The Blow Chair: emblem of 60’s pop culture
A true symbol of the 1960s, this chair is anything but a simple piece of plastic. The Blow inflatable chair, created in 1967 by the Milanese design and architecture trio De Pas, D’Urbino & Lomazzi, was the first inflatable chair to be mass-produced and to enjoy international success.
Made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride), each element is assembled by high frequency electronic welding. Its construction was inspired by that of inflatable boats and it owes its appearance to the Michelin Man.
Light, transparent, inflatable, accessible, modern, aesthetic: it sweeps away the idea that a piece of furniture must necessarily be expensive and have an unlimited lifespan. Bye Bye daddy’s armchair, hello modernity, mass consumption and ephemerality.
The Blow armchair is thus, in its time, a true hymn to the ephemeral and a bearer of a spirit of renewal, as much by its design as its manufacture.
1960s: pop culture and the explosion of Italian design
After the consumerist euphoria of the 1950s, the 1960s marked the end of the reign of Bauhaus modernism and the functionalism inherited from the 1920s. During these years of renewal, design was enriched by a variety of styles and movements, which is probably why the style of the 1960s is again in vogue today.
And it was at the end of the 1960s, in a context of economic boom, that Italian design exploded with boldness, fantasy and modernity. Emblematic figures of Italian design asserted themselves at this time, such as Gae Aulenti, Joe Colombo, Ettore Sottsass and the publishing houses Zanotta, Flos and Cappellini.
“There was an explosion of constructive energy in those vital years, a deep desire to sweep away the past and create a new world. Italian design was born of this desire for renewal, but also of the meeting of brilliant young designers and entrepreneurs who, like me, wanted to take the risk of doing new things
,” says Aurelio Zanotta, founder of the company that bears his name.
At the same time, new innovative materials such as the new polymers were born, which were to be the source of the most daring ideas and to contribute to the influence of Italian design.
“Un coro a tre voci” (“a choir with three voices”)*
The Blow chair, the result of a collaboration between the manufacturer Zanotta and the designers Jonathan De Pas (1932-1991), Donato D’Urbino (1935), and Paolo Lomazzi (1936), architects by training, is totally in line with this impulse and the new identity of Italian design. This trio of eccentric designers, who created utopian and experimental projects, had a passion for radical style and “Antidesign”. Inspired by the changes in society and pop culture, they quickly became icons, thanks to the Blow chair in 1967 of course, but also thanks to their very kitsch Joe Sofa (1968-70), a sofa shaped like an oversized baseball glove, in homage to the American baseball player Joe DiMaggio.
Their work can be found in the design collections of museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York, the Denver Art Museum in Colorado, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Design Museum of London, the Kunstgewerbe Museum in Zurich and Berlin, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Jerusalem Museum in Israel, the Triennale in Milan and the Vitra Design Museum in Weil-am-Rhein.
*”Un coro a tre voci” (“a chorus with three voices”): name of the solo exhibition organised in 1992 at the IZM Gallery in Tokyo
Sources: Book: Charlotte Fiell, Peter Fiell, CHAISES, 1000 chefs-d’oeuvre du design du XIXè siècle à nos jours, Editions de la Martinière; Marie Ferman, “Et l’Italie créa le Design”, Les Echos, 24.03.2017.