The green soul of Bobina by Parasacchi Home

A creative intuition reinterprets the spool using WPCs by plasticWOOD

According to a famous definition, a “readymade” is an ordinary object elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist. The very term was coined by Marcel Duchamp to refer to his “Bicycle Wheel and Stool” (1913) and “Bottle Rack” (1914). Modern designers seized on this avant-garde idea and, with ingenuity and irony, found ways of enhancing existing forms and functional materials by using them in ways other than those for which they were originally intended. Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni and Bruno Munari are among the names that spring to mind in this regard. In 1954 the Castiglioni brothers presented, at Milan’s Triennale exhibition, the prototype of “Mezzadro”, a stool whose seat is that of a farm tractor: launched by Zanotta in 1971, it has since become an icon of international design. Equally famous is the “Falkland” lamp designed by Munari for Danese (1964), where softly diffused light and stretchy ladies’ hosiery provide, respectively, the ideal form and material for an object that certainly deserves its place in the MOMA collection in New York.
A more contemporary illustration of this philosophy is provided by the “Bobina” collection by Giorgio Caporaso for Parasacchi Home, in which spools, removed from their original industrial setting, where they are used for winding wires, cables and tapes, offer the perfect, archetypal shape for tables, chairs and furnishing accessories; after all, they have a base, a vertical element and top surface.

An aesthetic and functional archetype

«The idea for a line of furnishings came from the traditional production activity of Parasacchi (based in Oggiona, in the province of Varese), which has been active in plastic moulding, producing industrial spools, since 1945» explains Giorgio Caporaso, creative director and head of design at the company. «It was manager Luisa Parasacchi who had the idea of differentiating the company’s production, and she asked me to help her rethink the application of these spools: this is how the new design brand Parasacchi Home came about».
Caporaso and Parasacchi found that the essential and distinctive shape of these industrial products, together with their stability and durability and considerable scope for customisation, made them a versatile solution, suitable for furnishing any environment as a seat, table, top, or furnishing accessory (cakestands, centerpieces and flowerpots).

Elaborate combinations of plastic and wood interpret beautifully the Bobina’s shape Giorgio Caporaso

To refine the products, both aesthetically and functionally, they decided to experiment with sustainable materials and incorporate heterogeneous materials. «I find the idea of modifying a clearly defined element through a play of combinations of finishes, colours and new elements enormously stimulating» the designer goes on. «Luisa and I have plans to propose, over the next six years, variations and innovations. Through elaborate combinations of plastic, composite wood, 100% recycled plastic, wood and fabric, it is possible to reinterpret, in a new form, and with a variety of different looks and performance features, the archetypal shape of the spool. The result, which has a neo-industrial feel, is extremely functional and strong, yet also elegant and pleasing, making it ideal for domestic or contract interiors, but also other settings: fairs, events and temporary installations. And the industrial spool is, of course, naturally sturdy, light and easy to transport, store and clean» Caporaso points out.

Sensory qualities and circularity

«The furnishings in the Bobina collection, both physically and in name, derive from the existing production line, and this results in the creation of an economy of scale, as they are based on the same strong, high-performance injection-moulded products already produced by the Parasacchi parent company» the designer explains. «To obtain a warm, wood-like texture, but also the performance characteristics and easy processability of plastics, as well as a sustainable production process, we have opted to use the wood-plastic composites produced by plasticWOOD. These are compounds that contain a high percentage of vegetable fibres derived from wood production waste. The range includes grades loaded with natural materials of different types, which differ in colour, feel and texture. For the moment, we have chosen to use wood fibres, but we also want to try the other options that have been proposed, and to remain abreast of the developments with regard to this type of compound, which is certainly interesting from an environmental sustainability perspective».
The designer’s main focus, in developing the seat, was the object’s sensorial qualities and the need to adapt an industrial process to a new sector, always bearing in mind the key need to use and reuse the existing equipment and products. «It took a number of months to develop the seat, but the results of the testing we did are also proving useful for the production of our standard spools, used for winding electrical cables, steel cables and so on» says Luisa Parasacchi.

The testing done with WPCs has been useful in the production of our standard spools Luisa Parasacchi

Think green

«Thanks to the positive reception Bobina has received in the interior and exterior furnishing sector we feel encouraged to see how we might fare at trade fairs, but also to develop the idea further, focusing on sustainability as we research innovative new features» continues Caporaso. «Through research into materials, combined with a new approach to design, it is proving possible to overcome prejudices rooted in the perception of green products as unpretentious but not particularly attractive. Importantly, consumers are becoming increasingly tuned in to the quest for beautiful and functional objects, obtained with a less aggressive impact on the ecosystem».
Another aspect not to be overlooked is quality. «This is an aspect that must characterise a product throughout its lifespan: it is what good design guarantees every day, and it is a principle further strengthened by the concept of the circular economy. The lifelong quality of products, understood in terms of their aesthetics and performance, is the element that binds them to us, and makes us value them. Thus, they must be repairable, reusable and long-lasting. In this sense, design plays a key role» concludes Caporaso.

plasticWOOD: a green company
plasticWOOD is the youngest company in the Geofin group. Established in 2001, the mission of this Verona-based company is to combine technology with environmental protection, offering products derived from renewable sources and regenerated polymers. It is currently offering a line of wood-plastic composites (WPCs), consisting of a polyolefin-based thermoplastic matrix loaded, in proportions of up to 60%, with vegetable flours specifically developed for injection moulding. «We use fir wood flour, in particular, although, driven by our inclination for research and design, we have also tested rice and wheat straw, apple peel processing waste, olive pits and many other vegetable fibres available in the agricultural sector, which, being waste products, make our product’s LCA even more advantageous» explains Dino Sprea, owner of plasticWOOD. «The different types of vegetable fibre do not affect the performance of the compound, only, if anything, its colour and aesthetic characteristics (and thus those of the manufactured product) and its feel. For example, when you use rice straw, you get a compound of the same grey colour as a rice stem, whereas wheat straw will give you a golden coloured compound, like the colour of wheat» Sprea goes on. The real advantage of these WPCs over plastics is their aesthetic value, because the of wood flour graining effect, at the end of the manufacturing process, gives each piece a very particular and unique appearance. From a technical point of view, the compounds are characterised by high fluidity, an excellent overall balance between mechanical and thermal properties, and high flexural strength. What is more, and this is a particularly interesting aspect, in injection moulding they are just as versatile and easy to use as traditional polymers, and therefore there is no need to invest in new equipment.
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