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Emilio Ambasz, born in Argentina, lives now in the USA, but works everywhere: Europe, Asia and in the Americas. He is an architect and de­signer of unique relevance on the international scene.

Ambasz practices his many professions in a manner completely differ­ent from that of the traditional American architectural office, which is gen­erally segmented into very specialized and circumscribed fields. His activ­ities range from architecture to landscape design, from graphic to industri­al design, from interior design to the creation of furniture, while encom­passing among other activities, urban planning, criticism, and an expertise in industrial manufacturing processes. This is not meant to imply a dilet­tante's approach or a rough concentration. On the contrary, one may say that in practically everyone of his fields, Emilio has achieved extraordinary results, as evidenced by his many accomplishments and awards. Some time ago, I learned that he had even been awarded the Prize Jean de la Fontaine for his Working Fables. It does not surprise me; the subtlety and intelli­gence of his criticism and written comments are well known.

I still remember the surprise that arose from his unexpected entry into the Italian design scene when, in June of 1976, we learned that, in addition to his already renowned image as Curator of Design at the Museum of Mod­ern Art in New York City, he had also achieved the distinction of being the creator of the 'Vertebra' chair, a chair he originated, and then designed and developed in collaboration with G. Piretti. 'Vertebra' was the first automat­ic, articulated office chair in the world. On this occasion, as with the many others which followed, the impor­tance of his achievement was immediately evident to all. We were not be­ing presented with yet another variation from the large catalog of ergonom­ic office chairs; 'Vertebra' represented a new and important re-evaluation of the notion of ergonomic seating, to such an extent that it dated everything that had been done before. It was, and is, the reference point for everything that has been designed in its field since.

Even today, after so many years, we still perceive the importance of the changes brought about by 'Vertebra.' The chair has become the standard for any other further improvement in design. It has influenced even the all important German school of ergonomic seating design, which has in the last years seen a shift form the user manipulated chairs, characteristic of the last years of German seating design, towards Ambasz's notion of automatic and flexible seating. (This latter change is due in no small part, to the collabora­tion of the German furniture industry with non-German designers.)

In the same way that Ambasz's basic concept for 'Vertebra' impressed us all, it seems to me that we will never get used to his omnipresent design ability. It is both stimulating, as well as slightly frightening, to know that at this very moment, in some part of the world, he is designing yet anoth­er project or inventing another concept that may, once again, bring about a sudden change in design.


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