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20 December 2022
When Scandinavian design abandons rigor to embrace formal experimentation
In the panorama of Scandinavian design of the 1900s, Eero Aarnio certainly fits into the ranks of experimenters. He courageously carried forward his path of formal innovation, letting himself be inspired by the demands of his time without undergoing the classic canons of design of his roots.
He says that as a kid he drew continuously and with a certain originality, to the point that one of his high school teachers wanted to buy one of his sketches. When he wasn’t drawing, he enjoyed building with Meccano, disassembling, reassembling, creating. In that phase of his life Aarnio probably developed a sense of plasticity and a taste for three-dimensionality. He soon trained his eye and the ability to translate his creative vision into drawing.
In this vocation he had the support of the family who indulged his eclectic style of him, valued and encouraged him, although his parents did not carry out a job related to creativity they never denied him their support.
Aarnio manages to channel this freedom of expression into his work: even before starting his design studies, he collaborates with a design studio in which his vocation is confirmed by his professional practice. His training is deeply linked to the Finnish school but immediately appreciated beyond national borders. In the 60s he began to cultivate professional relationships even with the most prestigious Italian companies, intrigued by his unconventional personality but at the same time down to earth.
In 1968 he designed the Bubble Chair, one of his most iconic projects and representative of his approach. As for the reason for a suspended chair, Aarnio argued that this solution lay in the impossibility of producing a base that was sufficiently clean, clear, limpid. But what characterizes the seat is not so much the suspension as the spherical construction, the “bubble” from which the name derives. The structure surrounds and protects those who sit, at the same time the transparency leaves communication with the outside open. The steel profile captures the attention as well as giving consistency to the structure. The cushions, in leather, with a square shape, seem to want to create a geometric dialogue with the sphere, they have the same seat and backrest and are available in different colours.
Wanting to look beyond its structure, the Bubble Chair can be considered an experiential seat: Aarnio says he thought of a transparent bubble in which light arrives from every direction and that he contacted a manufacturer to understand if it would be possible to create a plastic bubble large enough to accommodate the seat he had in mind, 105cm high, 103cm wide and 90cm deep. The manufacturer’s positive response encouraged the Finnish designer to go forward expeditiously with his project.
Undisputed icon of his time, the Bubble Chair anticipated the “spatial” aesthetic current that was born in the late 60s and then exploded in the following decade, amidst cinematic references and famous covers. At the same time, the regularity of its shapes and the essentiality of the materials, through which Aarnio interprets the Scandinavian architectural lesson in his own way, make it timeless, allowing it to be inserted in different furnishing contexts. Like a functional sculpture, an element that undoubtedly triggers the conversation and if placed in pairs offers opportunities for fun and relaxation out of the ordinary.
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