To honour two decades of the ‘A.B.C.’ system and the more recent addition of its armless, minimalist relative, the Citterio-designed ‘A.B.C.D.’ chair, Wallpaper* travelled to the Dessau Bauhaus, Germany, to create images of the furniture in the environment that inspired it – the Master’s Houses by Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius.
Before the Modern Movement, buildings and furniture tended towards the fancy and decorative. The architectural landmarks of the early 20th century, even newly constructed futuristic skyscrapers of New York, featured the complex patterns and curvilinear lines of the modish art nouveau movement. New radicals of the 1920s – Eliel Saarinen, Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe – changed all that. Looking to the power and energy of electricity and machines, the manufacture of aeroplanes cars and ocean liners, they advocated the use of industrial grade tubular steel and concrete. Gratuitous ornamentation and elaboration was rejected, bold minimalism embraced, structural innovation championed. ‘A great epoch has begun,’ announced Le Corbusier. ‘There exists a new spirit.’
The spirit of the Modern Movement – which would go on to influence designers well into the next century – is evident in the elegant leather and tubular steel architecture of Flexform’s iconic ‘A.B.C.’ seating system. Designed in 1996, the ‘A.B.C.’ is composed of an armchair and an ottoman. The very low, cubical frame of the seat and block-like cushion of the footstool both nod to the work of the Gropius and Saarinen, while also communicating the fluent vernacular of Antonio Citterio, the Meda-born architect who has been Flexform’s most loyal and significant collaborator for the past 40 years. He coordinates collections, gives soul to products and translates brand values into desirable objects.
Key to those values is the quality of leather. Flexform uses only the highest quality full-grain hides, rigorously tanned in Italy and aniline-dyed employing a process called passante that ensures deep absorption and colour consistency. Flexform is similarly particular about metal finishes, choosing the highest grade materials in satin, chrome, burnish, black chrome and champagne for its frames, refined using a specialist paint process or an epoxy powder-coat that creates a securely anchored layer of polymers resistant to scrapes and bumps. Polished, mirror-effect chrome finishes are achieved via a process of galvanisation. A sophisticated reclining mechanism offers greater comfort and a variety of seating positions.
The elegantly masculine, block construction of the Flexform chairs echoes the cubist lines of the buildings – the spirit of the Modern Movement distilled into a luxury design icon.