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Aerospace, a pop culture icon

Aerospace, a pop culture icon
Aerospace, a pop culture icon

In 1967, at a time when furniture was handed down from one generation to the next, an UFO appeared: the very first line of inflatable furniture called "Aerospace". It would instantly become a design standard.
It was created by Nguyen Mang Khanh, an engineer, designer and creator active in many fields, born in Hanoi, better known under his pseudonym of Quasar. It was while testing the strength of a hydraulic dam that he came up with the idea of using compressed air instead of toxic mercury. The experiment was conclusive and he decided to use the outcomes in the field of design by creating the "Aerospace" line of inflatable furniture.

Inspired by space exploration, the hot topic of the sixties, this collection of inflatable furniture was absolutely revolutionary at the time, both in terms of design and the techniques used, such as using a coloured polyvinyl chloride; although the shapes seem so familiar to us now as a result of having been copied so many times since. 
The items of furniture in the Aerospace collection were given names that were fascinating at that time: Saturn chair, Venus armchair, Neptune armchair, Satellite ottoman, Neptune fireside chair, Apollo armchair, Mars armchair, etc.
Their various parts were made with coloured or transparent, welded, flexible PVC films that are fairly resistant to UV rays and are suitable for indoor and outdoor use. They were the first to integrate strips into their inflatable structure in order to maintain the seat's structure and prevent the material from deforming. Additionally, the PVC used was 60 microns thick, which is three times thicker than the PVC commonly used for inflatable furniture.

With bright and vibrant colours such as orange, emblematic of the period, pink, lemon yellow and others, the furniture had to be rounded and smooth! At a time where innovation was more important than function, inflatable furniture became the stage of widespread experimentation, of realistic ideas and possible dreams. Playful, light, modular and mobile, it offered new perspectives on the living environment. A visionary series, it quickly became one of the icons of pop culture and gained an excellent reputation from the outset: it was presented at the Paris Museum of Decorative Arts in 1969, at the Museum of Modern Art and, in the same year, at the Milan Triennial. This institutional recognition has not abated with time since parts of the collection from the "architect of air" can be found in the catalogues of the world's major museums such as the MoMa, the Centre Pompidou and the Vitra Design Museum
Although it dates back to the 60s, inflatable furniture is as modern as ever, so much so that companies place their own logos on this type of furniture in trade fair booths, where their own image is at stake. Associating their image with inflatable furniture remains a thoroughly modern tactic.

© Art & Design Atomium Museum (ADAM) - Elie Leon

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