A brief history of Space Age design
From innovative materials to impossible shapes, discover how the space industry influenced furniture design during the Space Age.
What do we mean with Space Age Design?
Towards the end of the ’50s, the US’ confidence in becoming a leader in space flights influenced a vast majority of designers and architects.
At the same time at which we would see some buildings with satellite shapes and cars with ornamental tailfins, product designers would start using some revolutionary materials and bring back ornaments in their projects, following the same space-inspired trend.
At the end of the Second World War, the whole world was ready to witness NASA reaching outer space.
From this excitement derived a true interest from the society for science and technology.
On another note, aerospace engineers influenced design and architecture through the adaptability of the materials they created for flight.
The research on materials allowed the use of different types of polymers, unlocking infinite shape possibilities.
New technical perspectives combined with an interest in abstract futuristic shapes lead to what is known as Space Age design.
Nowadays, we observe a rising excitement for the space economy, mostly due to private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin showing a clearer path towards a space tourism sector becoming reality.
Let’s take a look at how space exploration influenced product design, from the use of innovative materials to the inspiration on the shapes of products, here is a retrospective selection with some of the most famous Space Age product designs.
Panton Chair by Verner Panton
The Verner Panton Chair is a true reflection of the “Space Age” design of the 1960s.
The sleek and curvaceous chair was unveiled in the Danish design journal Mobilia in 1967.
The chair is made out of a single piece of plastic showing the designer’s wish to play with materials and push their limits.
KD29 by Joe Colombo
The design of the KD29 Lamp dates back to 1965 and is one of Joe Colombo’s more recognised projects.
Its original rounded shape lights up and is mounted on a thin plastic band recreating a “zero-gravity” effect.
Ball Chair by Eero Aarnio
One of the most famous chair designs of all times, the Ball Chair by finish designer Eero Aarnio was revolutionary for its futuristic style in the 1960s made possible by molding the acrylic frame into an almost entirely empty sphere.
It was used in many science-fiction films like Mars Attacks! or Men In Black.
Atollo Lamp by Vico Magistretti
The Atollo Lamp by the Italian designer Vico Magistretti was revolutionary at the time for its uncommon shape, reinventing the abat-jour with a more solid metallic look.
The lamp gives the impression of defying the laws of gravity with the upper part looking like a UFO ready to land.
Interested to know more about the iconic design path of Vico Magristretti? Head to Design Icon – Vico Magistretti.
Keracolor Keraclonic Sphere by Arthur Bracegirdle
The Keracolor is a pure example of space-age design because of its spherical shape reminiscent of a cosmonaut’s helmet, at a time when NASA started to stream space missions on TV.
Its design is largely inspired by the Ball Chair seen above.
Corona Chair by Poul M. Volther
The Corona Chair designed by Poul M. Volther is known for its sculptural gravity that lead the way for this piece to be featured in different movies.
The form of the chair is inviting, its shape recalls a spine and ribs, the anatomy of a human torso: these forms are made possible by the use of molding polyurethane foam.
President Lounge Chair by Steen Ostergaard
Mainly known for its appearance in Star Trek, the President Lounge Chair 265 was designed by the “king” of Space Age design, the Danish furniture designer Steen Ostergaard.
One fun fact about this chair is that some have been molded directly to the ground of Houston’s rocket base in order to stay still when rockets would be launched.
As suggested with the Keraclonic Keracolor, the Videosphere TV is probably inspired by the astronaut’s helmet.
Some say it was influenced by the science-fiction masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey, but most designers agree that the shape in itself remains one of the most iconic examples of the early 1970s design ethos.
Curious to know more about designers characterized by their futuristic approach to products and furniture? Don’t miss Design Icons – Karim Rashid.