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Designer name: Colombo, Joe (Cesare)
  1930 - 1971
Slinky, kinky, and plastic. These are the descriptors that Joe Colombo's version of a utopian space-age future calls to mind. In the 1960s, sci-fi fantasies gave rise to molded curves, tubular furniture, and synthetic fabrics. The Italians and Scandinavians were at the forefront of the design revolution and Joe Colombo was their boldest captain. Colombo’s "Roto Living Machine for Living," originally designed for his personal use, was Barbarella’s dream house. In the eating area, a mechanized dining table rotates through the wall and into the kitchen. The all-white bedroom features a lemon-drop sleeping apparatus: a bright yellow plastic canopy extends downward from a stainless steel headboard, and a clear plastic curtain slides around the bed, suggesting delicious space-age voyeurism. While sinking into the three-inch shag carpeting, guests in Colombo's world could find ready support in his “Universal Stacking Chair,” which was designed for Kartell of Italy. This chair is the grandfather of those ubiquitous plastic models that grace patios from Duluth to Donnalucata. Or perhaps time-travelers visiting the Roto Living Machine would notice his Optic alarm clock, with its boldly graphic face and ABS plastic body. Colombo was a pipe-smoking architect and painter who turned his hand to design after studying at the Brera Fine Arts Academy and later at Milan Polytechnic. From 1962 onwards, he dedicated himself tirelessly to design research, using the latest materials and manufacturing processes. Colombo’s experimental efforts were made easier when he took over his father’s electrical-component plant, which gave him access to both manufacturing equipment and materials once considered industrial. His amusing plastic creations soon brought him jobs with companies like Bayer, Stilnovo, O-Luce, and Bernini. With a formal quality that borrows from the Bauhaus masters, his furniture is always "naturally ergonomic." Colombo’s unexpected death in 1971 brought an end to the work, but his spirit lingers today in furniture with cyber leanings.


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