The interior design of Moonbase Alpha
Space:1999 TV show is a permanent showcase of design and creativity - Italian and not - of the ’60s and ‘70s.
Moonbase Alpha Status Report. 2610 days after leaving Earth orbit
In the mind of the commander Koenig, the algid voice of the computer still resounded: “Insufficient data, human decision required”. Once again, it was his turn. Sitting in front of his desk, the commander’s face was tense and tired. Operation Exodus. Was it the best choice? Abandon Alpha forever and move to a planet full of pitfalls but also opportunities?
At that moment Professor Bergman entered the commander’s office. He sat down on the small armchair and placed the hot cup of coffee on the table, between the diagrams and the measurements carried out by the Eagles. Both looked at each other for a moment, but remained silent.
At the same time, Dr. Russell, in the Medical Centre, was busy dosing the treatment for Alan and Sandra, who had just returned from the Eagle 4 crash on the take-off ramp. He looked at them in the recliners’ beds, illuminated by the dim light of the lamps. He noticed Sandra moaning. Standing up, he dropped the hanger, but did not care.
Space: 1999 was my favorite tv series. It has remained in my heart, in my memories, in my dreams. “Humanistic” science fiction, “Solaris” or “2001: A Space Odyssey” style, was enriched with special effects that are still valid today. The Alphans, lost in a psychedelic and incomprehensible cosmos, were very elegant in their ivory uniforms, with the only trace of color of the left sleeve. Moonbase Alpha’s rooms seemed to a collection of futuristic, elegant, sinuous, essential furniture and design objects … a moment … It really was a design collection!
For the first and only time (that I know of), the sets in a science fiction series were full of furnishing elements designed by famous designers. Many of them came from the Italian school* that in the ’60s and ‘70s invaded the world with its creativity and its industrial approach to design. Even the manufacturing companies were mainly Italian, experimentation labs with innovative materials and shapes.
I want to give some examples, with images and informations taken from the site Catacombs.net, bible of the TV show, lovingly edited, managed and guarded by Martin Willey.
The “Pileo Floor Lamp” (above) was designed by Gae Aulenti for Artemide. It is one of the iconic highlights of the Moonbase Alpha, together with the “Sorella” table lamp (below), designed by Rodolfo Bonetto and produced by Guzzini.
In the following image, the absorbed professor Bergman (Barry Morse) is seated on the “Toga” armchair by Sergio Mazza (1968, Artemide), next to the “Lucciola” lamp by Fabio Lenci (1971, iGuzzini) and the “Mezzatessera” table by Vico Magistretti (1966, Artemide).
Several other Magistretti works have been used. Also because of the name could not miss the famous chair “Selene” (1971, Artemide), visible here together with the desk “Jarama” by Alberto Rosselli (1969, Saporiti).
The ubiquitous table “Stadio” (1966, Artemide) is also by Magistretti.
The desk container of commander Koenig (Martin Landau) is a Pio Manzù’s work (1969, Kartell). He was the son of the sculptor Giacomo and designer of the Fiat 127. The chair is instead German (1972, Odo Close).
It could not miss a fragment of the lost Italian way to electronics and computer science pursued by Olivetti: the calculator “Divisumma 18”, designed by Mario Bellini and used in an episode as an unlikely precursor of Google Translator.
Even the aliens, in the series created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, have a remarkable aesthetic taste. In a spaceship we find, for example, an armchair by designer Joe Colombo, “Elda” (1965, Comfort).
Another Colombo’s work, the storage cart “Boby”.
Finally, in this brief review, we can not fail to mention unisex uniforms (“tunics”) created by the Austrian-born American fashion designer and gay activist Rudi Gernreich, Barbara Bain’s friend.
* An interesting story of Italian design can be retraced through the graduation thesis of Simona Scopelliti (in Italian).