Emeco, the Aluminum Chair Company, will debut "Nine-0", a new collection of chairs and stools by the Italian designer, Ettore Sottsass at the 2008 Salone Internazionale del Mobile this April. The new designs re-imagine the classic, all aluminum Emeco 1006 Navy chair, built for submarines in WWII, and manufactured by Emeco since 1944. These are last chairs designed by Mr. Sottsass, who died on December 31, 2007 at the age of 90.
"A chair must be really important as an object, because my mother always told me to offer my chair to a lady," Mr. Sottsass told the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in 1976. "From what I know, practically everyone who considers himself a designer or architect has sooner or later designed some chairs."
Mr. Sottsass collaboration with Emeco began in Chicago eight years ago when Gregg Buchbinder, Emeco's Chariman, met him at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art. "The minute we met, Ettore told me he was an admirer of the Navy chair and in fact wished he had designed it. And we agreed, why not re-design it," remembers Mr. Buchbinder. "I had seen Sottsass' projects in Domus magazine over the years - Esprit, the Amazon Express yacht - in which he had used our chair. Ettore was the first designer who took our chairs out of their typical environments -navy ships prisons, hospitals- and to use them in contemporary interior design projects. Through him Sir Terence Conran, Frank Gehry and Philippe Starck discovered the Emeco chair creating resurgence in the 1990's. It was only right to commission him to celebrate Emeco's resurrection with a new collection."
Chris Redfern, the British architect who worked along side Mr. Sottsass for the past 12 years as his design associate at Sottsass Associati recalls, "Ettore always had orange cushions fixed onto his navy chairs at home in Milan and our idea started there. We wanted to make the new chair soft, friendly and of course colorful."
The new collection includes stacking chairs and armchairs, counter and barstools that stack as well, and swivel chairs for meeting or dining. Mixing Emeco's expertise in aluminium construction with European technologies in polyurethane sculpting, the new designs feature a soft polyurethane seat and a wider "wheel base" for a growing population - creating a new chair that recalls the Navy 1006 but adds comfort and color. Prices range from US$ 385 for the standard stacking chair, to $1595 for a hand polished swivel armchair. As always, Emeco uses 80% recycled aluminium for the super-strong frames. This collection can be used indoors or out.
Mr. Redfern, Mr. Buchbinder and Emeco updated the classic to Sottsass' specifications. "To watch Ettore work on the prototype was an incredible experience, the accuracy and acuity of his observations, the knowledge that he had, not only in terms of design but also fully understanding the processes of production, cost and everything else. This chair is the most important thing we have done so far. For me is a tribute to Ettore," says Mr. Buchbinder.
Mr. Redfern notes, "Nine-o has become a very significant project for me as it was the last one that we designed together. Towards the end of 2007, we both agreed that nine-o was one of the best chairs we'd ever designed in the studio."