“Being able to create is a debt towards the technique. Being able to give a meaning to the things we make is a debt towards the logic of shapes and forms,” said Afra and Tobia Scarpa.
Shapes and forms have always been the protagonists of the two designers’ work. And the duo only collaborated with the best design companies to launch both innovation and a new industrial design. Not something cheap, but an alternative. Because simplicity isn’t a flaw. Instead, simple forms and raw materials create elegance.
Like the Monk Chair, designed by Afra and Tobia Scarpa for the company Molteni. The two designers created an entire collection for Molteni, including chairs, bookcases, and modular cabinets. Built during the 1970s and 1980s, the collaboration between the duo and Molteni created evergreen pieces of furniture.
The Specs of the Monk Chair
It looks simple, but it hides the theory of design. This chair dates back to 1973, an era of plastics and padded furniture. The Monk Chair is exactly the opposite, isn’t it?
There is no plastic here. The materials are solid and warm wood, specifically Italian walnut and natural ash. The support structure comprises two equal trestles in solid wood, attached to metal tubing, large hubs in burnished steel. For the seat and the back of the Monk Chair, the two Italian designers gave two options to customers: leather or canvas. The legs are made of solid wooden planks that support the tubular sections, joined by two with cross pieces.
The interesting anecdote is that Afra and Tobia Scarpa at first wanted to create an affordable chair made in a single piece. But Angelo Molteni disagreed, saying, “we do things properly.” So, the team created the iron structure between the two identical frames. The result? The seat of the Monk Chair is made to follow the shape of the body.
The Story of the Molteni Collaboration
However, the chair didn’t come alone. It was part of a collection. The set included the table Mou, the Morna bed, and the modular bookcase Mop.
The table features simple and traditional lines with delicately rounded corners. It’s sturdy and durable with an extendable top and made in solid timber. Like the Morna, which is made of three separate and independent elements. The plywood sheet is sustained by metal tubing, and the headboard is the fixed part of the bed, while the container is removable. The final part of this set is Mop, made of woodblocks. This modular bookcase is simply made of shelves and supports, and it doesn’t twist or give in under the weight.
When these three elements are combined with the Monk Chair, the result is a simple and elegant space. There is no denying that Afra and Tobia Scarpa chose wood for the warmth of its colors and hues but also its strength. It’s the idea of a comfortable and cozy room filled with unique, industrial elements.
The Other Furniture by Afra and Tobia Scarpa for Molteni
While this collection resulted from the two designers’ collaboration with Molteni, Afra and Tobia Scarpa created more furniture for the Italian company. These include:
- Mount, a series of cabinet components, 1973
- Marlo, a series of beds, 1979
- Maso table, 1979
- Mid bedroom set, 1979
- Mastro chair and sofa-bed, 1980
- Meo chair, 1980
- Miro, a series of modular cabinets, 1980
- Mika chair, 1981
- Marcus extensible table, 1981
- Marly bookcase, 1985
- Mita display case, 1985
- Roll armchair and sofa, 1985
- Miss chair, 1986
- Mattino bed, 1988
- Moka table and chair, 1990
Beds, tables, cabinets, chairs, and bookcases. Each piece could also pair with the Monk Chair to build a chic and organized space. Without a doubt, Molteni saw potential in the two designers, just like the company saw potential in Gio Ponti and Angelo Mangiarotti, who also collaborated with it.
These collaborations weren’t about mass production, and they didn’t aim at creating affordable furniture. Convenience wasn’t the goal, not even with the Monk Chair. The goal was to have an idea and challenge the status quo. No one can say they failed.