Joe Cesare Colombo (1930-1971) who was born in Milan, Italy was educated at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milano as a painter and sculptor. In 1951 he joined the “Nuclear Movement”, founded by Sergio D´Angelo and Enrico Baj, which sought to break down the formal, boundaries of painting with more organic images which burst out as a consequence of the growing anxiety about the nuclear bomb. Throughout his life he focused on his vision and philosophy that "we will h
ave to make the home live for us, for our needs, for a new way of living more consistent with the reality of today and tomorrow."
From 1951, Colombo was active as a painter and sculptor of the abstract Expressionism and exhibited his works with other members in Milano, Torino, Verviers, Venice and Brussels. After joining the Art Concret Group in the year 1955, Colombo had second thoughts and went ahead in promoting his career in designing.
In the latter half of the 1950s, he completed his first project, a condominium at the Faculty of Architecture.
After his father's death in 1959, Colombo and his brother Gianni took over the family business, which produced electric appliances. Gianni was one of Joe's closest friends and collaborators.
In the year 1962 Colombo opened his Design-Office, which specialized in room-conception (interiors) and architecture projects. His early designs showed his interest in very sculptural forms.
He was awarded the IN-Arch prize in the year1964 for the interior of a hotel in Sardinia. The key feature of this project was a double ceiling illuminated from inside and scattered on the exterior by protruding prisms that refracted and reflected the light.
Colombo applied completely new production processes to existing types of furniture. Innovative designs for lamps, doorknobs, alarm clocks, glass, wristwatches, pipes, etc were produced by Colombo. He used new materials, like polypropylene, fiberglass and ABS, which till then hadn’t been experimented with, in the arena of furniture. Since the beginning of his career Colombo was at most interested in living systems. All his creations reflect his main goal “variability.”
Rather than simply modernizing existing types of furniture, Colombo believed in reinventing them as new concepts that would be ideal for the lifestyle statement of the 1960s which was fluid.
His creations include the Ragno outdoor light in a squat (1964), the "Universale" chair (1965) - a single piece of plastic, the Minikitchen (1966) that was a kitchen on wheels, the Boby Cart (1968), the Linea 72 in-flight service tray (1970) for Alitalia where the compartment dimensions are accurate offering minimal movement of the crockery and cutlery in the air, an air conditioner for the company Candy, the "Optic" alarm clock (1970), the chairs Tube (1969-1970) and Multi (1970), which were able to be assembled in various positions to get a great number of sitting positions to name just a few.
Joe Colombo died of heart failure on his birthday - 30 July 1971 – 41 years from the day he was born.