Industrial design maverick Luigi Colani is celebrated for his futuristic, biomorphic designs for cars, aircrafts, boats, and trucks. Although he's less recognized for his contributions to home furnishings, in fact, Colani created numerous collections of furniture, children’s furniture, and lighting for a range of German manufacturers in the late 1960s and '70s, alongside other household items like pens, television sets, tableware, and pianos.
Born in Berlin in 1928, Colani studied at the Academy of Art (Akademie der Künste) in his hometown and, later, pursued an aerodynamics degree at the Sorbonne in Paris. After the war, he traveled to the United States, where he worked in the aerodynamics and plastics department of Douglas. In 1954, he returned to Europe and for the next six years dedicated himself to the auto industry, collaborating with companies such as Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia, BMW, and Volkswagen. In the mid-1960s, Colani took on the world of furniture design.
Colani is sometimes referred to as the “Leonardo da Vinci of the Plastics.” Making the most of the material's ability to be easily molded, Colani’s many sculpted plastic chair designs include the Garden Party Chair (1967); the Loop Chair for COR (1968); the iconic, multifunctional children’s Zocker Chair (1971-72) for Top System Burkhard Lübke; the Rugby Chair (1980); the Alien Chair (1986); and the Flat Chair (1995). Colani’s famous Globe Pendants, affectionately called UFO Lights, feature colorful ABS plastic with transparent acrylic insets. The height-adjustable plastic desk Colani designed for Flötotto in the 1970s can be used by adults and children alike. The TV-Relax Lounge Chair, part of the Sea Collection for Kusch & Co (1969), were made from organically molded rubber foam covered in brightly-colored, stretched fabric—and is now part of the permanent exhibition at the Pinakothek der Moderne museum in Munich. Colani designed many soft, expansive modular sofas and lounge chairs with a television-owning society in mind, including the Orbis Chair (1969), Sadima Chair (circa 1970), and the luxurious Pool Sofa (1970-71) for Rosenthal.
Highly prolific, Colani is behind thousands of experimental and forward-facing designs, prototypes, case studies, and models. He worked as a professor of industrial design in Tokyo, Shanghai, and Bremen and is the recipient of many international awards. His unconventional approach—despite the sheer breadth and scope of his work—has left him largely outside the realm of mainstream industrial design. Colani currently resides in Karlsruhe, Germany.