Franco Albini and the “Gommapiuma” Pirelli. For an history of natural rubber foam in Italy (1933-1951)

The history of design for comfort, in particular for seats padding and springing, has its first milestone in the well-known Siegfried Giedion’s Mechanization takes Command book of the 1948. Unfortunately a piece of this history, mostly forgotten, doesn’t appear in this publication, and it regards the industrial program adopted by Pirelli, between 1933 and 1940, for the application of the so called “Gommapiuma Pirelli” in the field of home upholstery. In particular, a programmatic “twist” emerges in this micro-story between one group of Milanese rationalist architects and Pirelli company industrial support. Focal point of this investigation is a little book written and edited by Franco Albini titled La Gommapiuma Pirelli alla VI Triennale, exactly dedicated to the different applications of foam rubber in as much types of seats designed by Albini, Bottoni, Minoletti, Pont, adopted in different exhibitions of the VI Triennale of Milan in 1936. A history that, as written by Albini in his text: “il gusto moderno trova nel materiale il mezzo per raggiungere forme nuove e caratteristiche”. However a story that, maybe for the historical period when it happened, fall in a foggy oblivion just after the World War II, so that during the first 50s there was the conviction that rubber foam and a new type of springs called “nastrocord” (1948 patent), for the first time used together, were the starting point of the modern upholstery furniture.