Everything Solid

Architect Nicolò Ornaghi and photographer Louis De Belle have investigated the aesthetic of an Italian icon designed by Joe Colombo in 1968. #fridayreads

Louis De Belle and Nicolò Ornaghi, Everything Solid, Raumplan, Milan 2017
Architect Nicolò Ornaghi and photographer Louis De Belle teamed up to investigate the aesthetic of a down-falling icon of the Italian design. Boby is a simple trolley container, Joe Colombo designed it in 1968 for B-Line Office Furniture and it entered the market in 1970. Likely because of its pop look, it instantly became a bestseller, achieving a certain degree of popularity as office and home furniture. It presents several features that contributed to its success, most notably the possibility to customize it by selecting the colors of its pieces at a relatively low price. Today, Boby is considered an Italian Pop design icon. It is part of the permanent collections of the MoMA in New York and of the Triennale di Milano. Boby represents a period of Italian wealth, economic growth and high productivity.


The authors came into a specific multicolor Boby, heavily damaged and torn apart. By rearranging Boby's pieces and photographing them in different compositions the project emphasizes a quality of the object that falls completely outside the realm of functionality, namely its color variety and juxtaposition. By moving the product from a given condition (its typical and finite appearance) the trolley itself transcends its function and starts to be accessible through different points of view. Through the possibility of reading the accrochage pieces as pure composition, the images rely on the color qualities and the accidental beauty of random rearrangements.

Img.8 Louis De Belle and Nicolò Ornaghi, Everything Solid, installation view, Mega, Milan 2017
Img.8 Louis De Belle and Nicolò Ornaghi, Everything Solid, installation view, Mega, Milan 2017
At the same time one can read the object as a broken piece that illustrates the ephemeral nature of mass design – conceived to last for a few years and be replaced shortly thereafter. By considering the economical cycle which endowed the production of such objects, Boby allows us to confront the project within the broader context in which it was produced. Capitalism’s deeper essence lies in constant change and reconfiguration, through contradictions and ambiguities. In its sequences of reconstitution and rearrangement, it oscillates between periods of growth and recessions, of construction and destruction, of peaks and troughs. The Boby trolley is an expression of a booming economical cycle whose products were thought to satisfy the necessities of a growing middle class that needed immediate access to goods and facilities. Plastic was easy to produce, relatively cheap and easy to deliver. Because molding was a fast and efficient tool, a bit of self customization – the possibility to select colors – required little effort from the producer.
Img.9 Louis De Belle and Nicolò Ornaghi, Everything Solid, Raumplan, Milan 2017
Img.9 Louis De Belle and Nicolò Ornaghi, Everything Solid, Raumplan, Milan 2017
A unique alchemy gave birth to such a shattering swing. The economic boom produced growth, welfare hyper-guarantees and high productivity (at least in the Western world), giving rise to a condition of wealth for a never-so-wide segment of society. Yet, in its essence, the process contained the roots of its downfall. Its own exceptionality proved the economic, political, social and ecological unsustainability we envision today. The publication is designed by London design studio Systems and published by Raumplan. On the book launch the Boby Trolley has been hosted by Mega, at Piazza Vetra 21, in Milan.

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