Universale Chair (model 4867)
Italy, 1965 / c. 1980
Joe Colombo

Molded plastic
16¾ × 19¼ × 28”

The 'Universale' was the first all-plastic chair to be made by the injection-moulding technique. It was also one of the earliest plastic chairs to be commercially available. The Italian manufacturer, Kartell, was an innovative firm whose main production was plastic laboratory and industrial wares. They marketed the 'Universale' as a multi-functional chair that was stackable, portable, and suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. The design included detachable feet, which allowed the height of the chair to be adjusted. The structure was based on a child's chair, which Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper had designed earlier for Kartell.

The 'Universale' is typical of Pop design, which used bold pattern, bright colour and new shapes and was specifically aimed at a young market. Plastic, previously seen as 'cheap and cheerful', became a fashionable and novel material. —V&A

Solid, stackable, and colorful, this chair reflects a late-1960s enthusiasm for modern plastic furniture that was particularly strong in Italy. Contemporary advertisements celebrated its adaptability and durability, declaring, "It won't age or break, you can throw it out the window, leave it outside, put it under water, take it to the North Pole or the desert: it will always be like new." As the model name "Universale" suggests, the chair could be used indoors or out, in public or private environments. —MoMA

Sketches by Joe Colombo.

The designer sitting on his creation, 1966.

📷 Wright, MoMA, Studio Joe Colombo