The "Space Age" era is characterized by all kinds of objects and materials with a futuristic appearance, illustrating – as its name suggests – the enthusiasm for technological progress and the conquest of space. Bright colours, dynamic shapes, stars, capsules, saucers and rockets, as well as synthetic materials, are the essential ingredients of this period.
The excellent tensile characteristics of fiber-reinforced plastics have been familiar to us since the 1940s due to their use in airplane, automobile, and boat construction. However, it took until the 1960s for a number of architects and designers to discover plastic as a building or furniture material. Fiber-reinforced plastic resins are very lightweight and therefore perfectly suited for use in supporting structures spanning broad distances, as well as for houses that are to be transportedBeing very light, these materials are ideal for many unusual projects, including houses intended for transportation.
In 1964, the French architect and city planner Jean-Benjamin Maneval (1923-1986) designed a mini weekend house measuring only 36 m2. Twenty of these houses were erected in Gripp, in the Campan region of the Département Hautes-Pyrénées, in 1967. As the name indicates, the house, "Bulle Six Coques" ("bubble six shells") consists of 6 "shells" made of polyester and grouped in the shape of a star around a central element. Other similar houses, such as the houses "Futuro" (1968) and "Venturo" (1971) by the Finnish architect Matti Suuronen, or the "Kunststoffhaus FG2000" house by Wolfgang Feierbach, were built in the same spirit of progressive and non-conformist freedom.
These same materials were all the rage among designers who, throughout this period, created a multitude of objects and pieces of furniture with sinuous shapes, which were cast in moulds as a single piece, and produced cheap objects in mass. The colours of the time are flashy, vivid and brilliant.
Visual sensuality reverses the austerity, stability and functionality of the 1950s, which were still strongly influenced by the war. People no longer looked to decorate their homes for the rest of their lives. They indulged in the consumption, in the trends and overflowing imagination of the designers of the time, who were insatiably inspired by these innovative synthetic materials, whose malleability is a mass of constant (re)modelling.
The race between the Russians and the Americans for the conquest of space had a great impact on people in the 1960s and strongly influenced all artistic fields. Films such as "Barbarella", "Space Odyssey" and "A Clockwork Orange" feature fantastic universes and settings dominated by rounded and smooth synthetic shapes. Furniture such as the “Panton Chair” by Verner Panton, the “Ball Chair” by Eero Aarnio, the “Eclisse” bedside lamp by Vico Magistretti, and spherical radios and televisions, are just a few examples of the space age objects that will invade homes and spaces across the world, becoming design icons.