Italian furniture manufacturing company
Poltronova (established in 1957) was founded by Sergio Camilli in Florence, Italy, Poltronova rapidly became one of the most innovative and experimental Italian furniture design and manufacturing companies of the 1960s and 1970s. Camilli’s background in art as well as his openness to bold, creative expressions allowed Poltronova to attract a stellar group of young design talent and to anchor itself as the most daring Italian design company of its time.
Very soon after founding Poltronova, Sergio Camilli met Ettore Sottsass, then a young designer working for the Tuscan ceramic manufacturer Bitossi, and invited him to become Poltronova’s first artistic director in 1958. According to Fruit of the Forest magazine, Ettore Sottsass once wrote of his participation in Poltranova and about Sergio Camilli’s personality: “At the head of the company there wasn’t one of those ‘big guys’ with a ringing voice who spoke in Lombard and ‘rose through the ranks,’ a meteor of energy and boldness who opened companies here and there…and who are eagerly called ‘commander.’ Instead, there’s a slender guy who makes paintings, an intellectual…” It’s Sergio Cammilli, whom everyone called “the Professor.” read more
During Sottsass’ early years as artistic director, the company produced many of Sottsass’ furniture and ceramic designs and a fair amount of stylish, modernist furniture that provided only a hint of the transformation that was about to happen. During this time, Poltronova worked closely not only with Ettore Sottsass but also with Paolo Portoghesi (Levorigio coffee table, designed in 1963), Angelo Mangiarotti (Multiuse bookcase, designed in 1965), and Gae Aulenti (Sgarsul rocking chair, designed in 1962).
In 1966, after visiting the Superarchitettura exhibition in Pistoia, organized by the Florentine countercultural groups Superstudio and Archizoom Associati, Sergio Camilli and Ettore Sottsass pivoted Poltronova to a new direction by actively working with a group of young and subversive designers and leading the era of radical postmodern design. During this new era, Poltronova accomplished designs that were able to succinctly capture the essence of the time. Among these designs were the Sofo sofa (1966) and the Gherpe lamp (1968) by Superstudio; Superonda sofa (1966), Safari sofa (1967), and Mies chair and ottoman (1969) by Archizoom Associati; Ultrafragola lamp by Sottsass (1970); Mobili nella Valle series (1972) by Mario Ceroli; and Joe sofa, a sofa resembling a baseball glove, (1970) by Jonathan De Pas, Donato D’Urbino, and Paolo Lomazzi.
In addition, during this time, Poltronova participated in important design exhibitions and events, such as the La Casa Abitata in Florence in 1965; Eurodomus 3 (1970) in Milan, where it introduced the Mobili Grigi series; and the Italy: The New Domestic Landscape exhibition in 1972 at the Museum of Modern Art.
Sergio Camilli and Ettore Sottsass left the company in the 1970s, and the company moved toward more commercial production. In the mid 1990s, architect Roberta Meloni founded and became CEO of Centro Studi Poltronova through a research project of the company’s archives that documented the creative contributions of Poltronova. Today, Roberta Meloni is the owner of the archive, as well as its CEO, and produces Poltronova designs on a made-to-order basis.
Last updated on January 17, 2019
For additional information, please visit the following:
Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article by correcting errors, adding updates, or filling important omissions here