Mah Jong, the modular sofa from Roche Bobois, celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2021. After revolutionizing the world of seating in the 1970s, this timeless series has been “dressed” by numerous great designers, including the late Kenzö Takada, who died shortly after designing his final fabric collection for this iconic sofa.
Designed by Hans Hopfer in 1971, the Mah Jong offers total freedom in form and function. “When the Mah Jong was created, it generated its own little revolution that mirrored the counterculture movement taking place in society. An ultraflexible system, it had a profound influence on how people arranged their living spaces, providing very relaxed seating to meet everyone’s needs,” explains Cindy Susilo, marketing director of Roche Bobois North America. A unique system, it has three basic elements—seat cushion, straight back, and corner—that can be combined in multiple layouts, from slipper chair to enormous corner sofa.
It did not take long for this high-quality piece of furniture handmade in Italy to become extremely popular. In the beginning, it was available only in conventional, neutral solid colours. The bold character of Mah Jong was not accentuated with colour until some 30 years later, when Takada reinvented its look entirely. It then assumed its true position as an iconic Roche Bobois piece, and this collaboration with the Japanese designer led to many others. In 2007, Missoni played with the balance between pattern and texture, followed by Jean-Paul Gaultier, who designed versions in sailor stripes and the graphic motifs of his haute couture fashion; in 2013, Sonia Rykiel brought her signature coloured stripes to the series. From the Street Art movement in 2015 to Canada’s 150th anniversary and from Venice, Bilbao, and the Palace of Versailles to a reinterpretation by visual artist Joana Vasconcelos, the Mah Jong has attracted all styles around the globe. Inspired young talents have also had the opportunity to reinvent it in their own way at various events, notably in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montréal.
Loyal to Roche Bobois and always delighted to come up with new fabrics for the Mah Jong, Missoni and Takada have created numerous versions over the years and imagined something new for its 50th anniversary. Takada produced three fabric collections: very fresh Umi, flamboyant Natsu, and relaxing Irune. A new feature inspired by Mah Jong Outdoor, which includes a metal base with a random perforated pattern, is that cushions can now be placed on a Japanese-style wooden base.
Thanks to its innovative, uncomplicated approach to comfort, and incredibly versatile layout, the Mah Jong sofa has influenced and continues to influence the world of interior design (from both inside and out), since the creation of the Outdoor version. Today, with the Roche Bobois “Mah Jong 3D” app, you can select the layout, customize each element with the designer fabric collections of your choice, and view a 3D photo of your future Mah Jong sofa, all from the comfort of home.