What’s bulbous, bouncy, enveloping like a womb and comes with its own ball linked by a chain? If you know the answer, you’re probably a fan of modern industrial design. The UP5 armchair —and its accompanying UP6 ottoman—is an icon of modern Italian design that is perhaps one of the more sedate pieces of Gaetano Pesce’s exuberant, experimental oeuvre. I do admit, the first time I saw it, and the few times after as well, it was a little too strange for me to accept (in the earlier years of my appreciation of industrial design, streamlined was everything). But it grows on you. The more I saw it, the more I was drawn to its spell. Designs like that stay in your subconscience.
Designed in 1969 by the Italian architect and designer for B&B Italia (formerly C&B Italia), a child’s version, the UPJ, was released last Christmas. Methinks the strangeness makes it somehow very apt as a child’s seat. The stranger it is, the more I think a child’s imagination will spark.
Here’s some trivia on the UP Series:
- There are seven pieces in the UP Series altogether. The UP5 armchair and UP6 ottoman are the most recognisable
- The chairs are made from air-sensitive expandable foam. When first showcased at the Milan Furniture Fair, it expanded from a flat-pack form, a tenth of its size, into its full shape in 15 minutes as air seeped back into the capillaries of the polyurethane foam, enrapturing the audience (it is no longer sold vacuum packed but in its final form)
- The UP Series is part of the permanent collection in many museums including New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Milan’s Triennale, the Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal, and the Vitra Design Museum
- The UP5 and UP6 ottoman reflects Pesce’s opinions about the female gender. “Despite themselves, women have always been prisoners of their own making…along these lines, I liked the idea of giving this armchair a feminine shape with a ball and chain, the traditional image of the prisoner.” The chairs’ curves were inspired by the sensuality of a woman’s body. Initially, Pesce saw the ottoman linked like a child to its mother via an umbilical cord. Later, the ball-and-chain allusion came about, as a critique – or tribute, depending on how you see it – of the inevitable hardships of being a woman (one of it being a mother, for sure).
+ images courtesy of Space Furniture
// Space Furniture.