The Dutchman Gerrit Rietveld (1888 – 1964) was one of the most important designers and architects of the 20th century. He was trained as a carpenter and was associated early on with the De Stijl movement and its central figures, Theo van Doesburg and Piet Mondrian. Beginning in 1918, his work reflects the artistic ideals of this group. Rietveld transformed objects and buildings into abstract compositions of lines and planes, mainly in black, white, grey and the primary colours yellow, red and blue. However, he initially developed his legendary Red-Blue Chair in 1918 without the striking colour scheme from which its name is derived – the coloured version dates from the year 1923. Rietveld’s first architectural project, the now legendary Rietveld-Schröder House, followed in 1924. In search of ways to further develop his radical aesthetic ideas, Rietveld soon distanced himself from the aesthetics of De Stijl. Throughout the 1930s, he pursued experimental work, especially with innovative materials such as plywood and aluminium. One example of the unusual furnishings created out of these materials is the Zig-Zag Chair (c. 1932). After 1945, Rietveld was primarily active as an architect, designing prestigious buildings such as the Dutch Pavilion on the premises of the Venice Biennale. By the time of the major De Stijl retrospective at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1952/53, Rietveld had attained international recognition as a pioneer of modern design. This Vitra Design Museum exhibition is the first major retrospective on Gerrit Rietveld to be presented to the German-speaking public since 1996. Comprising around 320 objects – including furniture, models, paintings, photographs, films and approximately 100 original drawings and plans – it offers a comprehensive overview of the Dutch designer’s work. In addition, it incorporates comparative works by contemporaries such as Theo van Doesburg, Bart van der Leck, Le Corbusier and Marcel Breuer, thus shedding light on the mutual exchange of ideas and Rietveld’s place in the context of other modernist currents.
Viewed in the light of this new retrospective, many facets of Gerrit Rietveld’s work prove to be astonishingly relevant today. For example, his urban plans appear to have much more in common with current developments than many radical utopian concepts put forth by other modernist architects, since Rietveld’s were based on social aspects rather than dogmatic principles. And with a series of furniture for self-assembly in the 1930s and ’40s, Rietveld anticipated even today’s do-it-yourself trend and the concept of “open design”.
Gerrit Rietveld: The Revolution of Space, May 17 – September 16, at Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany
Illustration by architect Tadao Ando of the Farnsworth House (1945-51) designed by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. (Image: Farnsworth House, 2009, Ink on paper, 18 1/2” x 12 3/4” each, Courtesy of the architect.)
The first special project by White Cube in Brazil, Facts and Systems (Fatos e Sistemas) is an exhibition of two new series of works. In one room, the artist will present dramatic body forms made from stacked, mild steel blocks that punctuate and articulate the gallery. In another room, he will present a group of linear sculptures made from 6mm steel road that continue his investigation into architectural space.
Buckminster Fuller and Chuck Byrne, Building Construction/Geodesic Dome, United States Patent Office no. 2,682,235, from the portfolio Inventions: Twelve Around One, 1981; screen print in white ink on clear polyester film; 30 in. x 40 in. (76.2 cm x 101.6 cm); Collection SFMOMA, gift of Chuck and Elizabeth Byrne; © The Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller, All Rights reserved. Published by Carl Solway Gallery, Cincinnati.
Buckminster Fuller and Chuck Byrne, Motor Vehicle-Dymaxion Car, United States Patent Office no. 2,101,057, from the portfolio Inventions: Twelve Around One, 1981; screen print in white ink on clear polyester film; 30 in. x 40 in. (76.2 cm x 101.6 cm); Collection SFMOMA, gift of Chuck and Elizabeth Byrne; © The Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller, All Rights reserved. Published by Carl Solway Gallery, Cincinnati.
Buckminster Fuller and Chuck Byrne, Undersea Island-Submarisle, United States Patent Office no. 3,080,583,from the portfolio Inventions: Twelve Around One, 1981; screen print on Lenox paper; 30 in. x 40 in. (76.2 cm x 101.6 cm); Collection SFMOMA, gift of Chuck and Elizabeth Byrne; © The Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller, All Rights reserved. Published by Carl Solway Gallery, Cincinnati.
Buckminster Fuller and Chuck Byrne, Non-Symetrical Tension-Integrity Structures, United States Patent Office no. 3,866,366, from the portfolio Inventions: Twelve Around One, 1981; screen print in white ink on clear polyester film; 30 in. x 40 in. (76.2 cm x 101.6 cm); Collection SFMOMA, gift of Chuck and Elizabeth Byrne; © The Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller, All Rights reserved. Published by Carl Solway Gallery, Cincinnati.
Buckminster Fuller and Chuck Byrne, Laminar Geodesic Dome, United States Patent Office no. 3,203,144, from the portfolio Inventions: Twelve Around One, 1981; screen print in white ink on clear polyester film; 30 in. x 40 in. (76.2 cm x 101.6 cm); Collection SFMOMA, gift of Chuck and Elizabeth Byrne; © The Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller, All Rights reserved. Published by Carl Solway Gallery, Cincinnati.
Buckminster Fuller and Chuck Byrne, 4D House, United States Patent Office no. 1,793, from the portfolio Inventions: Twelve Around One, 1981; screen print on Lenox paper; 30 in. x 40 in. (76.2 cm x 101.6 cm); Collection SFMOMA, gift of Chuck and Elizabeth Byrne; © The Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller, All Rights reserved. Published by Carl Solway Gallery, Cincinnati.
The Bay Area has long attracted dreamers, progressives, nonconformists, and designers. Buckminster Fuller was all of these, and although he never lived in San Francisco, his ideas have spawned many local experiments in technology, design, and sustainability. The first to consider Fuller’s legacy in the Bay Area, this exhibition features some of his most iconic projects, as represented in a Fuller print portfolio recently acquired by SFMOMA, Inventions: Twelve Around One. Along with Fuller inventions like the 4D House, Geodesic Dome, World Game, and Dymaxion car, the exhibition presents Bay Area endeavors — from Ant Farm’s 1972 domed Convention City proposal to the North Face Oval Intention tent, and from IwamotoScott’s Jellyfish House to One Laptop Per Child — inspired by Fuller’s visionary designs connecting technology, ecology, and social responsibility.
The Utopian Impulse: Buckminster Fuller and the Bay Area, March 31 – July 29, 2012,
at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, SFMOMA
Chandlo was designed as a special prototype made by BD Barcelona for Das Haus 2012. This was an installation by Doshi Levien for IMM Cologne that explored their vision of a perfect home. Das Haus consisted of interconnected spaces opening up to a central courtyard. The different areas of the home depended mainly on objects and furniture to define space.
The seemingly abstract composition of the mirrors, cabinet and surface is based on the gestures and daily ritual of dressing up and grooming, celebrating the enjoyment of getting dressed and the importance of personal grooming as part of our daily well being ritual.
An architectural composition of forms and planes are designed to be viewed from all sides, revealing different aspects of the object as you walk around it. Chandlo means moon shape and also Bindi that is the coloured dot worn by Indian women on the forehead to which the circular mirror makes reference.
Our intention was to create a composition in which the elements are holding each other in position without actually touching. To maintain the simplicity of this deconstructed arrangement, we had to conceal the production methods and this presented many technical challenges overcome masterfully by BD Barcelona.
Chandlo Dressing Table, by Doshi Levien
After almost ten years, Eric Jourdan is back to present his design in a gallery on invitation by Marie Bérangère Gosserez. With three pieces and a series of vases, he positions his plastic and functional morphology in a striking way as he is one of the rare French designers able to do it. Once you like Jourdan, you will always like him as his design is so constant it is symbolic of designers with design as the driving force ‘At the beginning I never imagine an object or a piece of furniture as a whole, I draw a detail (an assemblage, a groove, a link…) which will lead me to another and then another … This method is linked to the practice of drawing which creates a continuous link between all these sketches. The organisation of these forms follows later. I arrange, remove, build and assemble elements which become different pieces.”
“Drawing can be liberating or imprisoning; it depends on where we stop the infernal machine which consists of covering whole notebooks. That is where your associate steps in: organising; clarifying; making you take a step back. For this exhibition the role was fulfilled by Marie-Bérangère Gosserez.”
There is no story telling with Eric Jourdan and therefore no scenarios, leaving room for pure form, like his fellow students Charpin, Bauchet, Bouroullec and no artistic sanctification of his plastic manipulation either : “Showing work in a gallery could be seen as an outlet allowing a designer to be liberated from industrial or commercial constraints, but this is not so, design does not just happen on its own without a drawing, without a gallery owner or a manufacturer…Through this exhibition, I want to show that everything will always be just exchanges, mistakes, disappointment, tension, feedback, progress and pleasure. I do not believe in the posture of artists; it is all about co-production in our profession.’
Promenade console table, Mirror Tower, Sign floor lamp, Blocks vases
Forms, by Eric Jourdan, at Galerie Gosserez
“Plywood,” explained Popular Science in 1948, “is a layercake of lumber and glue.” In the history of design, plywood is also an important modern material that has given 20th-century designers of everyday objects, furniture, and even architecture greater flexibility in shaping modern forms at an industrial scale. This installation features examples, drawn from MoMA’s collection, of modern designs that take advantage of the formal and aesthetic possibilities offered by plywood, from around 1930 through the 1950s. Archival photographs illuminate the process of design and manufacture in plywood. Iconic furniture by Alvar Aalto, Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, and Arne Jacobsen appear alongside Organic Platters by Tapio Wirkkala (1951), Sori Yanagi’s Butterfly Stool (1956), an architectural model for a prefabricated house by Marcel Breuer (1943), and experimental designs for plywood in the aeronautics industry.
Plywood: Material, Process, Form, at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York City, Photography © Jason Mandella
Central to the French postwar reconstruction/industrialization effort, Philippon and Lecoq were among a group of young architects who changed the face of French furniture production in the 1950s and 1960s. Inspired by the teachings of the modernist masters of the Union des Artistes Modernes (U.A.M.), their goal was to bring harmony and comfort to interiors, employing modern materials and techniques, to improve the daily life of French citizens in the challenging postwar climate. Philippon and Lecoq’s furniture combines minimalism with a pervasive sense of architectural refinement and elegance. The couple approached interiors as well with an almost puritanical sense of functionalism, but succeeded in creating an extremely efficient environment which was still comfortable and humanly accessible. They received numerous prestigious awards during their career including the ‘Rene Gabriel’ prize in 1961.
Exhibition: Antoine Philippon and Jacqueline Lecoq, at Demisch Danant
The Mobilier National is the successor to the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne (the entity originally responsible for the safeguarding of royal furnishings and tapestries), which was reorganized by Colbert in 1663; its structure still serves as the basis for the current administration’s organization. In addition to maintaining inventories and conserving and caring for furnishings, the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne also acted as an important force for preserving classic techniques through its traditional workshops. It was responsible for furnishing royal residences and issued the commissions necessary for these programs. This remains the central role for the Mobilier National, which is now responsible for the interior design and furnishing of presidential residences, as well as official buildings (ministries, embassies, major government agencies, the National Assembly, and the Senate).
In the early 1960s, the French government, under the leadership of André Malraux, then the Minister of Culture, inaugurated a policy of supporting creative endeavor; the objective was to provide genuine patronage that would foster the revival of French furniture design. As part of this commitment, the Atelier de Recherche et de Création (ARC) was established in 1964 under the direction of Jean Coural. The mission of this entity was to promote contemporary French styles, providing designers with modern technical resources and manufacturers with distribution opportunities, based on carefully directed research.
The ARC is a research laboratory with a highly qualified staff devoted to studying new materials and creating prototypes that are developed through collaboration with designers and in close cooperation with interested manufacturers. The design models remain the property of the government but may be subsequently distributed by a French producer.
The finest designers of the 1960s and 1970s worked with Mobilier National, and the most significant creations of the era were products of this venture. Since its inception, the ARC has produced over 500 pieces of furniture, including special commissions for french pavilions at expositions of Montreal and Osaka, presidential residences and offices, and more recently the French embassy in Berlin and the Ministry of Culture and of Communication.
Exhibition: Mobilier National, New York, November 8 – February 11, at Demisch Danant
In the Boros residence – a former Second World War air raid shelter built in 1942 in central Berlin – visitors can easily lose their way in the maze-like corridors of bare concrete.
Bullet holes from the Second World War testify the historical significance of the building. The heart of this hermetic concrete cube contains an exhibition of contemporary works from the private collection of ad agency founder and publisher, Christian Boros. In order to create a suitable space for the collection, architect Jens Casper deconstructed the 3,000 square meter bunker, which was once devoid of natural light, transforming it into a complex room arrangement. The glass superstructure of the penthouse is the polar opposite of the cube’s massiness.
There, Christian and his wife, Karen, live with their son amidst paintings by Elizabeth Peyton and a series of installations by groundbreaking artists such as Olafur Eliasson. It is a dream home that once seemed impossible to realize, but has now become an art manifesto for Berlin’s historical Mitte district, where change is the norm.
Boros Collection, Edited by Boros Foundation, Photographs by Noshe, German, English, 2009. 198 pp., 68 color ills. 24 x 32 cm, hardcover, ISBN 9783775724784
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