Superleggera is a chair designed by Italian designer Gio Ponti in 1955 and produced by the Italian company Cassina since 1957 . It is one of the most famous products of the designer and one of the most important industrial design products of the twentieth century.
Ponti took this traditional form and, working in close collaboration with Cassina’s master craftsmen, honed it to its bare essentials. He challenged them to reduce it’s triangular cross section to a bare minimum; because, in the words of Ponti:
“the more minimal the shape, the more expressive the shape becomes”.
Ponti himself describes the chair as the “normal,” “true” chair, the “chair-chair devoid of adjectives.”. At the same time, Ponti’s interest in classic forms finds expression in the chair, just as it does in his buildings. Ponti initially borrowed the concept for “Superleggera” (super-lightweight) from a series of simple, traditional chairs that have been produced since the nineteenth century in a plant near the Ligurian fishing village of Chiavari. Their stable, lightweight construction and low price made them extremely popular.
Image source: https://www.tononint.it/en/chiavari-chairs/chiavari.htm
Ponti was inspired to optimise the qualities of this model during the austere postwar era. In his first drawings from 1949, he altered the basic form of the Chiavari chair with an ergonomic bend in the backrest and tapered the legs toward the bottom. He then designed the “Leggera” for Cassina in 1951, which reduced the structure of the Chiavari chair to only what was absolutely necessary.
It was very similar to the “Superleggera,” but with rods for legs and struts in the backrest. Although the model met with great success among consumers, Ponti strove for even greater perfection and designed the “Superleggera” for Cassina in 1957, using light, stable ash wood and a seat that was either upholstered or covered with a weave of cane or colored cellophane. Ponti reduced the round cuts of wood to a triangular cross section with edges only 18 mm long, and devised an ingenious system of slot-in connectors in which the individual struts are inserted firmly inside one another: the result is a stable chair weighing a mere 1.7 kilo.
Referencing his desire to produce a form pared back to the absolute minimum, Ponti described the Superleggera as “the chair-chair, devoid of adjectives”. In order to test the design he submitted it to one final challenge, throwing it from the fourth storey of an apartment into the street. The chair bounced and did not break and Ponti considered himself satisfied.
Designer: Gio Ponti
Year: 1950 to 1959
- Frame in natural ashwood or lacquer finish in the colour white or black with seat in India cane;
- Frame in natural ashwood, white or black stained open pore ashwood with padded seat, fabric or leather upholstery;
- Frame in bicolour white/black lacquered ashwood with padded seat, upholstered exclusively in white or black leather.
Dimensions: W. 41 x D.45 x H.46/83 cm.
Italian furniture manufacturing giant Cassina, originally named Amedeo Cassina, was founded by brothers Cesare (1909-1979) and Umberto (1910-1992) Cassina in Meda, Italy in 1927. Although initially specialized in bespoke woodworking and high-end interiors, by the 1950s the brothers took the company in a new direction, anticipating the growing demand for mass-produced home furnishings. Cassina is often credited with introducing industrial design to Italy and has built an international reputation for collaborating with some of the world’s most respected designers.
Info source: https://www.molteni.it/en/designer/gio-ponti