AeO - Archizoom Ass. / Paolo Deganello
Projected by Archizoom/Paolo Deganello. Produced by Cassina
AeO marks the end of my Archizoom experience and the beginning of by increasingly solitary designing. One of the many differences with this product was that it was a design intention that became a product through experimenting with prototypes in the Cassina center. In addition to Francesco Binfarè who directed the Center, the others who collaborated in this design were Severino Biancotto, the iron and hard metals “wizard,” Gaspare Cairoli, Binfarè’s right-hand man, Luigi Pozzoli, “wizard” for wood and plastic materials, Giancarla Mazzorati, seamstress, Fulvio Vernarelli, wood model-maker, Mino Prini, all around experimenter, Ezio Grassi, manger of fabric production, Enzo Cappelleti, engineering technician, Graziella Sala, secretary and “mamma” for the whole center, Cesare Cassina, co-owner of Cassina spa, who secretly went to see the prototypes on Sunday and who was an enthusiastic supporter of this product. AeO was designed in contraposition to an armchair, “La soriana,” designed by Tobia Scarpa for Cassina and the recipient of the Compasso d'Oro for that year. “La Soriana” was a swollen, opulent easy chair that dripped fat, or rather, soft foam covered with Dacron and fabric, from every part; it was the emblematic representation of that well-being and opulence that the Archizooms opposed with systematic dedication. AeO is made from the modest, common fabric of lounge chairs, with steel leaf springs, bent tubing and Moplem plastic, what was used at that time to make wastepaper baskets. It was initially (1973) shipped disassembled, anticipating the following Ikea concept. The user assembled it himself saving the cost of assembly and could buy different components to create different versions, with or without arms, modular in-line or in a semi-circle, to make sofas with two or three seats, with or without a surface to hold objects, and the covers for the cushions and back were easy to slip off and on. We anticipated a large collection of differently decorated coverings, which together with its modularity allowed for easily customizing the product. The modern tended towards the finished piece, perfect, machine-made, abstract, stamped in a single stroke, as much as possible without decoration and monochrome, anonymous; it wanted the chair to be the same for everyone, where wanting to choose was almost a crime because it increased the number of items in the catalogue and reduced the number that could be mass produced. We wanted to go beyond the modern ideology, of one product the same for everyone, choosing the users and favoring a subject that was innovative for us. We chose, and hoped to be chosen by, those same individuals who seemed to bearers of the new and more human designs for life, by those young people who, along with us, occupied the departments, participated in demonstrations in the squares, and went in front of the factories seeking that student-worker alliance that we were hoping would have changed the world.
AeO is functional for those who consider luxury arrogant, a form of opulent obesity, and love arte povera, hate waste, dream of a widespread and collective creativity, want to personalize and co-design the form and meaning of the product. Today, after 29 years, AeO is still sold as an innovative, avant-garde product, but assembled and in a single version, at a price that contradicts its vocation as a poor object: in this society, the innovative product is inevitably, inexorably, elitist.