Sunday, October 15, 2006


"In the 1960s and early 1970s Italian architect and product designer Joe Colombo designed a series of objects he called Total Furnishing Units. These designs blurred the boundaries between architecture, interior design, and furniture design, representing the type of open-ended and experimental design typical of the era. Many of his earliest designs were mobile, opening the possibility of a new kind of domestic interior, where objects were free to move around a room, without constraints. From there, Colombo turned to concentrating all the domestic services into single units, or “mono-blocks” as Italian industry would label them. These units—devoted to different domestic activities, like sleeping, bathing, dining—contained everything a person needed in one compact volume.

These Total Living Units included a small modular mini-kitchen called Carrellone that Colombo designed for his friend Paolo Boffi, owner of the eponymous kitchen manufacturer. The unit was unveiled at the 13th Milan Triennale in 1964, earning the event’s Gold Medal, and the company produced and sold several of the units even though it maintains that the design remained a prototype. Now, several decades after its debut—and having achieved iconic status after its appearance in the Museum of Modern Art’s 1972 exhibition, Italy: The New Domestic Landscape, curated by Emilio Ambasz—the Carrellone has been put into full-scale production. While the 1963 original was built of wood and metal, the new Carrellone has been created primarily out of a luscious white Corian. The design remains as fresh and original as it did when Colombo designed it. Press materials for the contemporary version boast that the unit contains “all the indispensable functions of a kitchen environment: a stove, a refrigerator, a can opener, drawers for tableware, working surfaces and storage for cookbooks,” all operating off a single electrical plug.

Colombo died prematurely, of heart failure at the age of 41 in 1971. He did not live to see The New Domestic Landscape, which included his last great design, a large-scale Total Furnishing Unit specially fabricated for the show. This experiment was his attempt to create a complete functioning residence in a box, featuring roll-out beds, a fold-down dining table, built-in storage, and an airplane-scaled bathroom. Little did Colombo know that some of his ideas would survive and serve future generations." WM

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via the architect's newspaper

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