Cesare Colombo, known as Joe Colombo, began his artistic career as an abstract painter within the Movimento Nucleare. After some experiences as a designer, he decided to study architecture in Milan. When his father fell ill, he abandoned his career as a painter to take over with his younger brother Gianni the family business, a ribbon factory that his father converted to the production of electrical conductors. Joe Colombo opened his own design and architecture studio in 1962, where he worked for some of the best-known Italian companies until his early death in 1971.
Colombo’s work stands out for the importance of research with new materials and production methods. Also in the field of lighting, lamp series such as 626, Spider or Coupé reflect his deep interest in technology and an optimistic vision of the future typical of the space age.
The 281 table lamp, also called Acrilica, was his first design for Oluce and the only one he made with his brother Gianni. This lamp also reflects the artistic interests of Gianni Colombo, which were the experimentation with electricity and neon or laser lights. Although methacrylate was commonly used in thin sheets, Acrilica takes advantage of methacrylate’s conduciveness to transmit light from the base to the end of a thick curved methacrylate piece.
Joe and Gianni Colombo’s last collaboration was posthumous. Joe Colombo died while developing the Total Furnishing Unit project commissioned by MoMA for the exhibition Italy: the New Domestic Landscape, so it was completed under the direction of his assistant, Ignazia Favata. Gianni Colombo was in charge, together with the architect and lighting expert Livio Castiglioni, of shooting the film that accompanied the exhibition.