The List #19

By Antonella Dedini

Cassina - Poltrona Wink - Toshiyuki Kita

Toshiyuki Kita, poltrona Wink,
Cassina, 1980, (Archivio Cassina)


Design is the alphabet of Italian innovation. It is something that cannot be grasped with traditional categories of aesthetics, but at the same time it is a language built on solid expertise, of the highest technical value and that is capable of creating contaminations between various arts in a unique way” Milan mayor Beppe Sala (introduction to the Milano Design Film Festival 2018 catalog).

Cassina is one of the companies that have contributed to the rise of Italian design, with its exemplary combination of technological expertise and craftsmanship. Founded by Cesare and Umberto Cassina in 1927 in Meda as a coffee table factory, Cassina set in motion industrial design based on a completely new way of thinking in 1950s Italy. Not only did it offer innovative, quality Italian design, but it was also one of the first companies to reach an international audience thanks to its reissues of historical furniture designs that are at the foundation of design history.

With the Cassina I Maestri Collection and its reissues of iconic furniture and objects from the masters of 20th century design, it became possible to perform an attentive and accurate analysis of archive materials, thanks most of all to the collaboration of the heirs and foundations that over the years preserved valuable prototypes, sketches and original drawings. The collection was created in 1973, whereas the first reissues date back to 1965 (1964 agreement): the reinterpretation of new values allocated to a contemporary context, with traditional and current techniques, useful steps in the direction of more efficient and advanced production systems.

First, there was the acquisition of the rights to four designs by Le Corbusier (who was still alive at the time) with Charlotte Perriand and Pierre Jeanneret. Next, there was the acquisition of the rights of Gerrit.T. Rietveld, C.R. Mackintosh, Gunnar Asplund and then F.L. Wright. Today, the collection continues to grow with new editions that had never been industrially produced, thanks also to the acquisition of designers who have made the history of design (including Franco Albini, Ico Parisi, Giacomo Balla).

An open collection that helps to understand the sources of contemporary furniture.

Alongside this collection is a present-day design production, the products of which express Cassina’s desire to present itself to the market through different languages and approaches to design, united by a constant capacity for research and development. Cassina’s vision can be seen in The Cassina Perspective, which expresses the company’s values through an eclectic collection in which products with the most innovative essence and contemporary icons create cozy atmospheres together, interacting harmoniously based on a single design code rooted in excellence.

The title of this issue of The List is a collection of only a part of Cassina’s constant contribution to the world of design. Cassina: Design in Free Form describes a choice (which was a personal and challenging one, given the beauty of the works in Cassina’s catalog) of furniture and design objects that were inspired by art and history, motivated by function, but free of preconceptions. Which is just how design should be today.


Atelier de Saint Sulpice di Charlotte Perriand

“Charlotte Perriand, Atelier de Saint Sulpice, Paris, 1927
(from the book: Une vie de création, Édition Odile Jacob, Paris, 1998)

The austere office was somewhat intimidating, and his greeting rather frosty,” Charlotte Perriand wrote in her memoirs.
‘What do you want?’ he asked, his eyes hooded by glasses. ‘To work with you.’ He glanced quickly through my drawings. ‘We don’t embroider cushions here,’ he replied, and showed me the door.”

It was 1927 and a very young Perriand was visiting 35 Rue de Sèvres in Paris, the Master’s atelier, to show him her portfolio. Fortunately, talent would eventually overcome prejudice and misogyny, and history would run its course, introducing one of the most fruitful collaborations in 20th-century design. It was the time of tubular steel frame furniture for an early idea of economical industrial production, and Perriand was a true innovator with this technique.

Stool 9 Tabouret completes the first collection acquired by Cassina and by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand.

This is a stool with an architectural presence that perfectly reflects Charlotte Perriand’s love of poetic harmony. The first version of this stool was for the architect’s dining room in her Paris apartment, and it was made of tubular steel and had a rattan seat. In 1929, the design was displayed as part of the Équipement intérieur d’une Habitation exhibition at the Salon d’Automne in Paris, where it was used in the salle de bain with a sponge seat, as fitting in a space where personal care is of utmost importance.

The current design features a chrome-plated steel frame with a wide choice of seat materials, from sponge to leather to classic rattan.

9 Tabouret di Charlotte Perriand - Collezione Cassina I Maestri

Charlotte Perriand, 9 Tabouret, intégré à la Collection Le Corbusier®,
Pierre Jeanneret®, Charlotte Perriand® – Cassina I Maestri Collection, France, 1927

This seating element is part of those pieces of furniture that constantly take on new meaning and are always ready to adapt to the changing times and environments for which they were created.

Ambientazione contemporanea del 9 Tabouret

Contemporary setting for 9 Tabouret, photograph by De Pasquale + Maffini


Ambientazione mobili Cassina fotografati da De Pasquale
Photograph by De Pasquale + Maffini

Charlotte Perriand began designing the En forme libre collection of tables in 1928 for her Montparnasse atelier, producing them with Galerie Steph Simon in the late 1950s.

The cornerless, round and asymmetrical forms adapt even to smaller spaces, allowing them to seat up to eight people. The structure features three legs: a larger one and another two smaller cylindrically shaped ones placed at 45 degrees compared to the top. It features a free-spirited aesthetic that is far removed from classicism. In 2011 Cassina reissued the design by reducing the size of the legs to offer a new table size that facilitates conviviality. The solid wood table is also available in a glossy or matte lacquered finish (from Cassina Dining products catalog 2020).

Table en forme libre di Charlotte Perriand
Charlotte Perriand, Table en forme libre, Cassina I Maestri Collection, 1928


Gerrit  T. Rietveld seduto sulla poltrona Red and Blue di Cassina
Gerrit T. Rietveld sitting in the Red and Blue Armchair
in front of his workshop with his workers, 1917

Composizione n. II di Perre Mondrian

Gerrit Thomas Rietveld, cabinetmaker and craftsman, was a leading figure of the Dutch De Stijl movement that began in 1917 in Leiden.

It was here that a group of artists came together, including Theo Van Doesburg and painter Piet Mondrian, whose goal was “a radical renewal of art”. Art as painting, sculpture, architecture, and furniture design became manifestos of a spatial idea that arose from the dynamic breakdown of pure forms and colors like red, blue and yellow.

Rietveld adopted a primordial language, inventing chairs and furniture as if no one before him had ever built them, following his own structural code. He designed furniture with a new concept of construction: both in structure and color, they should be understood as a manifesto of a new style that was certainly influenced by Far East forms which had already been transplanted to Europe and by the dynamic painting techniques of Cubism.

Piet Mondrian, Composition No. II,
Netherlands, 1930

In 1972 Cassina acquired exclusive reproduction rights to all of the Maestro’s furniture following lengthy negotiations with his heirs. Architect Daniele Baroni advised on reproducing the designs, while G.A. van de Groenekan, Rietveld’s closest partner, was responsible for finding a balance between original construction techniques and Cassina’s technological know-how.

Sedia Zig Zag di Gerrit T. Rietveld per Cassina
Gerrit T. Rietveld, Zig Zag Chair,
Cassina I Maestri Collection, 1934


Ambientazione del Tavolino Traccia di Cassina

Photograph by De Pasquale + Maffini

Swiss-German artist and poet Meret Oppenheim is considered the muse of the Surrealist movement, founded in the early 1920s by André Breton.

She arrived in Paris when she was 20 and got to know the major exponents of the movement and other individuals who gravitated around it: Man Ray, Max Ernst, Alberto Giacometti, Jean Arp, and Marcel Duchamp.

Tavolino in Bronzo Traccia, di Meret Oppenheim per Cassina
Meret Oppenheim, tavolino Traccia,
Cassina, 1939

Around 1930 Salvador Dalí – an artist who fully joined the then-international movement – suggested a new artistic genre, creating “objects functioning symbolically”. The shared feature in all the works is that they appear to come from dreams and fantasies. Often everyday objects become so foreign that they break free of their original function and challenge established interpretations. Fascinated by this approach, Meret began to shift her focus to everyday objects, reinterpreted according to a change in meanings that arouse disturbing but also pleasurable new analogies in the viewer.


Ritratto di Ico Parisi con dettaglio della gamba della consolle PA'Ico Parisi was one of the most complete and eclectic artists of the second half of Italian 20th century design and was an architect, designer, graphic designer, photographer, film director, set designer, painter and urban planner. He experimented with expressive forms and languages in both architecture and design, understanding the close connections between them. Initially Parisi experimented with one-off pieces of furniture and then moved on to sophisticated industrial production with companies like Cassina. In 1943 he opened one of the first interior design studios with his wife, Luisa Aiani, his life partner and endless source of creative energy. The studio was called La Ruota and was a place for design, but also for art curatorship, exhibitions and cultural meetings. The Parisis proposed a new idea of living thanks to their ability to mix various stylistic eras. Furniture conversed with antiques and furnishings, art mixed with local and ethnic crafts, and antique silks and laces mingled with modern fabrics and carpets. A concept of interior design that is very relevant today.
Photograph of Ico Parisi as he observes the detailing
on the Y leg of the table, ©Ico Parisi Design Archive, Como

For those interested in knowing more about his work, the Ico Parisi Design Archive has preserved all his projects accompanied by sketches, writings and photographs.

Ambientazione della consolle in legno PA'
Photograph by De Pasquale + Maffini


 Le Corbusier, Le Cabanon, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin

was first designed for the Cabanon, the small vacation home Le Corbusier designed for his wife Yvonne in 1951 on the French Riviera.

This place, which I consider one of Le Corbusier’s most beautiful designs, was created with a view to radical experimentation where everything is reduced to the essential in a harmonious combination of proportions, colors, details and materials that becomes a manifesto of contemporary living. The architect was inspired by the cabin of a ship, where practicality and essentiality in design are absolute necessities. Among the furniture and functional objects we find are Portemanteau placed naturally at the entrance and consisting of simple wood pegs with colors matching those of the minimal spaces.

Cassina’s reissue is inspired by the 1957 model designed by Le Corbusier for Unités de Camping, minimal camping units inspired by and adjacent to the Cabanon. The structure of the coat rack consists of solid oak mushroom-like elements placed at different heights based on the Modulor scale of proportions: with proportions that combined the golden ratio with the measurements and movements of a 1.83-meter tall man.


Le Corbusier, Le Cabanon, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin,
France 1951, Portmanteau detail

Ambientazione attuale del Cabanon di Le Courbusier

Photograph by Paola Pansini


 Ambientazione del tavolino Cicognino di Cassina

The Cicognino side table is the result of one of the “domestic animals” that Albini always conjured up with his designs. One of the three slender legs extends to become a “handle/beak”, making it easy to carry the table around. It is perfectly balanced and very stable despite the fact that its parts are reduced to a bare minimum. Albini always managed to grasp the substance of form in an intense pursuit of lightness.

His granddaughter Paola Albini recounts:

He loved the mountains and proceeded at a mountaineer’s pace both in life and at work. He loved the slow pace of climbing, the balance sought, the method, one step after another, without haste; the tension of a rope and the suspended space, the search for lightness, the dimension of emptiness, air and light. Here he imagines a marvelous spatial grid that becomes the frame of his architecture, installations and furniture, where balance wins over the exuberance of forms. A skillful play of taut cables and resistance, in search of the stability of things and life”.

(text by Paola Albini The Stability of Lightness for IG profile @deden_designlist)


Photograph by Valentina Sommariva


Images from the book by Alfred A. Knopf,
“Prunier’s: The Story Of A Great Restaurant”, USA, 1957

Prunier is one of the most famous French restaurants in the world for the quality of its specialized selection of shellfish and caviar and for the people that have sat at its tables. Many venues have followed and proliferated since the year it was founded. Specializing in shellfish cuisine, it is still one of the most renowned restaurants in Paris.

Ambientazione del servizio da tavola Service Prunier

The first Maison Prunier was founded in 1872 by Alfred Prunier, and over time it became a clear example of how a great modern restaurant can grow. In 1925, after the founder’s  death, his young granddaughter Simone Prunier – known to many only as Madame Prunier – continued the business, and in 1934 she opened Prunier St James’s Restaurant in London.

In 1961 she asked Le Corbusier to design a tableware service. The architect agreed and designed a white porcelain collection with a detail of the intertwined hands design found on the bottom of the Les Mains tapestry designed by the architect in 1951 and later displayed in a private room of the restaurant. Le Corbusier created a number of color variations for the service, including a plum color for the part where the three intertwined hands, drawn with a thin black line, converge. Today Cassina has reissued the service with great attention to the original and to detail, with the design handcrafted by Ginori 1735 artisans.

Photograph by Luca Merli


An icon. This is one of the most important projects by the great designer Mario Bellini. His words perfectly describe this project that has become a part of the history of design: 

Struttura della sedia Cab
Cab Chair structure, Mario Bellini, Cassina, 1977
Sedia Cab di Cassina


Perhaps the most ancient item of structurally complex furniture is the chair. This may also be the reason why it is the one item whose essential image – four legs, seat and backrest – is the most deeply rooted in the collective memory.

With Cab I tried to design a chair the way it has always been, though in keeping with the approach described hitherto I also considered the chair as a prosthesis and extension of the body. The result is a load-bearing skeleton with its skin stretched over it to elastically accommodate the human body.” 

Mario Bellini

Cab was the first chair featuring a self-supporting leather frame inspired by the relationship between structural skeleton and skin. Its upholstery consists of 16 leather sections that undergo 14 manual processes. The upholstery is then fitted over a steel frame and zipped closed like a tailored suit.

Photograph by De Pasquale + Maffini


La poltrona Wink di Toshiyuki Kita per Cassina

Toshiyuki Kita, Wink Armchair, Cassina, 1980

Toshiyuki Kita is a Japanese designer known for his collaborations with Italian companies and for his iconic pieces that have become design history classics. One that rises above the rest is the “armchair with ears”, or the Wink chaise-longue, in Cassina’s catalog.

It represents a new informality in furniture design combined with enhanced technical and material research. It is the armchair that initiated the decade of the 1980s, which were marked by a playful approach toward furniture. A bit “Disneyesque”, we could say, as it brings to mind the famous big-eared mouse. It is extraordinarily versatile, as the backrest can be placed in different positions. The seat can slide forward, transforming into a comfortable chaise longue. The headrests can be adjusted and recline forward and backward moving independently from each other. Infinite color compositions can be created with each of its parts, allowing for complete customization in a game of implicit complicity between designer and user.

Ambientazione della poltrona Wink

Photograph by Valentina Sommariva


Poltrona Feltri, Gaetano Pesce per Cassina
Gaetano Pesce, Feltri Armchair, Cassina, 1987

[...] “I act on a hybrid terrain between art and utility [...] One winter years ago I was in Venice and Peggy Guggenheim invited me to her home for dinner. The museum had closed, the spaces had once again rediscovered their unofficial moment.

A butler opens the door for me. I had my coat, he takes it and hangs it on a slender Giacometti sculpture.

Ambientazione della poltrona FeltriDuring museum hours that “thing” had an identity of its own, it was to be admired; in the evening it went back to being Ms G’s coat rack. There are therefore different moments and needs according to which we communicate with the things around us in different ways. This means expanding the object’s communicative potential [...] it also means talking about the utility of art. 

[...] I used to say that the industrial series is an unquestionable those values are no longer enough for me, today I want to have greater wealth in industrial production, to rediscover the spontaneity of a one-off piece. Here is the correct meaning of varied series production: to put certain materials in the condition of defining themselves within a less rigid, less repressive and dictatorial margin than that due to which even the slightest defect caused them to be eliminated. [...]
(from Gaetano Pesce o dell’opposizione, interview by Marco Romanelli in Domus No. 712, 1990).

The armchair is made of very thick wool felt soaked in varying amounts of polyester-based thermosetting resin for differentiated elasticity. It has a rustic, handcrafted aesthetic, deliberately insubordinate to what is expected of mass production, a piece that lives based on its own personality, where each  “imperfect” piece is different from the other.
Pesce reconstructs the necessary relationship between craft and industry by creating a common ground between art and design.

Photograph by De Pasquale + Maffini


Jaime Hayon, Réaction Poétique, Collezione Cassina Details, 2015
Jaime Hayon, Réaction Poétique, Cassina Details Collection, 2015

Schizzo di Jaime Hayon

“I wanted to create useful objects for the modern home such as trays and side tables, but with sculptural elements interplaying forms, light and shadow.

It was a very strict, almost religious challenge to use only one material and one finish, exercising my design philosophy. I feel this restriction actually became an opportunity to showcase the beauty of the wood, along with the expert mastery of Cassina’s carpentry workshop.” Jaime Hayon.

This collection draws inspiration from the organic forms of Le Corbusier’s architecture and the Esprit Nouveau artwork of the 1920s.

From the Cassina catalog: “The Réaction Poétique collection is a set of plastic shapes and sculptures that recall Le Corbusier’s early works, representations of natural elements that resonate and echo in our subconscious. This collection contains useful objects for the modern home such as trays and side tables constructed from a single material in a single finish so as to enhance the wood’s true beauty and Cassina’s ability to manipulate it”.


Sketch by Jaime Hayon


Light without a luminaire, wind without a fan, smoke made of marble, a dripping chair, a mirror that you cannot see yourself in but that opens like a door into infinity, offering new visual and perceptual perspectives.

All of Ron Gilad’s work forces the viewer to embrace doubt as a supreme value and to question the things that are usually assumptions. His objects appear to be familiar and functional, everyday, but Gilad’s work method strips them of their original function and transports them to new worlds.

This mirror is part of a collection of 16 objects that the Israeli designer designed for Cassina, knowing that it would be possible to create them by combining constructive engineering and high cabinetry in an aesthetic interplay somewhere between that which is art and design, abstract and functional.


Hayama mobile contenitore di Patricia Urquiola per Cassina
Patricia Urquiola, Hayama Storage Cabinet,
Cassina, 2019

Giacca tradizionale giapponese Haori

The influence of Japanese culture is clear. This cabinet takes on the forms of the haori, a jacket traditionally worn over the kimono. It was introduced in Japan as early as the 1500s and worn by the samurai to protect themselves from the cold. It features a “T” shape like that of the kimono but is shorter in length.

The reference to this traditional garment is readily apparent in the proportions of this piece of furniture, which plays on the same volumes as the haori. Its oblique legs contrast with the horizontal lines of the cabinet. Its minimal but solid form is accentuated by thinned-out edges that lighten its appearance. But it is also a tribute to Kazuhide Takahama, the architect who industrialized the ancient tradition of lacquering by producing for the first time in mass production a finish very similar in result to ancient Chinese lacquer, with the advantage of durability that would last over centuries. Today, his furniture is also part of the Cassina collection.

Patricia Urquiola’s design philosophy is well known, and thanks to her history and training she inherited an approach to design by analogy, where an object is called objects since an object is born from the interpretation of another.

Traditional Japanese haori jacket


Vaso in Vetro di Murano SESTIERE, di Patricia Urquiola per Cassina
Patricia Urquiola, Sestiere Vases, Cassina Details Collection,
2022, photograph by Luca Merli
Ambientazione Vasi in vetro Murano SESTRIERE di Patricia Urquiola

The Sestiere vase collection designed by Patricia Urquiola is a preservation and interpretation of the centuries-old Venetian glassmaking tradition.

The vases are a clear tribute to master glassmakers and their well-known longstanding knowledge that is even rooted in the glassmaking techniques of the Roman and Byzantine periods.

The vases are colored bubbles of blown glass “encased” within a web of cords. Each morisa – as any application of cords, handles or borders added to the object’s workmanship is called in Murano jargon – is applied by hand, creating a deliberate effect of attractive imperfection on the object and a linguistic cross-reference that is inspired by another aspect of Venetian glassmaking aesthetics: the technique of rigadin, a traditional striped pattern that we find on the finest of glasswork. Thanks to these features and the techniques used to create each vase, they are unique pieces of extraordinary craftsmanship.


Photographs by Paola Pansini



Read the previous article of The List here