Afra e Tobia Scarpa

Apr 2009
Vanni Pasca
Afra e Tobia Scarpa

Afra and Tobia Scarpa belong to that generation of designers which gave rise to the world success of made in Italy products, after an initial success with designer furniture on the Italian market.

A few episodes from the story: the Bastiano, the first widely successful sofa in the sixties, a softened, elegant version of a type by Corbusier with its refined dialogue between wood and leather, and the screws in brass transformed into decoration. Then the Coronado, another sofa which burst onto the modern furnishings scene. And again, the design of the Benetton shops.

In 1972 the partnership with Molteni&C started, continuing over many years with a series of furnishings, or signs, which are two things at the same time: on the one hand, a precise example of the type of stable relationship between designer and businessman which has always been a strong point of Italian design, contributing to the image of the business; on the other, a series of elegant reinventions of furnishing types, through attention to materials and structural revision.

The first example, a bed destined to be highly successful and have successive versions, is the Morna: in the seventies it signalled the arrival of the modern in the bedroom, after the living area and the kitchen. If we observe the structure first of all, we see the frame in steel tube with two front feet and two wheels under the headboard, all in rubber material, plus a handle to facilitate moving. The elastic beach mattress support is fixed under pressure to its trestles. Its sides are protected by a soft edging covered in leather: this contains the mattress. The headboard consists of two elements in polyurethane covered in leather: both can be used for a single bed and together they form a double headboard.

The sides have large drawers on wheels with containers of varying depth for objects. Looking at it again today, it isn’t hard to understand the success of Morna. Its structural conception, the articulation of different parts which together make up the bed, everything working towards functional comfort and usefulness.

The modern nature of its conception combines perfectly with its soft, reassuring image, without sharp edges, as planned in the design which started up, as we have said, with Bastiano. We don’t have room to go back and examine all the designs by Scarpa for Molteni.

But we can mention at least a few. The elegant glass cabinet Mita lasted through time. Aluminium edging and wood covered chipboard made up the light structure. Two wooden shelves, one high and one low, jut out slightly.

The sides are in glass as are the inside shelves which objects seem to float on, lit from above by the spotlights. In this case too we find the design ability of the Scarpas in taking a new look at an object, reformulating the structure by taking it apart, and giving it a flexible and constructive logic which can be adapted to several versions while keeping its identity and tradition intact. We could also look at the series of chairs, or bookcases, which as we mention above, have contributed to creating the Group’s image with another piece of its mosaic. But a full re-reading of the Scarpas’ work for Molteni, of the exemplary collaboration between the two designers and the Group, still has to be written.

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