Joe Colombo


Milano / Italy

Joe Colombo (Milan 1930 - 1971) was a brilliant and innovative architect and designer. With beginnings in painting and sculpture, he enrolled in the Faculty of Architecture at Milan Polytechnic in 1953 but did not complete his studies. He began his career among the artistic avant-garde, first joining the Movimento Nucleare (Nuclear Movement) alongside Enrico Baj and Sergio Dangelo; then the MIBI (Movimento Internazionale per un Bauhaus Immaginista) with Danish artist Asger Jorn; and finally the MAC (Movimento per l'arte Concreta), at the invitation of Bruno Munari. His work revealed the seeds of his language, permeated with fantastic and futuristic suggestions, in which new technologies played a central role. His project, La città nucleare (1952), summarised his vision with completely innovative forms of dwellings, means of transport and infrastructure.

After his father died in 1959, Joe Colombo opened an office with his brother Gianni, who had already embarked on a career as an artist. There, they continued their experiments, often influencing one another and sometimes working together on the same projects, like the Acrilica lamp (1962) produced by Oluce, gold medal recipient for design at the XIII Triennale in 1964. This event was Joe Colombo's springboard into the world of industrial design. He embraced experimentation with form, materials, technology and function. Some Colombo-designed furnishings from the 1960s are now part of design history: the Mini-Kitchen for Boffi (1963); the No. 4801 chair for Kartell (1963-64); the Elda chair, dedicated to his wife and produced for Combort F.lli Longhi (1963); the Nastro armchair for Bonacina (1964); the Aton lamp by Oluce (1964); the KD8 lamp by Kartell (1964); the Additional Living System seating system by Kartell (1967); and the Tube armchair for Cappellini (1969). In 1967, the Spider lamp (Oluce) won the Compasso d'Oro ADI award, which he also received in 1970 for the air conditioner designed for Candy. His output intensified in 1970 with other iconic pieces like the Topo, Colombo and Triedro lamp collection for Stilnovo, the Boby wheeled office chest of drawers and the Multichair armchair for B-Line.

Joe Colombo also worked in interior and exhibition design, developing a series of radical proposals for the domestic space of the future. The infinitely extendable Kilometro bookshelf (1967), the cabinets in the Sistema programmabile per abitare T14 (1968), the Box 1 living system (1968) and the Square plastic system (1969) explore the concept of space and modularity, proposing avant-garde solutions that did not meet the approval of manufacturers at the time. Nevertheless, Colombo continued to experiment with the idea of the autonomous living module and multifunctional furniture that could be transformed at will. In 1970, he created the Living Center, Visiona I, the Cabriolet bed, the Rotoliving multifunctional wall unit and the Total Furnishing Unit, presented posthumously at the watershed 1972MoMA exhibition "Italy: the new domestic landscape" in New York. Joe Colombo died prematurely in 1971 at the age of 41. Today the office, run by his historical collaborator, architect Ignazia Favata, houses the great designer's archive. ... More ... less

Products designed by Joe Colombo

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