“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
Buy the book: Amazon
Job Smeets and Nynke Tynagel have renovated and converted a 1960s villa into a home-cum-museum. To add authenticity to their restoration of the villa, the designers tracked down the same model of car owned by the previous occupants – a 1972 Ford Taunus GXL Coupé – which now sits in the garage, ready for use.
Studio Job House, Bergijk, Netherlands, via: Wallpaper, Photography: R. Kot
“During the London Design Festival, The Victoria & Albert Museum invited us to intervene in any space we wanted within the Museum: the result is Textile Field an installation 30 meters long and 8 meters wide which takes over 240m sq of the floor of the famous Raphael Cartoons Gallery.
“An invitation to lascivious reverie. Our intention is to propose a different, casual approach to freely experience what can be a quite intimidating environment, such as a museum. We conceived an expansive, coloured foam and textile piece with gentle inclinations to produce a sensual field on which to comfortably lounge while meditating on the surrounding Raphael Cartoons. Everyone can immerse into this temporary installation, for a minute, an hour or more, that is the idea. No efforts, no apprehension just contemplation.”
A renowned photographer in the fashion industry, Stéphane Laniray travels to Tokyo twice a year. Stuck for long hours in his hotel room, waiting for the next runway event to be shot, the French artist decided to stave off boredom in going out and taking pictures of the city. The Tokyo Architecture series resulted of his wanderings around town. Private dwellings, government buildings and offices, public lighting or factories attracted the eye of Laniray, particulary fond of architecture, and a great admirer of Mies van der Rohe’s achievements.
Tokyo is stripped bare of any explicit representation (crowded and extremely lively, but also suffocatingly hot at the time the series was shot). Each image is multiplied, distorted into a renewed evocation, unleashing imagination. Far from cliché representations of Tokyo, Laniray’s quest for urban poetry reveals the raw beauty of a wall covered in graffiti, and turns a glass building into a finely shaped diamond. In most of the photographs, human beings are nowhere to be seen; a line of trees or tangled electric wires design a whole new urban story. Focused on actual details, the artist depicts a fantasied rendering of Japan’s capital city. Stéphane Laniray, whose pictures can regularly be seen in prominent Interior decorating magazines, owns and runs the Anorak Gallery in Paris.
(Journalist Elodie Palasse-Leroux is the founder and editor of Sleek design)
Tokyo Architecture, by Stéphane Laniray
Designer Taku Satoh recreated a 3-dimensional version of the Japanese alphabet by stacking numerous layers of paper.