Joe Colombo

Welcome to the future. Known as 'Joe', Cesare Colombo was Italy's rock star designer of the 60's.

Joe Colombo (1930-1971) created bold and daring designs which exhibited a strong optimistic vision for a 'habitat of the future.' Several works have reached iconic status as design objects.

Colombo's design career was short, a nine year stretch of brilliance (1962-71). He stumbled into design at the late age of thirty-two from a background of sculpture, art and architecture. When his father died, the family ribbon/electrical factory became a personal playground. Colombo took the opportunity to experiment with the latest production processes and newly developed space age plastics such as fibreglass, ABS, PVC and polyethylene.

Colombo's first great piece, the 4801, a low-slung chair made of three pieces of plywood was manufactured by Kartell in 1965. Colombo was determined to stretch the limits of materials and manufacture, to produce a sculptural chair produced from a single material. After initial trials with aluminium, fibreglass (1963 Elda Armchair) and ABS he finally achieved his goal, with the Universale (1965). He finally perfected it for mass-production in 1967, as a stackable, easy to clean PVC chair, with adjustable length legs.

Colombo made furniture fun. He looked at different ways of sitting in line with a more mobile, fluid lifestyle by analysing the human form. The Tubo Chair, Multi Chair and Additional Living System seating (1967) consisted of elements or cushions of different sizes that could be pinned or strapped together to make new forms according to a desired way of sitting.

In 1971 Colombo developed the Total Furnishing Unit. With this system kitchen, cupboards, bed and bathroom are contained in a single unit in Colombo's signature colours of white, yellow, red and black. Sadly, Colombo didn't live to see it exhibited at MoMA New York in 1972. He died of heart failure on his birthday at the age of 41. Through his inspirational design his exuberance and love of life live on.

The energetic designer was not held back by critics or copycats. Joe Colombo offered excitement to the imagination. The great designer will be remembered for his radical furniture and all in one living systems.

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