June 1, 2010
A new design by Martino Gamper pays homage to Thonet’s classic café chair.
Magis built its reputation on high-design plastic furniture back in the 1970s and ’80s. But by the end of the ’90s, plastic had lost its novelty, and the Italian company’s founder, Eugenio Perazza, began asking designers to use other materials, such as die-cast aluminum and wood, in innovative ways. Most recently, he enlisted Martino Gamper—as well as Jaime Hayon and Jerszy Seymour—to transform ordinary steel rods (what Perazza began calling “magic wire”) into a standout piece of furniture. Gamper’s response was Vigna, an updated version of the iconic Thonet bistro chair but with a metal (instead of bentwood) frame and a textured-plastic (instead of rattan-cane) seat. “The challenge was to do something with an old reference in a new light without becoming postmodern,” says Gamper, who has a history of mixing and matching parts of old chairs to create new forms. (Three years ago, in a project he aptly titled 100 Chairs in 100 Days, the designer assembled new chairs out of discarded models he found on the street.) Here Gamper takes us through his latest hybrid of past and present, which made its debut at this year’s furniture fair in Milan.