he famous Up5_6 armchair designed by Gaetano Pesce celebrates its first fifty years. On the occasion of Milan Design Week, B&B Italia pays tribute, in the brand’s showroom in Via Durini with the installation “Up50. Anatomy of an Icon”. Designed by studio Calvi Brambilla, the focal point of this impressive installation is the Special Edition in beige and petroleum-blue stripes, a pattern that was included in the original colour chart that currently covers the entire space in a spectacular way.
An icon among icons, the Up armchair by B&B Italia is one of the most well-known and familiar pieces on the international design scene. Since its launch it became a symbol of Italian design as a well as an authentic cultural and political icon.
It was the year 1969 and at the time, it was the first industrial product to express a meaning that transcended the object itself. Its exaggerated, stylized silhouette, yet entirely comprehensible, evokes a soft maternal womb that welcomes and protects you. Wonderful, if it weren’t for a cable that connects it to a spherical footrest: chained to a ball. From the beginning, Up was interpreted as a representation of the female condition, a chained and imprisoned woman, a victim of prejudice and violence. This concept was reiterated during Milan Design Week 2019 with the installation "Maestà sofferente" (lit. suffering majesty), an eight-metre high Up5 perforated by arrows, located in Piazza Duomo in Milan.
For the artist-architect Gaetano Pesce, a successful outsider with a radical design aesthetic, the Up Series was the result of extensive research on materials and new production techniques that at the time Cesare Cassina let him conduct in the research centre of C&B (Cassina-Busnelli) and that ultimately resulted in an idea that, as Gaetano Pesce recalls"(...) gave shape to my convictions without too many compromises (...)".
The technological innovation of the Up collection consisted in the fact that the armchairs were in polyurethane with no internal structure. This meant that they could be vacuum packed so as to reduce their volume for storage and transportation. It represented a considerable saving for the company as well as a magical occasion for the customer, in fact as he unwrapped the packaging, the armchair rose as it absorbed the air and resumed its predetermined shape.
Discontinued in 1973 during the corporate restructuring that led to the creation of B&B Italia, the Up collection sees its long-awaited rebirth to a second life twenty seven years later in 2000, when by now it was solely seen in the permanent collections of the most important design museums around the world. The magical expansion that occurred on delivery is no longer possible with the new version made of flexible polyurethane cold foam (Bayfit® by Bayer®), the search for new materials has not stopped in recent years and the Up Series has remained true to itself: it’s equally groundbreaking as regards to the excellence of its materials and its quality is guaranteed to last over time.
Video "Happy Birthday UP". Credits B&B Italia.