The limited edition of 500 chairs comes in many colour combinations (Image: Arper)
As the Italian-Brazilian architect’s reputation grows ever brighter, Arper has delved into the archives to create a limited-edition of her unrealised 1951 Bowl Chair
Lina Bo Bardi: Together, an exhibition devoted to the Italian-Brazilian architect, curated by Noemi Blager and sponsored by the Italian chair manufacturer Arper, was the first show to occupy the British Council’s gallery space at its headquarters in London in autumn 2012 – and just now in January 2014, it finished a three-month residency at the Pavillon de l’Arsenal in Paris. The end of this leg of the exhibition’s world tour also coincided with Arper’s release of a limited-edition series of Bo Bardi’s Bowl chair, which never went into production in the architect’s lifetime.
Bo Bardi left concept sketches and there are two very different prototypes in existence; both can be seen in her Casa de Vidro (Glass House) in São Paulo, which is also the home of the Instituto Lina Bo e PM Bardi; it contains the architect’s archives and is the holder of all her copyrights.
Claudio Feltrin, the CEO of Arper, explains that the exhibition’s curator was looking for some sponsorship “and at the same time the company was looking for a cultural project, so there was a mutual interest to start a collaboration”. The idea of producing the chair came from a suggestion from Blager and from Feltrin’s visit to the Glass House.
The largest “bowl” cushion rests inside a circular frame (Image: Arper)
The chair is a deceptively simple idea in three pieces. A circular frame holds a round cushion (the bowl), which contains two much smaller, individual round cushions to form a seat and a back support. The angle of the bowl in the frame changes the formality of your posture. When placed so that the bowl’s edges are perpendicular to the ground, the chair is more of a cradle – you can curl up in it with your feet well off the floor; tipped up at a steeper angle, it’s much closer to a conventional armchair.
Marco Benvegnù, the brand manager of Arper, explains that the chair didn’t go into production “because of the limitations of technology of the time”. The Bowl Chair was Bo Bardi’s last design piece (in 1951); after that she turned all her attention to architecture. The better known of the two prototypes that exist is in black leather and, initially, the plan was to make 500 of this version. (The second, smaller prototype, has a clear bowl seat and red cushions.) Benvegnù adds: “Then going deeper into the work of Lina Bo Bardi, going deeper into her philosophy, we understood that our skills of customising the product and varying the product in terms of materials and colours was ideal for making the sketches concrete.” So Bo Bardi’s colourful sketches led to Arper looking at different options with the New York-based textile designer Dani Moura. They then found matches for their preferences with existing fabrics by Kvadrat.
For Arper, the Bowl Chair edition is a “cultural project”, which fits into its aim of creating, in Feltrin’s words, “Italian products which are somehow global”. As Lina Bo Bardi’s reputation grows – and the touring exhibition has played a part in its rise – the Italian-born architect’s ability to blend the vernacular with the international might be described in much the same way.