As a field of study, Design is young. General history of art starts around the 15th century but history of design dates back to the 1980s. Work of academics, researchers and actors of art market allowed to do some discoveries : thanks to this effervescence, creators and creations emerge. And substantive work must be started to (re)discover hidden treasures.
Some designers have been forgotten and the Japanese Taichiro Nakai is one of them. He is not referenced in the three major design dictionaries : Le mobilier du XXe siècle. Dictionnaire des créateurs by Pierre Kjellberg, Dictionnaire international des arts appliqués et du design directed by Arlette Barré-Despont and The Design Encyclopedia by Mel Byars. So he is a forgotten one. But forgotten does not mean without talent. And he’s not a complete uncharted person. Indeed, we know some of his creations, especially the pieces he created for the contest « Prima Mostra Selletiva del Mobile », in Cantù, Italy, from September 17 to October 5, 1955. Thanks to the discovery of these furnitures, researches started.

Italy is one of the most important countries for design in the 20th century : Milan is the undisputed capital thanks to its Triennale. Since 1923, this international fair brings together local and foreign designers. This is a true laboratory based on the model of Universal Expositions : each country want to show off their creativity in objects, architecture, innovations, new materials and new ways of thinking space.
Like Milan, Cantù is an important place : since the 1900s, important collaborations have been formed between architects and craftsmen. However Cantù did not follow the progresses of the first half of the 20th century : industrialists crisis did not answer to new customers desires who lived in smaller spaces and wanted modernity. Cantù had lost its former splendor. After the Second World War, local people wanted to create a fair to revive the economy of local design. Serafino Leoni Orsenigo (doctor passionate about applied arts) and Arturo Molteni (mayor of the city) in partnership with the Milan Triennale, they launched the « Prima Mostra Selletiva del Mobile », organized every two years between 1953 and 1975.
Real international furniture competition, this fair brings together creators from around the world : on this territory, there are craft workshops, a new cultural dimension and a stylistic update. All these elements have made it possible to initiate the event. There were some major projects from important designers such as Franco Albini, Gio Ponti, Ico Parisi, Paolo Buffa, Guglielmo Ulrich, Carlo De Carli, Werner Blaser, Eero Aarnio, Ilmari Tapiovaara, Sven Staaf, Aldo Rossi, Ettore Sottsass, Taichiro Nakai, Angelo Mangiarotti, BBPR, and many more.
First of all, a qualified and experienced jury evaluated the countless projects received. Then the chosen programs were realized by the local producers and finally exposed :  perennial and interesting collaborations between distributor and designer are created. The presence of the international press is related to the success of this competition. Thus Cantù returned to the forefront of the international design scene.
The 1955 edition was one of the most interesting thanks to its exceptional jury : Gio Ponti, Carlo De Carli, Alvar Aalto and the Danish designer Finn Juhl selected and evaluated the best achievements. These famous virtuosos awarded special prizes to two foreign designers, proof of the importance of the internationality of this competition : the Finnish Ilmari Tapiovaara and the Japanese Taichiro Nakai were crowned with success.
It is easy to understand why the creations of Taichiro Nakai attracted the attention. For the occasion, he draws a living room. This design is characterized by a great and ambivalent intelligence. He analyzes his market without ever denying his convictions : he adapts Japanese principles to Italian constraints. The lines are simple, clean, energetic and organic : these are the essential characteristics of Japanese creations ; then the straight lines – armchairs for example – reminds creations of Gio Ponti and also evoking the folding of an origami ; the structure of the storage cabinet, similar to a library by Franco Albini, carries with the Japanese geometric simplicity.

Undoubtedly the freeform sofa is the most captivating piece of the booth : created for this occasion, its shape can only be Japanese, a tribute to the « Freeform Sofa » of the great Isamu Noguchi, designed in 1946. Taichiro Nakai designs a wood-and-metal piece with a great expressive force and a sincere simplicity : the suspended back and the great dynamism seating. The furniture is made by La Permanente Mobili, one of the most important editors of Cantù.
In 2016, a retrospective exhibition in the former church of Sant’Ambrogio (Cantù) revived the « Mostra Selletiva del Mobile », which brought together original furnitures and archival documents from 1955 to 1975 : this event allowed to highlight the fundamental role of Cantù and how it participated in the renewal of 1950s-1960s design. However, a lot of work has yet to be done, but these are first steps towards recognition. For example, it should not be forgotten Jean Prouvé was also forgotten before the considerable work of researchers and gallerists in the late 1980s.

There are stimulating discoveries and the free-form sofa created by Taichiro Nakai is one of them. Its materiality, the experience that the user makes visually as well as functionally, is obvious : this sofa is a design gift of perfection. The magic operates instantly •


Freeform sofa