The trait that I really love about the Sacco chair is that it so elegantly does away with the idea of a chair, it deconstructs it. It’s not quite a chair, and not quite a pillow. I like how pliable it is, how flexible — not only formally but also intellectually.
It was born in 1968, a time of revolution and explosive creativity. Sacco was meant to be a rebellious chair, and also a chair for the rebellion. There are great photographs of it, taken at the time when it is was new, in which you see it occupied by long-haired guys with beards and beads, by ladies with tresses, by hippies smoking who-knows-what and talking very intensely — talking politics, I imagine…
In later years, the chair was copied millions of times. It was used by kids and students all over the world. It is transportable and inexpensive. It is an easy and unassuming object that has carved its own enormous presence in the world.
Sacco is not the first ‘spineless’ chair. In 1964, before the Sacco came along, there was an amazing chair that Gunnar Aagard Andersen made out of polyurethane foam. Andersen’s chair was just poured out, and the resulting object is chair-like, but a Blob version of it (meaning the 1958 sci-fi movie). So we can’t say that the Sacco was the first unstructured chair, but it was probably the first hybrid of a chair and a cushion, a chair you can carry around with you like a bag. The Sacco designers — Piero Gatti, Cesare Paolini, Franco Teodoro — didn’t do all that much else of note. They didn’t need to. The chair that they designed is a great gift to the world.
You can lounge in a Sacco chair any way you want, and that’s the beauty of it. It’s the people’s chair, the Volkswagen Beetle of chairs. It’s a design that has been appropriated by everyone without any kind of filter. It’s immediately your chair. It doesn’t try to be better than you, and it doesn’t try to be a piece of design. It is just very accommodating and embracing.
I have a Sacco right here in the office, a red one. There are more of them elsewhere in the Department of Architecture and Design here at MoMA — in places where people can go to talk or to read magazines. The Sacco is part of our life. I don’t just talk about it; I use it every day.
Paola Antonelli is Senior Curator of Architecture and Design and Director of Research and Development at MoMA. Interview by Jonathan Bastable
Main image: Aurelio Zanotta (founder of Zanotta SpA) sitting on a Sacco easy chair.
All images courtesy of Zanotta SpA.
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