Design Icon: Gio Ponti’s Round D.154.5 ‘Soap Bars’ Chair is a Retro Favourite
With a career spanning over six decades, Giovanni “Gio” Ponti is often heralded as “the father of modern Italian design”. Having worked has worked as an architect, multidisciplinary designer, and teacher, the Italian polymath is also known for his written work; he was also the founder of Domus magazine.
Of his many projects—numbering over a hundred during his lifetime—one piece of furniture can be spotted across projects frequently: the Round D.154.5 chair. Conceived in 1954, the design comprises of just eight parts; its iconic contoured seat and back are often referred to as ‘soap bars’ due to their rounded form and are connected by two arcs of plywood and supported by four metal legs. Ponti informally nicknamed the chair otto pezzi (Italian for eight pieces); a fitting moniker for its composition.
In 1957, the chair made its official debut at the 11th Milan Triennale, along with a selection of other Ponti furnishings. The chair was dresssed in Vipla, an economical plastic material made to resemble leather that was extremely innovative at that time. Notably, Ponti presented the chair in its disassembled form, allowing a peek at its deceptively simple design.
In case you missed it: Design Icon: The Knoll Barcelona Chair Seen In Suits, Iron Man And More Films
Ponti was incredibly fond of this chair; he continued to feature various versions of it in many of his projects. Besides making an appearance in Villa Planchart and Villa Arreaza in Caracas, the Round chairs are also featured in the Italian Cultural Institute in Stockholm.
It's also easy to imagine the chair being perfectly at home in the colourful set designs of Wes Anderson films; the American filmmaker often takes cues from the vibrant colour palettes and styles popular during the 1960s and '70s.
With their inviting character that beckons one to sink into the chair for long hours, the chair—which was produced by Italian manufacturer Cassina back then—was popular. In the mid-60s, however, production ceased, leaving a limited number of prized originals left. The demand, and in turn the price for the chair, skyrocketed—even to this day. Last year, an original Round D.154.5 chair dressed in ivory vinyl fetched more than $110,000 (SGD) at the Phillips Design London auction.
Don't miss: Design Icon: Why This Minimalist Lamp is Still a Cult Favourite
Now, more than 60 years later, Italian furniture manufacturer Molteni&C is reissuing the classic design. The brand, which has collaborated with Gio Ponti Archives since 2012, has reproduced the original in exact specifications. Unveiled during this year’s Supersalone fair during Milan Design Week, the Round D.154.5 chair was the star of the show at Molteni&C's Flight D.154.5 installation designed by Ron Gilad.
Contemporary touches designed for the modern-day have been added to the design; the team reimagined the work by replacing plywood with a structure comprising multi-layered ash wood, and included the choice of either a black chrome or brushed brass finish for the legs of the seat. The Round D.154.5 chair can also be dressed in a variety of textiles and leathers of the Molteni&C collection.
Retailing in Singapore at the Molteni&C showroom by P5, the latest edition of the chair attests to its enduring appeal. A true testament of refined Italian design, the Round D.154.5’s classic structure and expressive personality make it a design able to withstand the test of time.
Read more: Design Icon: The Noguchi Coffee Table Seen in The Big Bang Theory, Conan, and More TV Shows