Everything is permissible as long as it is fantastic.

Carlo Mollino

This work is one of only six examples of the Tipo B chairs designed by Carlo Mollino. Mollino gave the set of six chairs, a sofa and two armchairs to Lisa Ponti (daughter of Gio Ponti) and Luigi Licitra on the occasion of their wedding. 

Drawing by Carlo Mollino for the present chair design. Courtesy Museo Casa Mollino, Torino

Carlo Mollino
Ergonomic Perfection

by Fulvio and Napoleone Ferrari

The chair model designed for Lisa and Luigi Licitra-Ponti has a special “soul” that manifests a key aspect of Carlo Mollino’s work and his artistic signature. Mollino is not merely a designer, or at least not in the way that society expects: a person that works for a manufacturing company. In fact, he has never collaborated for any company’s catalogue. To the contrary, his furniture is unique, and designed for each specific client (and occasionally for himself).

More than any other example of his work, the chair for Lisa Ponti exhibits an artistic spirit bonded to an engineered structure.

It is precisely this rarity and certainty that make Mollino’s works valuable in the art market: they are unique and true works of art. Their substantial value consists of their ability to weave a special bond between art and technique. It is not a mere coincidence that one of the books Mollino published is entitled Architecture, Art and Technique. 

More than any other example of his work, the chair for Lisa Ponti exhibits an artistic spirit bonded to an engineered structure; a series of lightening holes in the twin brass back that copies the technique used by engineers to strengthen the structures of bridges and airplanes. The testing of many design sketches of the chair shows that the search for a definite, perfect form was achieved as a result of diverse inspirations, brought together with three different models: A, B and C. 

Tipo B is the most rational: the shape of the back is perfectly married to the structure of the spine; therefore, it is ergonomically perfect.

The final choice is that of Tipo B, an unprecedented double seat and double back chair that not only has an organic “flavor,” but also constitutes a true and real organism made out of legs, a spine, lungs and buttocks. Among the three models, that of Tipo B is the most rational: the shape of the back is perfectly married to the structure of the spine; therefore, it is ergonomically perfect; the legs are thin and without cross bracing, making one float in the seat and backrest which are covered in white, a color that Mollino hardly ever uses and one which allows the polished brass nuts of the chair to flirtatiously shine. 

The six chairs that constituted the original decor were used daily for thirty years until they were sold in the 1980s. This lengthy practical test demonstrates yet another aspect of Mollino’s project: the chair’s exceptional quality. Seventy years after its creation, the chair is still in its original, perfect condition.

Carlo Mollino

As a child, Carlo Mollino was smitten by the engineering work of his father and his infatuation led him to the study of constructional engineering and architecture at the University of Turin. After graduating, Mollino worked at his father’s studio before founding his own architectural and interior design practice run out of the same space. He built several famed structures including the Società Ippica Torinese (1937-40, now destroyed), Casa del Sole, Cervinia (1947-54) and the Teatro Regio Torino (1965-73) as well as several private homes and apartments.

Aside from architecture and interior design, Mollino possessed a love of race cars; he created sweptback cars for himself to race and even set a record at Le Mans that remained unbroken for two years. An expert skier obsessed with aerodynamics and clean lines, Mollino wrote a book on the subject. Not only did he love speed and the sleek bodies of automobiles but the voluptuous curves of the female form inspired a series of erotic photographs featuring nude models on and around his own furniture designs. The idealized female form and aerodynamics motivated his design aesthetic, curved backs, slim ankles, and hourglass shapes abound in his furniture designs. Moving away from the austerity of the Modernist movement, Mollino imbued his furniture with a sense of the feminine and the surreal.

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