… In my eyes they were magical boxes whose
enchanting gleam I could see my reflection in…
We can perceive design as a visual metaphor, marked with art figurativeness and some associations. But eventually its inner sense can be declared by author (designer) and revealed completely in a real environment. It is about a very special emotion which appears immediately or over time and reveals a unique story created by human. That’s why design – is not only a visualization of the ideas. We can talk about an amazing ability – to transform time into a new value: when only one object is able to reveal the whole life story, while a museum – is a “temporal capsule” which keeps original ideas. Now let’s talk about unique objects with 50-years history of modernity which “belong ideally and physically in supermarkets and, to tell the truth, in museums as well”.
Componibili by Kartell – new typology
Simplicity and creativity, an experiment and easy perception – are typical for Componibili storage system by Kartell (design – Anna Castelli Ferrieri, 1967). Appearance of this object has a special significance for the furniture design, because of using of new material, ABS plastic, which aesthetical value was far from unambiguous perception. It is about a marginal and avant-garde material of the future, which was aside from history and the idea of really valuable design. But high functionality and flexibility which were typical for this material – corresponded well to the needs of new time and lifestyle. It was a very special period when between mass-producing and pop-functionalism appeared new aesthetical codes, while some “strange” things – became more and more significant, unlocking a new typology of design which was appreciated by contemporaries and became an integral part of the nowadays.
“When a product is of an entirely new typology – said Anna Castelli at the time – it is even difficult to name it: we have called them Componibili, but in actual fact, they are simply Sovrapponibili (Stackable)”3. Initially, this modular storage system had the most ordinary name – “mobile 4970/84”. Its construction was based on a cylindrical shape adapted perfectly to the technical features of the innovative material used to create a unique storage place – unlimited neither compositionally nor in location. That’s why Componibili by Kartell was associated with imaginary bricks for building living spaces4. The design of these storage “magic boxes” combines best an architect’s mind and a unique creative charm: round finger holes became a special accent and at the same time provide comfortable doors opening. So, we can see a laconic combination of a simple geometry and also a multifunctional structure which allows to combine freely the modular elements to create various compositions. The design of these objects reveals not only a modern elegance, but also – a certain experiment with a formal and functional nature of things we are surrounded. Componibili storage was made of new material which “futuristic splendor” was contrasted to a common opinion about aesthetics of high-quality furniture and stylistic unity of the interiors. But, anyway, these modular storages were perfect both for modern interiors and more elegant furnishings; moreover, these little “furniture accessories” could be placed everywhere – in a bathroom, in a bedroom (as the bedside tables for example), in the offices or children rooms. Interestingly, Valerio Castelli told that an initial shape of Componibili was square, but because of product’s success and marketing demand Anna Castelli agreed to create a rounded version, and she changed her version of the story and said that the round version was the original design.
The design of Componibili was open for everyday needs. It is about an opportunity to create our own environment any way we want, with no formal, decorative or disciplinary rules, – that’s why, as Michele De Lucchi said – “with Componibili, we’re all architects and great designers!” We can talk about re-defining of the “furniture for people” concept and an opportunity to “create own unique stories from everyday home life”. The design of these storage “boxes” reveals a special emotion which eventually defines the meaning of a “visual metaphor” called Componibili. For example, Angela Missoni remembered, Kartell Componibili is well impressed in her memory: it was the only one piece of bedroom furniture that has allowed her through various changes of address, “from the bedroom I had as a little girl to the one I sleep now”.
Componibili is 50 years – Tribute to Componibili. 50th Anniversary
For 50 years Componibili modular storage system by Kartell symbolizes a true classic of modern design. To celebrate this anniversary – designers, curators, critics and intellectuals from all over the world have been invited to make their own personal contribution. To mark the opening of the Salone del Mobile 2017 the Milanese flagship store in via Turati there was an exhibition which represented the evolution of Componibili through the decades, with a spectacular presentation of the products in their multiple variants of colours and heights, through numerous accompanying images, archive drawings and documents. One could see also 15 art-objects which design keeps a special value of the original, and at the same time – returns us to the origin and roots of Kartell but also “it represented such a novelty in the history of design that it became an icon of industrial production, – states Claudio Luti, Kartell President”. The main focus of this exhibition was based on the aspiration to show an original design concept through a prism of the past and the present days. It is about a story told from an emotional viewpoint, it is – an evolution of one “magic box” which illustrates perfectly – how during the half of century one object is able to interpret successfully the interior design and to reveal a new aesthetics and tastes in the design of modern living space. For a long time Componibili symbolizes a unique coexistence of a great innovation and history – but finally, these objects “have become retro while continuing to be contemporary”.
Ron Arad offered a new design which is based on the original construction, but at the same time – is marked with a unique composition of colour. We can see “stickers on black” in red, blue, yellow and white light shadings. The doors are made in such an interesting way that they seem to be decorative “stickers-accents”, but not the constructive elements only. Designer said that he didn’t want to create some interpretation by “researcher” or “historian”, but he noticed that “Anna Castelli took ‘plastic’ from being in a dismissive description into a new field of desirable components in our lives. Isn’t it the DNA of Kartell?” There are a lot of questions without answers, but there are those questions which reveal completely some meaning we are looking for. Modernity – is it a question, or – ready-made, mass-produced answer? One can stay aside, one can try to understand, or – to deny… But it is not necessarily to be neither a researcher nor an historian – to be able to feel that emotion which for 50 years is still close and understandable for the whole world…
One of the most uncommon versions of Componibili was offered by Nendo. It is about the ability of only one object to concentrate around itself a lot of ordinary things from our everyday life. It is like so-called daily surrealism which is not complicated to understand and marked with a special-for-everyone-sense and amazing figurativeness. “Therefore, several everyday sundries in the room unsurprisingly “gather” around it. In other words, Componibili is rarely seen on its own”. So, Componibili – always means more than one-furniture-item, it is – about a unique fragment of a “family photo”… It is about something very intimate, personal – which distinguishes one location from other ones… So, how some-masse-produced-plastic-object – is able to express a family individuality? This can be a cup, wine bottle – with the same doors details as Componibili is marked with. And finally, a flowerpot, a book before sleeping, cozy lamp, or sunglasses filled with daily adventures – all these, so ordinary objects – became the “members of Componibili family”. In a context of the design of Componibili by Nendo – we can see something much more that only a piece of furniture, but a very special, even invisible – element of our everyday life aesthetics filled with non-artificial but totally-real emotions which complete the design with that unique inner sense without which any designer’s mind will be unfinished.
Componibili interpretation by Patricia Urquiola seems to be very strange at first sight, even – futuristic, or deformed… over-modern? But it is about something – which is not limited by time, “beauty”, compositional rules or style… Componibili version by Patricia Urquiola illustrates best a special inner sense of design which is based not on the external aesthetics only, but on a unique beauty marked with its inner sense of rhythm expressed through a prism of memories and emotions – revealed in a field of so non-understandable-yet, non-described in the anatomy book element of mankind – like a soul… There is not enough space for soul – in someone’s body, in heart, in a photo, in a box… So, Componibili becomes something more than a “box” of our everyday stuff, precious memories, emotions… Componibili – is a very special “place to keep your tangible thoughts and memories. So many of them it’s hard to close the doors on them”.
Gnomes… Gnomes maybe feel enough strange at 50th anniversary… Gnomes – they maybe feel strange everywhere… But not the Gnomes by Philippe Starck. It is about a unique phenomenon when “kitch figures” lose the state of outsiders and get a definition of modern design classic. We can see traditional Componibili element and a sculptural feet made in a form of the recognizable all over the world gnomes from “Napoleon” and “Attila” accessories series created by Philippe Starck for Kartell. Such a design can have a lot of various interpretations, but eventually – it is about an amazing opportunity to create your own story, your own poetry – poetry of your own life which is not-limited by superb images of modernity or mute silhouettes of the past…
So delicate, so fragile emotions – are revealed in the design of Componibili by Tokujin Yoshioka. He compares an image of this object with a lovely flower which continues to charm us through the generations. We can see the original construction of this storage system, but there are subtle flying butterflies around it. These delicate creatures are in free, spontaneous movement. Such a composition differs by a unique dynamics, amazing visual effect, lightness and a magic beauty. Such a design reveals a concept of a timeless aesthetics which can be based on our childhood memories closely connected with fairy nature we were surrounded and dreams we still believe in… Componibili can really exist in our life – from a child bedroom and till our “nowadays”… So, enough laconic design can be revealed in a new way every moment, because our emotions, memories and impressions – surround always such a kind of objects which became a part of our life but not the interior detail only…
A modern transformation of Componibili storage system into new furniture type was presented by Alberto Meda. We can see a console which differs by a unique composition: two Componibili were used as the “columns”, or structural and architectural elements, which support a glass top. It is about an exquisite and at the same time laconic design of the console which is easily adapted to any kind of the interior. Actually, designer doesn’t regard Componibili “to be either decorative or meddlesome”, so we can see the interpretation of this object in accordance with its initial idea of clear design based on a true simplicity. The design of this console by Alberto Meda reveals a perfect synthesis of architecture and design which declares new paradigm of modernity.
The main compositional dominant of Componibili in Antonio Citterio’s version is a unique detail of the original design – it is about the holes for finger which are typical for this storage system. Designer offered to show this accent as the main leitmotif on which a general architectonics of this object in his version is based. So, we can see a lot of such “holes” placed on the doors – this creates an effect of a graphical design. Such a composition keeps the initial idea, but at the same time illustrates a unique concept of laconism revealed in numerous details – because we can see a lot of multiplied decorative-functional elements which don’t burden our perception, and don’t create a visual dissonance.
Ferruccio Laviani compares the design of Componibili with a purity of forms which creation is possible only in nature: “nature, usually, is the only one capable of creating perfect objects, but I do have to admit that Anna Castelli Ferrieri with her “Componibili” has come very close to it”. Some ironical interpretation and a new function of this storage – were presented in the form of flowerpots. We can see a unique composition of Componibili – placed in a horizontal position and fixed due to enough simple feet. At the same time – its upper part is perfect to the plants can exist there. In fact, this is one of the most extraordinary interpretations of these storage systems design. We can talk about innovative composition which can be easily integrated in any environment regardless of context and history. Designer also shared his interesting mind about “new time aesthetics”: it is about – “ever since mass produced objects created “Industrial Design”, has very few objects embodied, form, function, materiality, and technology in such way that it became an iconographic representation of the taste and style of an era”.
An extraordinary synthesis of the design of “an archetype and an icon of the last 50 years” and Jackson Pollock’s artistic manner – was offered by Piero Lissoni. It is about the original composition of Componibili and visual decorations made in an abstract expressionism manner with an imitation of a unique technique known as “drip painting”. As Piero Lissoni said, he didn’t want to interpret it as a designer – “I tried to imagine what would have happened if I’d imitated it and played with it as an artist”. We can see enough expressive visualization deprived of a “nervous gesture”, and more “friendly” for common perception because of its more gently colours – it is about harmonious combination of the contrast colour shades revealed impulsively in chaotically placed spontaneous “spots”… As designer said – “I tried to combine energy with energy: that of two great masters, one of design and the other of contemporary art”.
Laudomia Pucci has continued the tradition of unique patterns which charm us with so mysterious exoticism and temptation of colour. It is about an amazing “Campanule” floral print edition from Emilio Pucci archives. It is based on enough schematized floral motifs which are associated with Archaic and some visualization of the primitive arts of ancient cultures. Vivid colour shades, contrasts, a special dynamics of colour, ornamental details – all these nuances create unique images marked with a timeless aesthetics and a special style manner. Such a visual composition reveals a combination of “regular and modular patterns as only Emilio Pucci is able to do”.
An extraordinary design of Componibili by Fabio Novembre appeals to irony which is close to the initial design of this object and to the symbols of nowadays. For example, designer said that he has “always been under the impression that the round finger hole meant to be a wink for those who were able to grasp Anna’s irony”. So, the design of this storage system by Fabio Novembre appeals to the symbols of the present days irony – because we live in emoji times, that’s why can see so positive, emotional, smiled and playful Componibili which compositions include a bit modified “finger holes” – for example, it is about a sign of smile or wink. Such an interpretation is very symbolic, because 50 years later – we have another “gestures” to express something positive, but at the same time – the design of Componibili – is easily adapted to a new language of modernity keeping its authentic character.
Mario Bellini presented “same proportions, same shape, same impact” in the form of so-called Design Soup which is directly associated with Campbell’s Soup Cans created by Andy Warhol in 1962. It is about pop-culture aesthetics with its own archetypes which can be appreciated not by everyone. It is about a very special culture “for gourmets” which is not compatible with a paradigm of a “true art”, but nevertheless it became an influential factor of our culture and history. We can notice enough symbolic association with Campbell’s Soup Cans because it has been created a few years earlier than Componibili by Anna Castelli Ferrieri. So, on occasion to celebrate Componibili’s 50th anniversary Mario Bellini offered his dew “recipe”: “by alternating red and white Componibili and touching them a bit… here we have Kartell’s… an authentic concentration of icons. And your “Design Soup” is now being served!”
Kartell Componibili 50th Anniversary – is a significant date in design history, it is a distinctive phenomenon – in the history of modernity… Talking about design, in my opinion – there is no “fashionable” or non-fashionable periods, objects… There are things which became an integral part of our life revealing a very special, intimate emotion during 50 years and over. This could be a positive irony, strange experiment, or absolutely new material of the future accepted skeptically, but eventually – we can see today amazing “magic boxes” which coexist with us starting from our children bedroom… We have today a unique “Design Soup” or emoji storage – which provokes a silent smile even in the eyes of “a researcher” or “an historian”, but leaves no one indifferent…
And I would like to end this story with the words by Valerio Castelli:
“… For me, it was totally normal to grow up with Componibili in every corner of house, especially the square ones… Anyway, round or square, they continue to be a part of homes around the world, to the great satisfaction of us children, who through no merit of our own continue to enjoy their success. Thanks Mum.”
Very special thanks to Kartell for photos and all interview materials.
More Information: Tribute to Componibili. 50th Anniversay
- […] I approached them as I would a toy: in my eyes they were magical boxes whose enchanting gleam I could see my reflection in; they were strange drawers that opened on one side and satisfied my innate sense of nonconformity; lightweight and far removed from granny’s monolithic bedside tables; round in shape with no sharp edges to threaten my clumsiness[…] – Antonella Andriani. – Kartell Tribute to Componibili. 50th Anniversary. – Press Release Official. – p.7.
- […] The question – with Bruno Munari – is unchanged: design is born to live in the supermarkets; the cylindrical storage elements by Kartell belong ideally and physically in supermarkets and, to tell the truth, in museums as well. – Alberto Bassi. – Kartell Tribute to Componibili. 50th Anniversary. – Press Release Official. – p.8.
- “When a product is of an entirely new typology – said Anna Castelli at the time – it is even difficult to name it: we have called them Componibili, but in actual fact, they are simply Sovrapponibili (Stackable)”. – Marco Romanelli. – 4970: A PROJECT THAT DEFINES DEFINITION AND, THEREFORE, TIME ITSELF! – Kartell Tribute to Componibili. 50th Anniversary. – Press Release Official. – p.13.
- […] Anna Ferrieri Castelli adopted the cylinder shape in hardwearing ABS to create storage elements of different sizes and colours, enabling endless compositional variations, as if they were imaginary bricks for building living spaces […] – Alberto Bassi. – Kartell Tribute to Componibili. 50th Anniversary. – Press Release Official. – p.8.
- […] While this trend had already begun after World War II with design of the Fifties, it gained its full expression in the Sixties when this easy-going and creative style truly came into its own, encouraging people to create their own environment any way they want, with no formal, decorative or disciplinary rules […] With Componibili, we’re all architects and great designers! – Michele De Lucchi. – Kartell Tribute to Componibili. 50th Anniversary. – Press Release Official. – p. 9-10.
- Componibili (1967), designed by Anna Castelli, is an essential milestone in contemporary furniture […] Meeting the needs of people, allows them to create their own unique stories from everyday home life[…] – Jihyun Kim. – Kartell Tribute to Componibili. 50th Anniversary. – Press Release Official. – p.11.
- […] The image of Kartell Componibili is well impressed in my memory: the only one piece of bedroom furniture that has followed me throughout my various changes of address, from the bedroom I had as a little girl to the one I sleep in now[…] – Angela Missoni. – Kartell Tribute to Componibili. 50th Anniversary. – Press Release Official. – p.5.
- […] Finally, they have become retro while continuing to be contemporary: hands up those who do not already own, or have not had at one time or another a “4970” in their homes? – Marco Romanelli. – Kartell Tribute to Componibili. 50th Anniversary. – Press Release Official. – p.13.
- “The anniversary of the Componibili by Anna Castelli Ferrieri is a very special event indeed and pregnant with significance, not only because it recounts the origin and roots of Kartell but also because it represented such a novelty in the history of design that it became an icon of industrial production – states Claudio Luti, Kartell President”. – Kartell Tribute to Componibili. 50th Anniversary. – Press Release Official. – p.1.
- “I’m not a researcher, and I’m not an historian, but I know that Anna Castelli took ‘plastic’ from being in a dismissive description into a new field of desirable components in our lives. Isn’t this the DNA of Kartell?” – Ron Arad. – Kartell Tribute to Componibili. 50th Anniversary. – Press Release Official. – p.4.
- […] Therefore, several everyday sundries in the room unsurprisingly “gather” around it. In other words, it is rarely seen on its own […] – Nendo. – Kartell Tribute to Componibili. 50th Anniversary. – Press Release Official. – p.5.
- “Componibili is a place to keep your tangible thoughts and memories. So many of them it’s hard to close the doors on them” – Patricia Urquiola. – Kartell Tribute to Componibili. 50th Anniversary. – Press Release Official. – p.6.
- “Nature, usually, is the only one capable of creating perfect objects, but I do have to admit that Anna Castelli Ferrieri with her ‘Componibili’ has come very close to it” […] – Ferruccio Laviani. – Kartell Tribute to Componibili. 50th Anniversary. – Press Release Official. – p.4.
- Ever since mass produced objects created the “Industrial Design”, has very few objects embodied, form, function, materiality, and technology in such a way that it became an iconographic representation of the taste and style of an era […] – Ferruccio Laviani. – Kartell Tribute to Componibili. 50th Anniversary. – Press Release Official. – p.4.
- “I wanted to pay tribute to an extraordinary design by Anna Castelli Ferrieri in 1969, a design that has become an archetype and an icon of the last 50 years. Not wanting to interpret it as a designer. I tried to imagine what would have happened if I’d imitated it and played with it as an artist […] I tried to combine energy with energy: that of two great masters, one of design and the other of contemporary art”. – Piero Lissoni. – Kartell Tribute to Componibili. 50th Anniversary. – Press Release Official. – p.5.
- To celebrate the 50th birthday of “Componibili”, icon of contemporary design, […] Emilio Pucci is pleased to pay tribute at the Salone del Mobile with a special “Campanule” floral print edition from its archives, combining regular and modular patterns as only Emilio Pucci is able to do”. – Laudomia Pucci. – Kartell Tribute to Componibili. 50th Anniversary. – Press Release Official. – p.6.
- […] I have to admit that I have always been under the impression that the round finger hole meant to be a wink for those who were able to grasp Anna’s sense of irony. Having had the good fortune to be personally acquainted with her, I want to respond with ear-to-ear smile, as befits the emoji times we live in. I think she would have liked it too. – Fabio Novembre. – Kartell Tribute to Componibili. 50th Anniversary. – Press Release Official. – p.6.
- […] same proportions, same shape, same impact. By alternating red and white Componibili and touching them a bit… here we have Kartell’s… an authentic concentration of icons. And your “Design Soup” is now being served! – Mario Bellini. – Kartell Tribute to Componibili. 50th Anniversary. – Press Release Official. – p.4.
- […] For me, it was totally normal to grow up with Componibili in every corner of the house, especially the square ones. Mum said they were better; they were the original design. But because of the product’s success, she gave in to the hated marketing department and agreed to create a rounded version. Architects don’t always agree with the market, and here too, Mum changed her version of the story and said that the round version was the original design. Anyway, whether round or square, they continue to be a part of homes around the world, to the great satisfaction of us children, who through no merit of our own continue to enjoy their success. Thanks Mum. – Valerio Castelli. – Kartell Tribute to Componibili. 50th Anniversary. – Press Release Official. – p.9.