When Space Age Designers Went Balls Crazy

A model of the artificial satellite Sputnik 1, 1957; image courtesy of the National Air and Space Museum, Washington DC

When Space Age Designers Went Balls Crazy
Fifteen iconic globe and ball designs from the 1960s and 1970s

The period between the early 1960s and early 1970s was marked by an optimistic view of the future as a time when technology would take us, quoting Star Trek, “where no man has gone before”. .
Such a hopeful attitude has been fueled by an impressive streak of scientific achievement – ​​in space exploration, engineering, materials science, physics and medicine. All in all, these achievements completely changed people’s habits and daily lives in just a few years and made the potential of the human race seem limitless.
The designers have reflected this confidence in the future in objects characterized by iconic shapes, a preference for synthetic materials and a futuristic look; in a word, all the particularities of what is today called “Space Age Design”.

Perhaps inspired by the shape of Sputnik I or the popular depiction of planets and subatomic particles as smooth, shiny balls, designers at the time clearly had a strong preference, a real passion one might say, for globular shapes, spheres and bubbles. Indeed, ball-shaped furniture, lamps, toys and appliances were ubiquitous in the 1960s and, although the phenomenon lasted only a few years, they left an indelible mark on the distinctive style of this period.

Moon, suspension, Verner Panton, 1960

The “Moon” suspension designed by Verner Panton (Denmark) for Louis Poulsen in 1960; lacquered metal; image 1stdibs.com

Vernee Panton Moon Lamp

Vener Panton with the Moon lamp, image Verner Panton Design AG, Basel.

Gino Sarfatti, Lampda 586, Arteluce, 1962

Gino Sarfatti (Italy), “568” table lamp, Arteluce, 1962; polished aluminum; image Cambi auction house.

Tobia Scarpa, Jucker table lamp, Flos 1963

The “Jucker” table lamp designed by Tobia Scarpa (Italy) for Flos in 1963; lacquered metal; Palainco picture.

Eero Aarnio, Ball chair, 1963

Eero Arnio (Finland) Ball Chair, 1963; fiberglass and aluminum; image courtesy of aarnoriginals.com

Eero Arnio, Ball Chair, Cross Section; image courtesy of Design Museum Helsinki.

Eero Aarnio, Ball Chair, Million Dollar Brain movie 2

A still from the 1967 movie “Billion Dollar Brain” directed by Ken Russell.

Eero Aarnio, Bubble Chairs, 1968

Eero Aarnio, Bubble Chairs, Adelta, 1968; acrylic glass and steel.

Vico Magistretti, Eclisse Lamp, Artemide, 1965

Vico Magistretti (Italy), Eclisse table lamp, Artemide, 1965; lacquered metal.

Giovanni Luigi Gorgoni, Buonanotte table lamp, Stilnovo, 1965

Giovanni Luigi Gorgoni (Italy), Buonanotte table lamp, Stilnovo, 1965; lacquered metal.

Globe-shaped pendant light, Stilnovo, 1960s

A 1960s globe-shaped pendant lamp made by the Italian company Stilnovo; image 1stdibs.com.

Space Hopper Toy Rubber Ball

The “Space Hopper” (as it is known in the UK, “Hoppity Hop” in the US and “Pon-pon” in Italy) was a popular bouncing ball toy invented by the Italian company Ledrogomma in 1968.

Boys in Glasgow with Space Hopper toys, vintage photo

Two boys playing with their Space Hoppers in Glasgow, 1970s; image source Brainpickings.com.

Panasonic 7-70 Panapet hanging radio, 1970

The Panapet 70, also known as the R-70S model, was a ball-shaped AM radio created in 1970 by Japanese manufacturer Panasonic to celebrate the Osaka World’s Fair; Image courtesy of Deutsches Kunstoff Museum.

JVC Videosphere TV 1970

Also known as the Model 3240, the Videosphere was a helmet-shaped CRT television – made of plastic, glass and metal – manufactured from 1970 to the early 1980s by the Japanese company JVC; image courtesy of RISD Museum.

Space age design, JVC Videosphere TV 1970 vintage advertisement

A vintage JVC Videosphere advertisement.

Weltron 2001 Spaceball Portable Radio 1970

Nicknamed “Spaceball”, the Weltron 2001 was a portable stereo manufactured by the American company Welton and released in 1970; image VNTG.com

1970 Electrohome Apollo 860 turntable and speakers

British company BSR (Birmingham Sound Reproducers) Electrohome Apollo 860 turntable stereo receiver with globe-shaped speakers, 1970; image lofty.com.

Space-age design Rosita Vision 2000 Hi-Fi system with Grundig Audiorama speakers

A Rosita Vision 2000 (1971) HIFI system designed by German designer Thilo Oerke with two Grundig Audiorama 7000 (1970) HIFI speakers; image stdibs.com.

Grundig Audiorama 7000 spherical speakers

The Grundig Audiorama 7000 HIFI can either be mounted on a pedestal or as hanging speakers using a chain.

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