Joe Colombo and his elastic container.


Currently on display at the Decorative Arts Museum in Paris (Musée des Arts Decoratifs) is a retrospective of visionary designer and artist Joe Colombo entitled "L’invention du Futur."  The exhibit begins around 1951, with his painting and joining of the Movimento Nucleare, or Nuclear Painting Movement, and much of his abstract/surrealist style painting that followed. This was soon followed by his work in 1952 on the design of the Nuclear City which, similar to (and possibly inspired by) Frank Llyod Wright’s Living City, was a look into a future when a city may need to be entirely rebuilt from scratch or on top of another city. This almost Futurist view of how all elements of life and society work together as a whole would permeate the work through his entire, albeit short, life.

The exhibit brings together a large body of his work to light, most before unseen, with over 100 samples of lighting, furniture and other designed objects, several small scale and actual size models of buildings and interior environments, along with countless hand drawn sketches, photographs and diagrams. As you walk through his body of work there is an incredible sense of consistency that comes with Colombo’s work that is sometimes lost with other designers that have created such a large amount of work. This no doubt is the result of his singular vision and relentless pursuit of an ideal living environment, which even today with the rise of modular housing, sounds more relevant than ever:

"We see the house as an instrument of the like that can satisfy a number of precisely defined needs…The ‘Container’ (the house) will need to be as ‘elastic’ as possible so that its contents can move around freely according an individuals personal dynamic; this is necessary for the lifestyle of today."