Never has a chair’s name been so appropriate. The Dialogo chair by Afra and Tobia Scarpa is the “dialogue” of furniture and Italian design in the 1970s. So, it’s the dialogue between old and new, between different materials, and the dialogue between industrial functionality and the elegance of forms. Indeed, this chair is the symbol of the two designers’ philosophy.
The career of Afra and Tobia Scarpa began in the 50s, when the two designers graduated from the same university, the IUAV University in Venice. They met in the halls of the school, where they also fell in love. A true power couple destined to shape the landscape of Italian design. Many timeless pieces were born from their personal and professional relationship, works that still inspire contemporary designers. Including the Dialogo chair.
The Specs of this Piece
Afra and Tobia Scarpa produced the chair for the Italian design company B&B Italia in 1973. It follows the lines and practicality of the former 121 Chair, which the two designers created in 1965 for the design company Cassina. Just like the Dialogo, the 121 piece is simple in its looks and substance. It features a walnut structure and leather covering.
The 1973 version for B&B Italia features a wood structure, solid and durable. It’s only four boards, connected with bolts and wooden plugs. The Dialogo chair can come with or without armrests, making it perfect for professional settings like offices.
Afra and Tobia Scarpa also designed a second version of this chair called Dialogo Dessau. It was a homage to the Bauhaus chair by Walter Gropius. It features a structure of curved and chromed tubes with black leather seating. Both models had a leather covering, which created a contrast of materials, especially in the steel version. Steel, the industrial material, and wood, traditional and natural. In the Dialogo chair, the two worlds meet and survive.
In 1975, Afra and Tobia Scarpa also created the Dialogo table, always for B&B Italia. It completed the set with the chair, featuring a metal structure. The designers also designed a square version with openings and slidings to create more space. Together, the Dialogo set represented the best industrial design. They were simple yet functional and elegant in their lines and forms.
The Story Behind the Dialogo Chair
The collaboration between the two designers and B&B Italia began in 1966. The first creation was the Coronado sofa, which featured the latest technology in furniture: polyurethane foam. In fact, collaborating with a cutting-edge company like B&B Italia gave Afra and Tobia Scarpa access to machines, industrial production, and technology.
The designers loved to combine old and new. And they loved to create contrast and dialogue with their pieces, which weren’t simple pieces of furniture. Wood and metal, curves and linear forms, rhythm, and functionality: their creations were avant-garde. Their idea of modern design met in the Dialogo chair, another product that went beyond the Italian borders. Afra and Tobia Scarpa took Italian design to the international stage.
The couple stayed together, and it kept working together throughout the decades. They also took architectural projects, including Benetton’s stores and a villa near Conegliano. They stayed together even after the tragic deaths of their sons in the 90s. Afra died in 2011, always with Tobia by her side. Tobia Afra’s last work dates back to 2015 for Fondazione Benetton, and he is now a professor at the IUAV University in Venice. This is a true love story. It’s the love for design, creation, and each other. Talk about a power couple.