architectural spaces. In his architecture there is a preoccupation with and emphasis on the immediate, on the style of the moment, and a research for a kind of timelessness. Complementing this aspect is his capacity to change registers, to adapt himself to the genius loci, as few other architects have succeeded to do.