How did the plastic chair and the transforming chair, on which half the world sit: the controversial design prophet Joe Colombo
How did the plastic chair and the transforming chair, on which half the world sit: the controversial design prophet Joe Colombo

Joe Columbo was a designer and visionary. Back in the sixties, he started talking about polyamory, working from home and other phenomena of today. He created futuristic projects, addressing them to us - people of the future. It was Joe Columbo who invented plastic chairs and modular upholstered furniture, for which in those years he was nicknamed the futurist …

Fixtures by Joe Columbo

Joe Colombo was born in 1930 in Milan. At birth, he received a completely conservative Italian name Cesare. The first "universities" of Colombo were their own family. His father owned a factory and was interested in new technologies, and his mother was a professional musician. The family happiness of these bright and successful people was overshadowed by the death of the eldest child. That is why they were especially careful and attentive to their two youngest sons - Cesare and Gianni. Boys' creative aspirations were encouraged in every possible way. This had far-reaching consequences: both of them became rebellious artists at the head of the new Italian art.

Round bookcase

As young men grew up and became professionals, Italian industry recovered from the war, and Italian design became synonymous with luxury and perfect taste. The concept of "good design" dominated - laconic and well-considered, based on strict geometry, ergonomic and … boring. Young artists and designers did not like coming up with the "right" chair for the hundredth time! This is how avant-garde artistic movements appeared in Italy in the 1950s and 1960s, which subsequently extended their audacious experiments to design. Cesare - by then already calling himself Joe - quickly found like-minded young colleagues and began working as an architect for jazz clubs. He was in love with jazz … and with alpine skiing - which made him the ideal designer for ski hotels as well.

Armchair by Joe Columbo

After the death of his father, the brothers inherited his factory, but disposed of it in their own way, starting to use their father's enterprise and as a springboard for their design experiences. They tried to find application in the production of furniture for new materials that had just appeared. Wood? Textile? Boring! It's much more fun to use fiberglass and plastic! However, three years later, the Colombo duo abandoned the management of their father's plant. Joe decided to open his own design studio.

Elda armchair in an unexpected and challenging color

In the courtyard, the turbulent sixties were noisy, the world powers tried to overtake each other in the space race, science fiction conquered the minds, pop art artists began their shocking practices with images of popular culture, bright colors and catchy forms … The perfect time for Joe. In 1963, he introduced the Elda chair to the public - and it is not so easy to describe it. Strange, defiant, even vulgar, and at the same time futuristic forms in combination with the classic structure make Columbo's creation look like a disguised alien from the other end of the universe. Unsurprisingly, Elda's armchairs have been featured in films about intergalactic travels multiple times!

The Elda chair has often appeared on the set of movies and TV shows

Furniture of that time was assembled from several parts and combined several materials. But is it possible to avoid the laborious assembly process? Columbo began to develop the idea of ​​a monolithic chair made from one material. The search lasted two whole years.Starting with aluminum, which over the past forty years has already set everyone's teeth on edge, he moved on to molded plastic, and eventually created a bright and fun chair made of polypropylene. Today we are a little annoyed with plastic furniture - it seems too simple, too cheap, but in those years the Colombo project became a real revolution.

A chair made of a single piece of plastic Plastic furniture on wheels

His transforming chairs are a real “object of desire”. They call the owner to play with their shape, and any use case, first of all, pleases the eye. The Tube armchair is assembled from cylinders that can be interchanged at will. The Multi Chair can be connected and disconnected to create an armchair, chair, couch or stand. Additional-System seating is a set of strangely shaped pillows that can be used to assemble anything - an armchair, a bed, a sofa …

Modular chair made of pillows Modular armchair made of cylinders Convertible chair

Joe predicted the death of the nuclear family and the return to communal existence - what sociologists are talking about in relation to today's changes in Western society. Back in the sixties, he believed that traditional families based on hierarchy and a conservative-religious view of marriage would soon disappear, giving way to small groups based on a sense of spiritual and ideological closeness. Such collectives will not only share life, but also jointly engage in creativity, creation and education of children. In addition, Columbo predicted a gradual disappearance of the home / work division. People of the future, free in organizing family, work and leisure, will need a new home! Therefore, in the last years of his life, the designer actively developed open spaces for living, easily modified, changeable and opening up new opportunities for leisure. No walls and partitions, furniture is assembled into functional blocks, folds, transforms, moves without difficulty! The public saw such a futuristic "living container" at the exhibition "New Home Space" in 1971. Joe did not hear the applause in his honor anymore …

Sleeping unit designed by Joe Colombo

Joe Columbo lived like a rock star, shocking those around him with his creativity and bold statements. He did not hide his bad habits - a pipe and a glass of whiskey were an integral part of his, as they would say now, personal brand. Joe even created a glass that allows you to smoke and sip at the same time! And like a rock star, Joe Columbo died young. His heart stopped on his 41st birthday. Some of Joe Colombo's projects seem to be something “from the future” even today, others have become firmly established in our lives, and others have remained historical curiosities. However, over ten years of his creative life, he radically changed the very idea of ​​design and opened the way for many other avant-garde artists.

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