Designed by Corradino D’Ascanio, an engineer at Piaggio, who also designed, constructed and flew the first modern helicopter. A man who hated motorcycles, D’Ascanio dreamed up this revolutionary new vehicle; drawing from the latest aeronautical technology, he imagined a vehicle built on a unibody steel chassis, the front fork, like a plane’s landing gear, allowed for easy wheel changing. The result was an aircraft-inspired design that to this day remains forward-thinking and unique among all other two-wheeled vehicles.
Upon seeing the vehicle, Enrico Piaggio remarked “Sembra una Vespa!” (“It looks like a wasp!”) and the name stuck. Vespa has lived on from one generation to the next, subtly modifying its image each time. The first Vespa offered mobility to everyone, then, it became the two-wheeler of the post war economic boom. During the sixties and seventies, the vehicle became a symbol for the revolutionary ideas of the time. Advertising campaigns like “He Who Vespas, eats the apple”, and films such as Quadrophenia have come to symbolized these eras.
Ease of travel in the jet age encouraged a growing fusion of cultural influences after World War II. Although Sori Yanagi’s stool was designed and manufactured in Japan, it employs western forms (the stool) and the material (bent plywood). Its calligraphic elegance, however, suggests a distinctly Asian sensibility despite the rarity of such seating furniture in traditional Japanese culture. The stool is made from two curving and inverted L-shaped sections, each forming one leg and half of the seat. A metal rod midway between the legs serves as a stretcher and holds the stool together.
Butterfly Stool, 1956, by Sori Yanagi (Japanese, born 1915); Originally manufactured by Tendo Co. Ltd. Now sold by Vitra.
Polaroid’s first fully automatic, motorized camera was an instant design classic, even starring in a documentary the year it was introduced by company cofounder Edwin Land. The camera is detailed with tan leather and folds into a rectangle the size of a paperback book. Smart.
Polaroid SX-70, by Edwin Land, for Polaroid
The Panton Chair is the first cantilevered chair made from a single piece of plastic. Sleek, sexy and a technical first, the Panton was the chair of the era. A glossy red Panton featured in Nova magazine’s 1970 shoot in which a model demonstrated “How to undress in front of your husband”.
Panton Classic Chair, 1968, by Verner Panton, for Vitra
Designed by Warren Platner in 1966, this distinctive series of tables and seating, transformed steel wire into sculptural furniture.
Platner Collection, by Warren Platner, for Knoll
Light in Design, the B3 system by bulthaup is the measure of all kitchens; by focusing on ergonomics, task management and keeping it utilitarian, the visual aesthetics are not compromised here. The entire kitchen “floats” by using a supporting frame inside the wall that can bear up to one ton in weight per meter. This is ideal for architects and designers, providing them with an unprecedented level of freedom in design and the efficient use of space. The range of accessories and the way in which spices, tools and even cleaning supplies are tucked away compliment the design. You may never dine out again!
Bulthaup B3 Kitchen, by Herbert H. Schultes, for Bulthaup
An Important and Rare Prototype Prismatic Table for the Alcoa Forecast Program
The Aluminum Corporation of America (Alcoa) program emphasized the artistic and functional possibilities of aluminum. Select commissioned designs were featured in full-page advertisements shot by noted photographers in widely-read weekly magazines. It is for this program that Isamu Noguchi developed the iconic design of the Prismatic table.
Isamu Noguchi, who was the third artist featured in the Forecast program in early 1957, developed an abstract three-dimensional form. Noguchi’s Prismatic tables were conceived in multiple to form a “kaleidoscope” with variant colors with the intention of adaptability. The advertisement photographed by Irving Penn used the table as a casual, yet romantic platform for dinner at home.
Prototype Prismatic Table, Sold at Auction for $290,500, by Isamu Noguchi, at Sotheby’s
The Taccia lamp is a remarkable piece of design from 1962 – and it’s still in production today.
It was designed, by the Castiglioni brothers for Flos in 1962 as a functionable/adjustable table lamp for the modern home. The base is a fluted column of aluminium, topped with a clear glass shade with an aluminium reflector, which can be rotated to direct the light.
Achille Castiglioni said of Taccia in a 1970 interview: “We consider it the Mercedes of lamps, a symbol of success: perhaps because it looks like the shaft of a classical column. We certainly weren’t thinking of prestige when we designed it. We just wanted a surface that would stay cool.”
Taccia, $2,300.00 by Achille Castiglioni, for Flos
Under the direction of Walter Gropius, the Bauhaus sought a union of art and technology, with an emphasis on developing prototypes for industrial production. Marianne Brandt, the sole woman enrolled in the school’s metal workshop, designed this silver teapot while still a student. By interrelating a number of pure geometric forms, including the hemisphere, circle, and cylinder, Brandt’s design explores their formal relationship in space. Like other functional Bauhaus items, the teapot was designed to work well in addition to looking good—it is well balanced and easy to pour.
Tea infuser and strainer ca. 1924, Silver and Ebony; H. 7.3 cm, by Marianne Brandt, Sold at Auction $361,000, Sotheby’s
“Sottsass designed the Valentine typewriter (with Perry A. King) for Olivetti in 1969 to be an “anti-machine machine,” for use “anyplace but an office. Undoubtedly one of the great design classics, the Valentine expresses the mood of its time: goodbye to the bulky cast-iron housings of old typewriters, hello to the new mobility of a light, modern, plastic casing made from ABS.
Olivetti Valentine Typewriter (c.1969), by Ettore Sottsass, for Olivetti