A salute to two seats: MEZZADRO and SELLA turn 50
von Vera Siegmund | Oct 17, 2007

What is the likely result if you have a lot of imagination, a strong feeling for shapes- and one day come across a bicycle saddle and some rusty handlebars among your old things?
In this case, Picasso's Bull's Head and the story of Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglionis seat SELLA might have taken a similar course. After all, Achille was looking for a flexible seat capable of adapting to his typical movements during a phone-call. He enjoyed running around on it, sitting down briefly somewhere and then getting up again. And Achille was a passionate collector of consumer goods whose anonymous yet highly functional design fascinated him.
The result was two unconventional "ready-mades?: the cycle-saddle stool SELLA - with a height-adjustable steel rod and cast-iron hemisphere as the base (round side down) - and the cantilever MEZZADRO, a tractor seat mounted using a wing screw on a curved steel spring and with a netting needle (a birch weaving instrument) as base.
Originally, the prototypes of the two later design icons stood and rocked respectively in the Castiglioni living-room of the exhibition "Colori e forme nella casa d'oggi? ("Colors and Shapes in the Contemporary House?) in Villa Olmo in Como. That was in 1957 the year of their creation, before the "Radical Design? of the late 1960s and long before the Memphis group launched a strike to liberate design from functionalism in Italy in the early 1980s.
It was not until 1971 that MEZZADRO first went into mass production by Zanotta, and another 12 years past before it was SELLA's turn. Meanwhile, however, firms such as Flos, Gavina, Kartell, Ideal Standard, Siemens and Fiat numbered amongst Castiglioni's customers. In 1972 MEZZADRO was included in the New York Museum of Modern Art collection.
Today, Zanotta continues to proudly present the two expressively minimalist design classics in the company catalog. Though both now turn 50 they still attest to casual originality and a humorous love of experimentation. To mark the occasion Zanotta recommends design and Italy fans visit the Studio Museum Castiglioni, which opened in 2006 during the Triennale di Milano.
Piazza Castello 27, Mailand.