De Pas, D'Urbino & Lomazzi

The names Jonathan De Pas, Donato D’Urbino, and Paolo Lomazzi (DDL) are unique in the annals of furniture design. These three Italian architects revolutionized domestic furnishings with their innovative designs. In 1966, they participated in the Selettiva del mobile di Cantù competition. They presented their “Manifesto of New Furniture,” which challenged the traditional approach to furnishing environments. By doing so, they aimed to introduce a fresh perspective and encourage a more dynamic attitude towards furniture design.

The Revolution Begins: The Selettiva del Mobile Di Cantù

The DDL trio took a unique stance at the Selettiva del mobile di Cantù competition. Despite the competition rules, they aimed to recover the relationship between man and objects, allowing for the creation of personalized spaces. They believed the rules didn’t understand how people’s lives were changing. Thus, they broke the rules by doing something different. As a result, they intended to be considered “out of competition,” which marked the beginning of their journey as the “designers of ’68.”

A Time of Change: The Influence of the 60s

The advancements in architecture faculties since the early 1960s profoundly influenced the DDLs. Lifestyle, architecture, arts, and design transformations marked this era. Moreover, the Beatles and Mary Quant were changing youth customs, and architects like the revered Rogers influenced the profession. De Pas, D’Urbino & Lomazzi captured the spirit of this complex era, offering a demystified and fresh idea of living.

Pop Art and Its Impact

One of the critical influences on De Pas, D’Urbino & Lomazzi was the revival of the “figure” through the Pop Art exhibition in Venice in ’62. This marked a shift away from the dominance of abstraction, mainly geometric, on art and modern design. Pop art, which emerged in London in the mid-’50s, was exemplified by Hamilton’s collage “Just What Is It Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing?” for the “This is Tomorrow” exhibition. Furthermore, George Nelson designed armchairs shaped like coconut slices and candy-inspired sofas in America.

Urban Transformation and Technological Development

Urban transformation and technological developments inspired De Pas, D’Urbino & Lomazzi. Innovations such as Yona Friedman’s lattice beam megastructure above Paris, Archigram’s Plug-in City and Walking City in England, and the Utopie Group’s transportable and ephemeral pneumatic structures in Paris in 1967 all foreshadowed the future of the city design. Moreover, the radical group Ufo revisited the concept of the “Grand Pneumatic Object” (a series of tubes in space), created by Group I in 1959, with their Urboeffimero in front of Florence’s cathedral in 1968.

The Emergence of De Pas, D’Urbino and Lomazzi: A New Phase

The design philosophy of De Pas, D’Urbino & Lomazzi is unique and distinct from other contemporary movements. In the mid-60s, when the cultural climate was changing, they represented a new phase of modernity that explored various themes such as figures, cities, technology, and everyday life. It is noteworthy that DDL did not take part in the anti-industrial controversy advocating for a return to craftsmanship or the individual freedom of the artist. Instead, they aligned themselves with the Modern Movement, taking inspiration from architects such as Sartoris, Nizzoli, and BBPR. 

Furthermore, the DDL did not follow the Viennese neo-expressionism or the re-proposition of the art and design identity, as the radicals favored. Instead, they aimed to depict a new, optimistic, and youth-friendly world, which is a central aspect of Italian pop design. Piero Derossi designed the first Piper in Turin in 1966, an excellent example of how the pop language captures the spirit of the time. 

Their design approach is based on paying close attention to practical details while being interested in everyday experiences and exploring new ideas. The DDLs aim to incorporate these influences into their final products, whether through technological advancements, innovative sitting or gathering methods, or unique artistic styles. Their goal is to create products that reflect these influences and provide a positive impact on the user. Overall, the DDLs’ design philosophy is unique, innovative, and forward-thinking, significantly contributing to the design world.

Eurodomus 1968

The Journey of De Pas, D’Urbino & Lomazzi: A Detailed Examination 

Let’s delve into the path of De Pas, D’Urbino & Lomazzi in more detail. Inspired by the Castiglioni brothers, three architects playfully assembled various objects for an environment exhibition in 1957. They used simple items like a deck chair, stools made from different components, and tables with baseball bats as legs. Additionally, they showcased a foam armchair that sank when sat on, demonstrating the unique properties of foam. These lessons influenced young Italian designers who later used polyurethane for their amusing furnishing designs, like the Bocca and Pratone. 

The DDL created remarkable objects in the ’60s and ’70s, including the inflatable armchair Blow, the baseball glove-inspired armchair Joe, the playful Sciangai coat rack, and the Due Cavalli armchair. Moreover, they also experimented with inflatable structures and showcased them at the Salone del Mobile in 1969. 

The DDL’s designs reflected the new times and reimagined comfort for a young audience, embracing new technologies like high-frequency electronic welding in the Blow and research on inflatable structures. Their unique and innovative approach to design continues to inspire and influence the world of modern design.

Continuing the Legacy of De Pas, D’Urbino & Lomazzi: A Focus on Innovation and Partnerships 

DDL’s dedication to observing everyday behaviors, exploring new materials, and mastering modern techniques is a testament to their avant-garde approach. Moreover, they actively pursued relationships within the industry, moving away from the prevailing neo-artisanal and anti-industrial research trend. Additionally, they were lucky to collaborate with innovative entrepreneurs like Sergio Cammilli of Poltronova and Aurelio Zanotta. 

Furthermore, DDL’s partnership with Zanotta was a successful collaboration that lasted for a long time. For example, they worked together to create the Onda in 1985. The Onda was a playful yet comfortable take on Le Corbusier‘s sofa, notable for its undulating backrests. In addition, they proposed the Zerone system for the brand Quattrocchio. This revolutionary concept allowed unprecedented flexibility in positioning reticular beams within a space.

De Pas, D’Urbino & Lomazzi also designed intricate, self-supporting micro-architectures for exhibitions. Despite the passing of De Pas in 1991, their innovation continued undeterred. The group remained committed to balancing technology with irony, as exemplified by their subsequent creations. For instance, they designed the Appendispecchio (Tonelli 2008) and the Kiwi (Alessi 2008).

Kiwi by Alessi

Appendispecchio by Tonelli

As a result, DDL’s unique design approach has continued to influence future generations of designers, ensuring their legacy lives on.

Notable Design Projects by De Pas, D’Urbino & Lomazzi

Below is a compilation of the most remarkable design projects by De Pas, D’Urbino & Lomazzi:

The 1960s

  • Blow – Inflatable Armchair (1967, Zanotta): An inflatable armchair suitable for both indoors and outdoors, fabricated from electronically welded PVC. Initially available in various hues in both transparent or opaque versions.

Blow Inflatable Armchair by Zanotta

  • Addition System – Containers (1968, Acerbis International): Modular elements with bases and final tops that can be assembled and stacked using nylon fasteners. The availability of dimensions and colors makes it possible to create personalized compositional variants.

Addition System By Acerbis International

  • Galeotta – Armchair and Sofa (1968, BBB Bonacina): Featuring no support structure or mechanisms, Galeotta is made from block-cut polyurethane covered with fabric that also serves as a hinge during its transformation from an armchair into a chaise longue or day bed.

Galeotta Lounge Chair by BBB Bonacina

  • Carrera – Modular Armchairs and Sofas (1969, BBB Bonacina): Combinable armchairs and sofas that can be arranged into desired forms by combining median and terminal right concave and convex elements.

Carrera Modular Sofa by De Pas, D'Urbino & Lomazzi for BBB Bonacina

  • Gomma – Armchair and Two-seater Sofa (1969, BBB Bonacina): The Gomma armchair and sofa feature a metal structure, cold foam polyurethane padding, and fabric coating.

Gomma Armchair by BBB Bonacina

  • Ciuingam – Armchair, Sofas, Pouf (1969, BBB Bonacina): Ciuingam features an armchair, a two or three-seater sofa, and a pouf, with interiors made of cold foam polyurethane.  

Ciuingam Armchair by De Pas, D'Urbino & Lomazzi for BBB Bonacina

  • Duecavalli – Armchair and Daybed (1969, Driade): The armchair and daybed, inspired by the iconic Citroen car, showcase quilted padding and intricate details. Reintroduced in 1995.

Duecavalli Lounge Chair by Driade

The 1970s

  • Piumino – Armchair and Sofa (1970, Dall’Oca): Informal design armchair and sofa.

Piumino Sofa by De Pas, D'Urbino & Lomazzi for Dall'Oca

  • Dado&Vite – Semi-finished Modular Panels for Furniture (1970, BBB Bonacina): A series of modular semi-finished panels with red ABS nuts and bolts used to create beds, tables, chairs, bookcases, containers, and more.

Dado & Vite Modular Panels by BBB Bonacina

  • Joe – Armchair (1970, Poltronova): An oversized armchair made from cold molded polyurethane with a metal insert. Covered in natural leather, fixed with a leather string passing through metal eyelets.

Joe Armchair by De Pas, D'Urbino & Lomazzi for Poltronova

  • Brick System – Modular Bookcase (1971, Longato): Inspired by Lego, the system’s modules (bricks, half bricks, and shelves) allow the creation of bookcases in desired shapes.

Brick System by Longato

  • Lampiatta – Lamp (1971, Stilnovo): An adjustable table or wall lamp. The metal diffuser can assume different positions, taking advantage of the tilt of the cuts obtained in the weighted ABS base. It is possible to use the diffuser alone as a suspension.

Lampiatta by Stilnovo

  • Alibabà – Modular Cushions (1972, BBB Bonacina): Alibaba is an example of the fresh living style pursued by the designers since their debut. There is no mechanism, just large rectangular and triangular cushions to freely compose seats.

Alibabà Lounge Chair by BBB Bonacina

  • Sciangai – Coat Rack (1973, Zanotta): Sciangai is a coat rack made of eight equal rods held together at the center by a cross that allows for its opening and closing. Awarded the Compasso d’Oro in 1979.

Sciangai by De Pas D'Urbino & Lomazzi for Zanotta

  • Scacciapensieri – Armchair (1974, Poltronova): A small armchair with a structure in bent plywood sheets.

Scacciapensieri Armchair by Poltronova

  • Settebello – Modular Cushions (1974, Zanotta): A system of cushions restrained by adhesive fabric and Velcro tabs. It allows various compositions, giving rise, as in a game, to armchairs, sofas, and beds.

Settebello Modular Cushions by Zanotta

  • Fante – Lamp (1978, Stilnovo): A table, wall, and ceiling lamp with adjustable light. The conical body is made of molded rubber, and the reflector is made of painted metal.

Fante Lamp by Stilnovo

The 1980s

  • Flou Flou – Sofa (1982, Ligne Roset): The idea in this project is to separate the two main functions of the sofa: the bearing one and the welcoming one. The solution is a comfortable, soft washable down in fabric or leather resting on the semi-rigid structure.

Flou Sofa by Ligne Roset

  • Onda – Sofas, Armchair (1985, Zanotta): A series of armchairs and two and three-seater sofas with a load-bearing structure in stainless steel tube. Upholstered with differentiated density polyurethane foam and Dacron, the covers are removable and available in fabric or leather.

Onda Sofa by Zanotta

  • Cessato Allarme – Coat Rack (1986, Poltronova): Cessato Allarme features floor and wall coat hangers with a revolving head composed of six cones inspired by megaphones. The base and head are composed of cast aluminum, while the stem is made of fiberglass. The cones are turned from sheet metal and finished with satin paint in varying colors.

Cessato Allarme by Poltronova

  • Zerone – Modular System (1988, Quattrocchio): A modular system for exhibition setups, its hallmark “capital” allows for connecting beams orthogonally and at various angles, providing extensive compositional flexibility.

Zerone Modular System by Quattrocchio

  • Zitta – Bookshelf (1989, Poltronova): The Zitta is a modular bookshelf with two base units measuring 500 and 1000 mm. The sides and bracing rods are constructed from natural or black-painted, anodized aluminum, while the shelves are made of walnut.

Zitta Bookshelf by Poltronova

The Essence of Creativity in Design

Creativity played a significant role in the work of De Pas, D’Urbino, & Lomazzi. As defined by Donato D’Urbino: “Creativity involved operating contextually, with the designer’s head in the clouds and feet on the ground.” This perspective rejected the romantic notion of creativity as expressive abandonment. Moreover, Emilio Garroni, in his book “Creativity” (2010), emphasized the importance of awareness of rules while acknowledging the need for choices. This concept aptly describes the extensive design experience of the DDLs.

In conclusion, the influence of De Pas, D’Urbino, & Lomazzi on furniture design cannot be underestimated. Their innovative approach to design, coupled with their understanding of the changing societal landscape, allowed them to create furniture that was functional and reflective of the times. Today, their work inspires designers worldwide, proving that their ideas were truly ahead of their time.

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