UP5 and UP6, Donna – Gaetano Pesce – 1969
Production: 1970 – 3
Manufacturer: C & B Italia (Cassina & Busnelli), now B & B.
Size: 92cm x 117cm x 137cm; Seat Height 40cm, UP6 circumference 60cm
Material: polyurethane foam, cold foam moulded, nylon-jersey.
Designer, sculptor, architect and performance artist Gaetano Pesce, generally considered to be inline with the radicals’ ‘anti-design’ school-of-thought, designed the Up Series in 1969 for C & B Italia. Gaetano Pesce stood for revolution in the design world as well as in the social sphere. His ‘Up5’ and ‘UP6’ designs (collectively known as ‘Donna’)‚ were groundbreaking feats of technology that bravely dispensed with the era’s conventional mould of furniture design, creating opportunities for generations to come to experiment in a way that had never been done before.
His designs expressed political ideas that were important to him at the time. He described the ‘UP Series’ as “transformation” furniture. His work is transformational both literally and figuratively.
“Donna” is completely in tune with the spirit of Pop Art and the Gaetano Pesce fondness for anthropomorphic shapes. The chair was actually designed to resemble a prehistoric, female fertility figure, with a ball attached, symbolising the shackles that keep woman subjugated. The now-iconic ‘UP5’ chair incorporates a ball-shaped ottoman attached to a voluptuous curved chair shape: a comment on Pesce’s distaste for the historical plight of women. “I told a personal story of my concept of women,” he said famously. “Despite themselves, women have always been prisoners of the prejudice and fears of men. Along these lines, I liked the idea of giving this armchair a feminine shape with a ball and chain, the traditional image of the prisoner.” “In this design I have expressed my idea of women. A woman is always confined, a prisoner of herself against her will.”
“I remember with that chair I wanted to talk about a human condition: the imprisonment of the woman victim of the prejudices of men, because they still live in unacceptable conditions in certain countries. It was a way for me to speak politically: not through posters or notices that are a little ‘outdated’, but do so with an industrial object that had a new communications potential.”
The unconventional nature of the shape also applies to the construction and marketing of the chair which was one of a series of six. Together they succeeded in marking a radical break from traditional upholstery production thanks to the technology developed by B & B Italia for creating oversized foam parts. “Donna” consists of a molded monoblock of foam without any supporting structure since the “foam rubber” is dense and free-standing. First, a finished piece of furniture covered with elastic nylon jersey is reduced in a vacuum chamber to about 10 percent of its normal volume and is then wrapped in airtight foil. The customer can easily transport it single-handedly. After removal of the wrapper at the destination, the chair slowly recovers its original shape without outside help as air seeps back into the capillaries of the polyurethane foam.
This chair and ottoman are extremely comfortable and a great addition to any Mid-Century or modern home. Up 5 not only has an organic look and feel but the whole piece literally “grows” into it’s new space when unwrapped from its tight vacuum seal.