In furniture design, many notable designers have left their indelible mark on Poltronova, a renowned Italian furniture manufacturer. Among these are Archizoom, Gae Aulenti, Giovanni Michelucci, and De Pas, D’Urbino and Lomazzi. However, one individual stands out – Ettore Sottsass, the art director of Poltronova. His innovative designs include the Ultrafragola mirror and Galassia bed. This article delves into one of his most iconic creations—the Superbox.
The Genesis of Superbox
In the April 1967 issue of Domus magazine (number 449), an intriguing article titled “Katalogo di Mobili” captivated readers with a glimpse into the world of design visionary Ettore Sottsass Jr. The article showcased a stunning collection of domestic spaces meticulously crafted by Sottsass, each adorned with an array of innovative furniture pieces that pushed the boundaries of creativity.
These remarkable furniture designs, originally conceived as scale models in 1966 by Sottsass, were a brilliant showcase for the new plastic laminates introduced by Abet Print. With their sleek and modern aesthetic, these models quickly caught the attention of Poltronova, who, under Sottsass’s artistic direction, decided to bring these designs to life. The result was the birth of the iconic Superbox, a series of meticulously manufactured examples of Sottsass’s visionary creations.
These Superbox, carefully selected for their elegant simplicity, soon became highly sought-after collectibles cherished by design enthusiasts and collectors alike. The Superbox represented a harmonious fusion of art and functionality and stood as a testament to Sottsass’s profound influence on the world of contemporary design.
With its rich history and attention to detail, the Superbox series continues to inspire and captivate audiences. It preserves the legacy of Ettore Sottsass Jr. and his groundbreaking contribution to the world of design.
The Superbox were constructed using a then-innovative process of furnishing coated with laminate. The doors and drawers were edged on the thickness of the frame with a strip of laminate and closed on the carcass with tolerances of about 4 or 5 millimeters. The purpose of this was to make industrialization easier and to cover up the flaws of serial processing.
In 2003, Poltronova decided to reissue the Superbox. Sottsass supervised the modifications, specifically to the joints, which now had a 45° angle. This significant reduction in tolerance from the original models was a testament to the progress made since 1966.
The Philosophy Behind Superbox
With Superbox, Ettore Sottsass sought to give “a ritual weight to objects,” infusing them with a sense of significance and purpose. His design philosophy believes in magic and enchantment beyond rationality. For Sottsass, design was not just a superficial exercise but an architectural journey that explored the boundaries of form and function.
In his pursuit of meaning, Sottsass emphasized the ceremonial aspects of design rather than strict functionality. His innovative use of laminate in these pieces foreshadowed the groundbreaking successes of the Alchymia groups. Sottsass became a part of them in 1979 and later founded the influential design movement known as Memphis in 1980.
Through Superbox and his pioneering approach, Sottsass left an indelible mark on the design world, challenging conventional norms and pushing the boundaries of creativity. His legacy continues to inspire and shape the field of design today.
The Impact of Superbox: Beyond Just Furniture
For Sottsass, the Superbox represented a departure from what remained of popular tradition. His new references became India and America. The Superbox are furnishings on large bases, isolated in the center of rooms, conceived as true “energy catalysts”: furniture as people with their own life, independent from the surrounding environment and full of meaning.
The wardrobes designed by Sottsass aimed to eliminate traditional furniture and create a sense of expanded space. By integrating furniture with surrounding walls, Sottsass blurred the lines between objects and their environment. This innovative approach challenged the conventional hierarchy of furniture, transforming the entire room into a functional wardrobe.
In conclusion, the Superbox Poltronova, created by Ettore Sottsass, revolutionized furniture design and introduced a new way of perceiving and interacting with our living spaces. Through these iconic pieces, Sottsass encourages us to see furniture not merely as objects but as embodiments of energy, meaning, and ritual.