Joe Colombo

As exhibit at MoMA - Colombo’s designs captured the seductive spirit and breakneck speed of technological advancement in the West after World War II and advocated for the deployment of advanced techniques and new materials. From objects and furnishings to entire dwellings, Colombo was interested in building the future, which for him meant a lifestyle that would exploit the versatility of thermoplastics and composites like fiberglass and the systemic open-endedness of modular construction. In his mind, the house of the future would be fluid, its various functions integrated in polymer, composite, or even wood elements, many of which would be movable on casters.

When Colombo took over his family’s electrical conductor business in 1958, the new respon­sibility provided the perfect opportunity for experimentation with industrial manufacturing and equipment, and, perhaps most importantly, it introduced him to the potential of plastics. He applied his interest in modularity to these materials, ABS plastic in particular, when he developed the Boby 3 Portable Storage System in 1969. The compact unit is an all-in-one organization system on wheels, including shelves, bins, and trays. The design presciently conceptualized the idea that furniture should be multifunctional and customizable—a notion attuned to our more recent concept of multitasking. A staple of European homes for fifty years, it remains in production today.