Around the time the first man landed on the moon, Joe Colombo was on his own mission: to reinvent interiors.
With a background in industrial design and his father’s electrical conductor factory as his playground, he honed his craft until he could open his own studio and set about creating futuristic habitats like the ones he produced for the second Visiona, the famous yearly design installation sponsored by chemicals company Bayer AG on board a ship docked in Cologne between 1968 and 1974.
His Total Furnishing Unit of 1971 featured an integrated television in the ceiling and swivelling walls with integrated minibars. Night Cell was a sleeping pod designed to close and switch to climate control in Barbarella-style fashion, while Kitchen-Box was a dynamic modular kitchen-diner that you could move around a room, featuring a pull-out dining table and air conditioning.
By the time Colombo designed the Birillo (which literally translates as bar stool) he had won a handful of medals at Milan’s Triennale, with three of his pieces already on exhibition in the permanent collection at MOMA.
The revolving bar stools were just part of a series that included a bistro table and armchair intended for bars, restaurants and clubs. The chrome-plated tubular steel framework with its vinyl covered steel-plate seat and the most minimal of backrests dotted into a metal clip at the back has a space age meets Bauhaus look.
The moulded ABS plastic foot glides on four castors, like a spaceship making ready to land. Although arguably not as popular to collect as the Boby Trolley storage unit, Elda Armchair and Universale, the race is on to nab these when they pop up at our mid-century modern shows. Birillo was one of the last things Colombo designed before he died unexpectedly from a
heart attack at the age of forty-one. It was 30 July 1971, the same day he was born.