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Chair - Universale
  • Universale
    Colombo, Joe Cesare, born 1930 - died 1971
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  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Milan (made)

  • Date:

    1965 - 1967 (designed)
    1968 (manufactured)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Colombo, Joe Cesare, born 1930 - died 1971 (designer)
    Kartell (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Injection-moulded ABS plastic

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased from Conran Contracts Ltd, London

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The 'Universale' was the first all-plastic chair to be made by the injection-moulding technique. It was also one of the earliest plastic chairs to be commercially available. The Italian manufacturer, Kartell, was an innovative firm whose main production was plastic laboratory and industrial wares. They marketed the 'Universale' as a multi-functional chair that was stackable, portable, and suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. The design included detachable feet, which allowed the height of the chair to be adjusted. The structure was based on a child's chair, which Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper had designed earlier for Kartell.
The 'Universale' is typical of Pop design, which used bold pattern, bright colour and new shapes and was specifically aimed at a young market. Plastic, previously seen as 'cheap and cheerful', became a fashionable and novel material.

Place of Origin

Milan (made)


1965 - 1967 (designed)
1968 (manufactured)


Colombo, Joe Cesare, born 1930 - died 1971 (designer)
Kartell (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Injection-moulded ABS plastic

Marks and inscriptions

Kartell BINASCO (MILANO)/860 e 861I5 MADE IN ITALY/DESIGN - Prof. Joe COlombo


Height: 72.5 cm, Width: 43.5 cm, Depth: 43.5 cm, Height: 43.5 cm seat

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Wilk, Christopher, ed. . Western Furniture 1350 to the Present Day. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1996. 230p., ill. ISBN 085667463X.
'Plastic Chair, a Design and Manufacturing Challenge'. In: Material Culture and the Culture of Materials, Augusto Morello, Milan, 1988, pp.138 f

Labels and date

Designed by Joe Colombo (Italian, 1930-1971), 1965
Made by Kartell, Milan, Italy from 1967; still in production
Injection-moulded ABS plastic

This was the first all-plastic chair made by injection moulding. It was produced in five colours, with legs of varying length to allow its adaption to environments as diverse as bars and nurseries. Its brightness and flexibility were in tune with youth fashions in the booming 1960s. It cost £8. 18s. 0d. in 1968. [1992]






Furniture; Plastic


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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