The Italian Joe Colombo (1930-1971), actually Cesare Colombo, was a painter, architect, industrial designer and multi-talent. Until 1949 he studied painting and sculpture at the Accademia di Belle Arte di Brera in Milan, as well as architecture at the Milan polytechnic until 1954. Colombo was exclusively active as a painter and sculptor at the start of his career.
He was a member of the Movimento nucleare and as such committed to abstract expressionism. However, at the end of the 1950's and start of the 1960's, Colombo turned his attention to design. As early as 1962, he opened his own office for interior and industrial design in Milan and began to experiment with new design processes and materials. His preferred material was plastic.
His early designs from this period still demonstrate strong sculptural characteristics. This resulted in, e.g. the "Acrilia" lamp, which Colombo developed in 1962 together with his brother Gianni, as well as chair designs for Kartell, for example chair "no. 4801" (1963) and the "Universale 4860" chair, which was the first chair for adults to be manufactured from injection moulding plastic (ABS). Joe Colombo's "Elda" chair from 1963 for the manufacturer Comfort became one of the most well-known icons of the 1960's.
Some years later, Colombo's design developed further. His new designs, e.g. the "Additional Living System" of 1967/68 or "Tube Chair" and "Multi Chair", are chairs that are connected with brackets and can be variably connected, thus allowing for different seating possibilities. These designs vividly emphasise Colombo's new main objective in design: adaptability. This also involved his transformation of traditional pieces of furniture into path breaking, multi-purpose furniture, in that he combined them with functional idiosyncrasies in order to create multi-functional living spaces.
Their practical usage was nonetheless always primary to his designs. His so-called "living machines" were dynamic pieces of furniture that united all necessary functions in themselves and were meant to adapt to the respective architectural conditions in the room. From his perspective, these designs were visions of the future for the furnishings of tomorrow.
Joe Colombo distinguished himself through his unbelievable versatility; he designed furniture, lamps, glasses, door handles, pipes, wristwatches and much more. He also carried out tasks related to the overall design concepts, such as the designing of hotels and reception areas.
However, Colombo passed away surprisingly on his 41st birthday. In his brief but brilliant career, Joe Colombo produced a series of innovations, which made him one of the most influential designers in Italy. He was honoured with many prizes and received several awards for his work and his creations, which he carried out on behalf of, among others, the Italian companies Kartell, Boffi, Flexform and Alessi.
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