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Kartell Reissues Joe Colombo’s Revolutionary 4801 Plywood Chair–In Plastic

Why remake it in a less sustainable material? Because that’s how the company would have done it if the right technology had existed in the first place.

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As marriages go, the one between Italian maestro Joe Colombo and manufacturer Kartell was a match made in design heaven. Colombo’s first great piece–the 4801, a low-slung chair made of three pieces of plywood–was manufactured by Kartell in 1965 and would become the only design the plastic-furniture company made entirely out of wood. (Oddly enough, Colombo would go on to distinguish himself in plastic.) Now, to celebrate its 60th year and pay homage to one of its early designers, Kartell is reissuing the 4801 armchair–this time, in plastic.

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Kartell explains that the design wasn’t originally executed in plastic because the technology to do so didn’t exist back then, even though the final product was a technical achievement: Colombo bought the molds himself and fitted the pieces of press plywood together without screws, nails, or glue. The new version is available as a numbered series and in crystal, white, and black.

Kartell is also seizing the opportunity to display Colombo’s designs in a New York exhibition opening today at the R 20th Century gallery. In addition to both original and new versions of the 4801 chair, the show includes vintage lamps and accessories, archival photographs, and sketches Colombo produced for the company until his untimely death on his 41st birthday in 1971. Check out the slide show above from “Homage to Joe Colombo,” on view through February 10.

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About the author

A former editor at such publications as WIRED, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Fast Company, Belinda Lanks has also written for The New York Times Magazine, The New York Observer, Interior Design, and ARTnews.

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