There is no better platform for designers than the exposition Triennale of Milan. The Italian brothers Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni know it. The 12th edition of the expo saw the debut of their Sanluca armchair, which began its story in 1960. It was first produced by the Italian design company Gavina, but this armchair quickly became iconic. So much so that it’s still in production nowadays by Poltrona Frau.
What made this piece of furniture so special? For starters, its alternative shapes and forms. Although the avant-garde wavy lines might make it seem uncomfortable, it’s ergonomic and comfortable. Then, the audience loved the concept of this Castiglioni creation, easy to assemble and anything but bland. In the era of consumerism, there was no other armchair like it.
The Specs of the Sanluca Armchair
The original version for Gavina features three pieces: the backrest, seat, and headrest. The structure is made of steel, while the padding is polyurethane foam, resistant and cozy. The designers thought of two options for the covering: leather or fabric. Each of these three elements is assembled with bolts, while the rosewood legs perfectly fit in the armrests’ structure. The two brothers wanted this armchair to join the mass production, so the three separate elements helped save time and money.
After the 1960 edition for Gavina, Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni produced the Sanluca armchair for different design companies. Between 1960 and 1969, Knoll International launched a leather or cotton lining version. Then, Bernini took over production, presenting a Sanluca armchair with natural leather in different color options: red or black.
The Italian design company Poltrona Frau is the latest to pick up this iconic piece. In 2004, it launched its own Sanluca featuring birch plywood and beech woodblocks. With both leather and fabric options, this contemporary version of the Castiglioni’s creation still respects the original 1960 design. It also comes with the matching ottoman, which Achille Castiglioni added to the collection in 1991 for the Bernini company. The perfect matching pair.
The Story Behind It
The designers and brothers aimed at producing more than a piece of furniture. They almost wanted to create a character with its own personality. Its strengths and qualities put the Sanluca armchair at the forefront of modern design, the moment when Italian craftsmanship went international. People worldwide appreciated the research and the study of forms and shapes. After years of plastic models, drawings, and wooden models, the final result came.
Years of study and research to create the Sanluca chair, still an icon of design after 50 years. And the 50th anniversary was special, celebrated by the Max Huber company. In 2018, the design company launched a limited edition, only 100 armchairs for true lovers. The lining features original jacquard fabric based on a 1968 Huber project. This exclusive version comes in two colors, black and white and ash wood feet.
Still true to the original version, this limited edition reflects the world’s love for the Castiglioni brothers, two brothers who looked for alternatives and quality. While they respected traditional materials like wood, they also used modern design techniques to make their pieces ready for production and sale. Functional and with their own unique style, the Castiglioni’s creations appealed to everyone, from office workers to middle-class families.
So, the story of the Sanluca armchair isn’t over yet. More chapters are waiting to be written. Perhaps at the 100th anniversary, when this piece can genuinely become futuristic. But always respecting the original design from the 60s, simple yet glamorous. And comfortable, of course.