Design history: why the Maggiolina chair was a design breakthrough


Design history: why the Maggiolina chair was a design breakthrough

Art need not be confined to the walls of our home. Exceptionally designed pieces of furniture are artworks themselves.

That’s especially true for the Maggiolina lounge chair, which was designed in 1947 for a competition sponsored by New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). It was created by renowned Milanese architect and designer Marco Zanuso, one of the early pioneers of ‘good Italian design’.

The Maggiolina chair is one of his earliest pieces to be shown. Designed to be an inexpensive, dismantlable armchair, the Maggiolina was entered into the International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture. It had a frame made from curved steel tubing from which a burlap ‘bag’ was hung, the ‘pockets’ of which contained two panels of plywood to support the two padded cushions used as seat and backrest.

The method of joining the fabric seat to the frame was considered a breakthrough at the time. The chair won the Gold Medal at the Milan Triennale in 1948. Today it is on permanent display at Die Neue Sammlung in Munich, one of the world’s leading design museums.

Zanuso experimented tirelessly with new materials and technologies to apply to his designs, attempting to strike the perfect balance between form and function. “Marco was always able to synthesise the task at hand using the most innovative tools and materials in order to come up with a brand new solution nobody had seen before,’’ said MoMA design curator Paola Antonelli.

For his Maggiolina project, he abandoned the traditional notion of the armchair as a padded structure and chose to experiment with a new constructive system that had been conceived for serial industrial production.

Zanotta – a brand renowned as a leader in Italian industrial design with products by celebrated architects and designers – put the Maggiolina lounge chair into production in 1972, featuring an elegant stainless steel tubular frame, armrests and body in black or white cowhide, and leather cushions in goose down. Today it is available in different colours of leather with matching shades of cowhide



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