Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Joe Colombo (1930–1971) initially trained as a painter, joined the Nuclear Painting movement before studying architecture at the Milan Politecnico. In the early 1960s he opened his own design office and led progressive Italian design with a series of products in new materials, mostly in plastics. One of his early designs was the chair No.4801 (1963–1967) for Kartell which consisted of three assembled plywood elements. The flowing elements of his chair were a foretaste of his later plastic designs, like the chair universale No.4860 (1965–1967), which was the first seating for adults made of ABS. He received many awards, among them two Compasso d'Oro in 1967 and 1970. His design innovations included one of the first one-piece injection-molded plastic chairs and a complete kitchen on wheels. Colombo worked for Zanotta, Bayer, Bernini, Kartell, B-Line, Stilnovo, O-Luce, Comfort, and Italora among others.. Since the beginning of his career Colombo was most interested in living systems. His early modular container Combi-Centre of 1963 is an example for that. This preference for furniture systems led to designs like Additional Living System (1967–1968) and the chairs Tube (1969–1970) and Multi (1970), which could be assembled in various positions to get a great number of sitting positions. They reflect Colombo's main goal, variability. For his own apartment Colombo designed the units Roto-living and Cabriolet-Bed (both 1969), followed by Total Furnishing Unit, which was presented at the exhibition Italy: The Domestic Landscape at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1972. It presented a complete "living-machine," comprising kitchen, wardrobe, bathroom, and sleeping accommodation, on only 28 square meters. There are reissues of select designs produced today; vintage finds are through fine dealers and auctions houses.

images: (click on images to enlarge)
Birillo stool for Zanotta c1970 (top)
No. 4801 three piece lounge chair for Kartell c1963/64 (2nd)
Coupe wall light for Oluce c1964 (3rd)
Roll armchair & ottoman for B-Line c1962 (4th)
Elda armchair for Comfort c1963 (bottom)

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