Design Moment: Gaetano Pesce’s H5&6 chair, 1968

Designer got inspiration for the groovy 1960s design after squeezing a shower sponge

Gaetano Pesce H5&6, 1968. Photograph: B&B Italia

Gaetano Pesce H5&6, 1968. Photograph: B&B Italia


The most controversial piece at this year’s design festival in Milan was based on a 50-year-old design. The massive outdoor sculpture this month in Piazza del Duomo was created by Italian design pioneer Gaetano Pesce as a version of his famous Up 5&6 chair.

This time the bulbous shape, inspired he has said by silhouettes of ancient fertility goddesses, was pierced with 400 arrows. It was, said Pesce, to draw attention to the subject of violence against women. His H5&6 chair, designed in 1968 and produced a year later, was similarly politically inspired.

Domestic sphere

Still in production (by B&B Italia) and also called La Mamma, Big Mama, and Donna, it comes with a ball-shaped footrest attached by a chain; it was, he has said, a commentary on women as prisoners in the domestic sphere.

The 1960s were a time of materials exploration in furniture design and this ultra light chair was first made in fabric-covered polyurethane, vacuum packed to create the shape. Pesce got inspiration for the groovy, unmistakably 1960s design, in the shower – squeezing the sponge he noticed how it slowly bounced back to shape, and wondered if he could use a similar technology to create a soft comfortable chair.