One material surged in the 1970s: plastic. Invented in the 1800s, plastic became popular after World war II. Those decades represent the rise of this material, which was especially useful for mass production. Consumers were looking for cheap objects to fill their homes and rooms. Plastic was affordable, easy to clean, and versatile. It quickly became popular, replacing traditional materials like wood and glass in every industry, including design.
As author Susan Freinkel said, “product after product, market after market, plastics challenged traditional materials and won.” But it didn’t win over everyone. Designers Afra and Tobia Scarpa didn’t use plastic in their design and pieces of furniture. The Coronado sofa proves it.
The specs of the Coronado Sofa
Produced between 1960 and 1969, this collection features the sofa and the armchair. It stars two materials as the protagonists: leather and wood. Exactly: Afra and Tobia Scarpa rejected plastic, choosing warm and traditional materials. During the first nine years of production, the Coronado Armchair changed and evolved, with three versions reaching the public.
The first version featured a wooden frame for the armrest, with flat and small shapes and surfaces to reduce production issues, delays, or doubts. It featured flexible sheets and a metal structure for the seat and the belt. Every element was padded with coconut fiber and Dacron, then covered in leather or velvet. Traditional and flexible, but not quite durable.
On the other hand, the second version of the Coronado featured perforated sheet metal as a structure for the armrest, making it more durable. Finally, the third version featured the latest technology for the time: the molding of polyurethane. This innovation made furniture more durable and flexible, the two main qualities of polyurethane. Moreover, this material is resistant to electricity and high temperatures, perfect for a strong couch like the Coronado Sofa.
The assembly of this armchair was also easy since people only had to fasten the four panels together with the use of two bolts. The Coronado collection was comfortable thanks to the spring system made of steel strips built into the backrest. There is no reason not to love this design: durable, comfortable, and resistant. And revolutionary, of course.
The story behind the piece
After all, anything that Afra and Tobia Scarpa created was revolutionary in the 1960s, such as the Soriana (made for Cassina) and the Bonanza for C&B Italia, and the Bastiano for Gavina. Everything in the Coronado was alternative, from the materials to the technology used by the two designers. While this collection features a traditional look, it was a rebel.
Forget plastics. With the help of B&B Italia, the designers produced a collection that featured a structure in sheet metal and the molding of polyurethane. It also took into consideration the optimization of the production chain and the international look of the Coronado Sofa and Armchair. All of these elements reflected the philosophy of the company B&B Italia.
Founded in 1966 by Cesare Cassina and Piero Ambrogio Busnelli, this company aimed at taking Italian furniture abroad. Instead of focusing on artisanal designs, it wanted to focus on production. Thanks to the latest technologies, B&B Italia collaborated with the best designers to reach its goals. Like Mario Bellini, who used injection molding technology to create the Amanta system.
What do the Coronado, B&B Italia, and Bellini have in common? They represented the revolution of Italian design in the 1960s and 70s. They focused on warm materials and alternative shapes to produce furniture that simply looked (and felt) different. In the era of plastic and look-alike, they took the industrial design to a new, rebellious level.