Giancarlo Piretti was born in Bologna, Italy in 1940. Piretti attended the Istituto Statale d’Arte (State Institute of Art) in Bologna until 1960. From 1963 until 1970, Piretti taught at his alma mater. After finishing his studies, Piretti was employed by Anonima Castelli, where he served as head of development and head designer until 1972. In 1969, Piretti came up with a design hit: the Plia folding chair.
Piretti collaborated with Emilio Ambasz on designing ergonomic office furniture, including the appropriately named Vertebra and Dorsal flexible office chairs. Vertebra, introduced in 1976, is the first automatically adjustable office chair, designed to respond and adapt to the movements of the user's body and provide comfort and support. The Vertebra chair won the ID Award for Excellence of Design in 1977 and a Compasso d’Oro in 1981. Piretti won a Compasso d’Oro in 1991 for the “Piretti Collection” line of chairs, armchairs and easy chairs.
Vertebra chair line. Image source: Roberto – Catania Technological Furniture.
The Pluvium umbrella stand forms part of the PL series of furnishings designed by Piretti for Anonima Castelli throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s. The folding Plia chair is the most popular item from the series. The Plia chair is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It is made of chrome-plated tubular steel, cast aluminum, and transparent plastic, size 30 by 18 3/8 by 17 inches (76.2 x 46.7 x 43.2 cm); seat height 18 1/4 inches (46.3 cm). When folded, Plia is only 5 cm thick.
Image source: 1stdibs seller Gallery 33. Four Plia chairs are for sale with a beautiful Plano table at $4,400.
Other designs in the PL series include the Plona chair, Pluff stool, Platone desk, Plano table and Planta coat rack, which shares some characteristics with the Pluvium umbrella stand.
Pluvium is Latin for “rainy, causing or bringing rain.” The sculptural yet functional holder has space for six umbrellas. The base is flared, featuring divots where the umbrella points sit. The Pluvium was made in a rainbow of colors in ABS. Are there any others? Anyone have a picture of the original box?
The stand is 16 cm in diameter and 50 cm tall. It is weighty, which explains why most examples I’ve found still reside in Europe. The Pluvium is an expensive shipping proposition. Can anyone put it on a scale and tell us what it weighs? I don’t have one…yet! (I’ve seen 10 kg = 22 pounds).
Above: From an article in Design Magazine, “Furniture File” published in March 1972 (p. 39). Some of the items in The Design Centre’s Furniture 72 exhibition are illustrated in this personal report by Hilary Gelson.
Three images clockwise from upper left, source: GoMod. Item is for sale. Bottom left image source: eBay user 20e_siecle. Buy it now available from France at 120 € ($172).
Image source: Spazio 900.
RedImage source: Metropol Auctioneers (Sweden). Sold on 10/12/2009 at a hammer price of 500 SEK ($ 70).
Image source: Rai Rai Century Design Shop (Japan). Item sold for ¥ 31,500 ($ 338).
Image source: Modern Furniture Designs.
Image source: Showplace Antique + Design Center through Live Auctioneers. Notice the detail of the bottom picture. This is where the umbrella points sit.
Anonymous, Giancarlo Piretti. Retrieved January 3, 2010, from Ketterer Kunst Web site: http://www.kettererkunst.com/bio/giancarlo-piretti-1940.shtml
“Emilio Ambasz and Giancarlo Piretti: ‘Vertebra’ armchair (1989.48)”. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ho/11/sa/ho_1989.48.htm(October 2006)