Modernism had its rules. It developed between the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s. It was an aesthetic movement, which focused on the development of modern society. Designers, architects, and artists looked at the fast growth of industrial society with urban centers sprawling after World War I.
Poet Ezra Pound created the motto of this movement: “make it new!” It reflected the Modernists’ desire to break free of the past by focusing on the industrial process. So, don’t hold back progress, but embrace it in all of its forms. Modernism worked, at least until World War II changed it all. The 1960s were characterized by a desire to challenge progress itself through design. So, the Bastiano Sofa by Afra and Tobia Scarpa was born from this idea.
The Specs of the Bastiano Sofa
The Italian designers created the Bastiano system for the Gavina company between 1961 and 1962.
The project features:
- a two-seater sofa
- a three-seater sofa
- an armchair
- an ottoman
- a coffee table
It’s a simple yet elegant piece of furniture in a typical industrial style. The structure of the Bastiano Sofa is made of solid wood, specifically rosewood. There is space to insert the padded cushions, which fit in the upholstery in different ways. These same cushions feature feathers on the upper part, and they have a variable foam core with a Polyester fiber wrap. Down-filled and posed on coated steel elastic tie rods, the cushions can be moved.
The solid wood can be disassembled to insert the cushions, while the coating is 100% leather. The Bastiano looks like a traditional leather sofa, but it doesn’t need any carpenter or upholsterer. Everything the buyer sees is what the buyer gets. There are no surprises, except the simplicity of this couch. It represents the best of industrial design, which exalts the materials, the forms, and the function.
In the previous decades, design and architecture had to allow mass production. So materials such as concrete and glass were popular because they were both cost and time-efficient. Instead, Afra and Tobia Scarpa chose leather for their Bastiano Sofa, a material that wasn’t trendy in the 1960s. Why? To humanize the materials. The Italian designers wanted to create an ageless armchair, for kids and grandparents alike, practical yet not cumbersome.
The Bastiano Sofa had to last forever.
The Story Behind It
The whole philosophy of design in the 60s was to produce as much as possible without worrying about durability. People wanted their couch, TV stand, and as many objects as possible. They wanted functional furniture, but it was disposable. Not everyone agreed.
Designers like Afra, Tobia Scarpa, and Dino Gavina, for example. The three met at Gavina’s homonymous company, founded in 1960. Gavina believed that art and industrial design had to mix and match, walking together to change the world. He was an innovator who liked to define himself as “subversive.” His vision was so rebellious and alternative that the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Rome dedicated him to an exhibition in 2021, 15 years after his death. Why? Because he set the tone.
“In the 50s, Italian designers didn’t have a true identity,” said curator Giovanna Coltelli, “but that will change with Gavina, starting from the designers that worked and collaborated with him.”
These artists include Afra and Tobia Scarpa, who also created the Pigreco chair, another example of simple and durable industrial design. Other designers who joined Gavina and his vision were Kazuhide Takahama, Achille and Giacomo Castiglioni.
But Gavina wasn’t the only subversive in the Italy of the 60s and 70s. Just as rebellious was Cassina, who worked with Afra and Tobia Scarpa to produce the Soriana lounge chair, which broke every rule of Modernism and mass production. Sure, design and art had their rules. However, the Bastiano Sofa and Afra and Tobia Scarpa didn’t.