Skip to Content Skip to Search Go to Top Navigation Go to Side Menu


"functional" Tag


Becoming an Utopian Dream


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

 

stoel 1

 Picture 1: The Wassily Chair (Model B3)

 

Marcel Breuer

Wassily Chair (Model B3)

1927 – 1928

 

Medium:

Chrome-plated tubular steel and canvas

Dimensions

28 1/4 x 30 3/4 x 28″ (71.8 x 78.1 x 71.1 cm)

 

I still remember when I was a child the furniture of my uncle was always in the way. I couldn’t play with my toys because of the strange shimmering steel frame that was blocking my way. As I grew bigger and bigger I found out that the frame was part of a chair, but not a very comfortable one. I climbed the chair, but my legs got stuck between the spaces of the frame. The only thing that went on in my mind was, why the hell would you buy a chair that’s not comfortable at all? Later I found out that the annoying thing that was blocking my playground was a part of the chair that I now recognize as the “Wassily Chair” made by Marcel Breuer in 1927. A chair that symbolizes modernist design.

stoel 2

Picture 2: Reclameposter from the bicycle brand Adler, the brand from the bicycle on which the chair is inspired. 

 
The story goes that Breuer often rode a red bicycle and that this inspired him and led him make the most important innovation in furniture design: the use of tubular steel (Picture 3). Strong and lightweight. Perfect for mass-production. A model that is based on the traditional overstuffed club chair: but all that remains is mere the outline. In this way, an elegant composition of gleaming steel arises. The seat, back and arms seem to float in the air. An interesting tension between heavy and light is created.

stoel 3

Picture 3: The “exposed” chair

By scrolling over the internet, I found a picture that really catches my eye. On this picture (Picture 3), an “exposed” version of the chair is showed. The photo makes me curious, I want to see and touch the steel and throw it and feel how heavy it is. See what happens if you turn the frame around, would it still be a chair? It looks a little bit ridiculous. In my head, it looks like a tool for a playground, or a tool to work-out with, no wonder that I got stuck. But at the same time, it looks fragile and light, and the shiny steel creates an effect of a mirror, it reflects the surroundings. All of this creates the feeling as if the completely chair doesn’t exist. The feeling that I had as a child, by almost disappearing in the chair pops up in my head. The feeling of exposure, getting stuck between a frame that is almost invisible, in other words a human trap.

Breuer himself spoke of the chair as “My most extreme work… the least artistic, the most logical, the least ‘cosy’ and the most mechanical.” And he was probably right.

stoel 4

Picture 4: Marcel Breuer on his Wassily Chair

The chair is part of the style of Bauhaus. Which is part of the Modernism movement. Modernism is a term widely used, but rarely defined. We live in an era that still identifies itself in terms of Modernism. The buildings we inhabit, the chairs we sit on, the graphic design that surrounds us have mostly been created by the aesthetics and the ideology of Modernist design. The term refers to something that is characteristically modern, of its time. “The New”, “forward-looking”. In the designing world, it can be defined as: “Modernism is not a style, but loose collections of ideas.” It covered a range of styles, spread along different countries. But all those sites have in common that they were espousal for the new and mostly rejected history and tradition. An utopian desire to create a better world, to reinvent the world from scratch. Belief in the power and potential of the machine and industrial technology. Where there is a rejection of decoration and ornament. And a belief in the unity of all the arts. Most of the principles were frequently combined with social and political beliefs, which held that design and art could and should transform the society (Wilk, 2006), and by this raise the standards of living for all people [x].
It’s a global architecture and design movement emerged in the 1920 as a response to accelerated industrialization and social changes. By using new materials and advanced technology. It emphasized function, simplicity, rationality and created new forms of expression with a new aesthetic. Building and design can be recognized by use of clear lines, geometric shaped, cubic forms, windows, flat roofs and functional flexible spaces (Poursani, 2018).

The Bauhaus movement, started as a design school in 1919 by Walter Cropius, Mies and Marcel Breuer, Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee. They combined technology, crafts with industrial production to revitalize design for everyday life (Poursani, 2018). They thought that ‘new machine age’ demanded a new way of living and a new architecture with new materials as reinforced concrete, steel, and glass (Poursani, 2018). Their design principles, such as simplicity, rationality, functionality and universality, would change the world (Poursani, 2018). Their mission was to create a functional design with the principles of fine arts. Faith in new technology convenience and the promise of a better life. New materials brought new possibilities, break with the conventional forms, and use traditional and modern materials that show the possibilities of the modern industry. Functionalism is priority. Production for everybody a fact.

stoel 5

Picture 5: The Wassily chair in its “natural” habitat 

When I was able to climb the chair, I got stuck between the frame made out of steel. The space between the black leather and the frame was something where I got lost into, and my body didn’t know how to findrest in this chair.  The leather seat turned into a slide, and the chair became for me more an attraction then an object with the function of sitting. A labyrinth of body, steel and leather, or maybe a hybrid creature seen from far away. Where the object and the human became one, or where they are maybe to different.

Seeing this chair in the Stedelijk, brings questions to the mind. For example, by placing the chair in the museum, its uniqueness is accentuated. But do cheap reproductions destroy this feeling of uniqueness again? Does the space where the chair is placed have influence on how we look at it? The function of the chair is faded, by placing it really high and not as how it should be (picture 6).

stoel 6

Picture 6: The floating chair

Could you speak of design for “everybody”, when the price of a “real” Wassily chair is “almost” unaffordable. Does the contrast between functionality and comfort, make the chair a utopian idea?

stoel 7

Picture 7: The Rising Star (prize wise)

By designing an object, such as a chair, the tension between the user and the object is important. There seems to be a confusion between things that are designed and who is going to use it. There is a risk that design can be over-determined and this creates not enough space for the user to act and improvise on the object. Knowledge about people, capabilities and needs and desires is required. It seems that there is a misunderstanding in the way that the intention seems to design the user experience, but this doesn’t make the user the subject of design. By the design of the Bauhaus form became subordinate to the function. Design became not only a matter of forming objects, but increasingly a matter of how ways of use and even ways of living can be designed and in this way, it turned into designing with a social agenda. This clearly state an ambition of social transformation. But by now we know that while the social aspects of the modernist project may have been ambitious, they did not necessarily succeed. Misfits between the intended and actual use, and the user’s understanding is something that exist, but this doesn’t need to mean that they are not necessary to have. Misfits can bring new knowledge on what can be improved. Also by designing you’re in a sort of way predicting how the object will be “used”. But this doesn’t mean that it will work out in this way. Communication between the user and the designed object is based on understanding and interpretation, misunderstanding can also be seen as a point of this. It’s in important to understand that people are active parts of the system and not only a “user” because they are turned into an object. By designing it’s not possible to making people fit into systems, societies and strategies. People are fluent and flexible, such as their taste, needs and desires.And besides that, people are moving creatures, changeable, and different. Creating something that fits all of them is a beautiful utopian idea (Redstrom, 2005).

Back to the chair again, a couple years ago I found out that the chair from my uncle had disappeared from the room. The space of where the chair ones was located is filled with some new interior stuff. Something soft, more colourful and bigger. When I asked my uncle where the chair went he said that he had put it with the trash (picture 8). Not even tried to sell it, because according to him nobody would have been interested. Maybe this was something that should have happened. How my connection with the chair started as an annoying object turned into a fascination for the weird structure. But how the chair in the house of my uncle turned from something functional to something that was not interesting anymore.

stoel 10stoel 11

Picture 8: Life of the Wassily chair

 

Modernist had a Utopian desire to create a better world. This they frequently combined with left-leaning political and social beliefs that design and art had the power to transform society (Lodder, 2006). The word utopia is taken from the Greek and literally means both nowhere and a good place. An impractical scheme for social improvement, an imaginary and indefinitely remote place, an ideal place or state. Something that is described as perfect, but from what you know is not possible, it’s more like a beautiful dream (Collins, s.d). Nowhere and a good place is an interesting point, because in my eyes there are contradictions from each other. A good place can exist, but maybe it’s then subjective. For example, the house of my parents is a good place to me. But nowhere only seems to exist in words. It means to no place, the state of nonexistence. So actually, it’s not there, but a good place can be, can exist. The chair makes clear that the faith in new technology is a usable for creating new objects, and in this way the step to a better life is maybe made. But the chair makes also clear that the “right” object doesn’t exist. By making the chair, an idea, an ideal, a dream, (a good place), is created as an existing object. But because the chair doesn’t completely function as a chair for all the people, because of taste, price, function and discomfort, and new materials and development of technology. It makes clear that the perfect “chair” doesn’t exist (It’s nowhere). Time is a huge disturb transmitter. Technology and innovations are changeable. Besides that, humans and their needs and desires are not predictable, stable and universal, and this makes it impossible to create an object that suits all and is timeless. The chair is the symbol of modern design. Progress is the realization of Utopias, and by creating this chair at that time a little step towards a utopian dream was made. And a progress starts with a strong idea, that then is made in practice. So maybe the outwork and how it is used doesn’t need to be perfect, and we only need a Utopian dream to move forward in making new things.

It’s interesting to see how a chair can be placed in a museum, but at the same time can be sold on Marktplaats just for 100 euros (Picture 8). How easy it is to own an “extraordinary” piece. But also, how fast you don’t want to have it anymore. When I walked in the Stedelijk, the only thing that I thought was, why are those chairs so high, I want to sit in it and try them out. Untill I saw the Wassily chair, because it gave me so much memories of my childhood. Ofcourse the chair made me more curious to try out than any other, but at the same time the “special spot” in the Stedelijk is the “special spot” that the chair deserves. The untouching, unreaching of the chair, by placing it this high, reminds me of the fact that as a child I couldn’t climb the weird steel thing. And this “unreachable” value of the object as a child I now have when I walk into the museum and this is for me a beautiful annoying feeling.

A dream that started as a functional designed chair for everyone, made of new materials. Unity of all the arts, and principles combines with social and political beliefs and raise the standard of living for all people. A step to a utopian dream. Realized and made, fitted for a living room, but where slowly the function and the appreciation faded. Just as the visions that inspired the creative figures were dreams based on the technological potential and the social experiences of that time. Maybe the chair cannot be seen as a symbol of modern design, but as a symbol of the progress to realization of Utopian dreams.

 

References:

Collins Dictionary [Online] / aut. Collins // Definition of Utopia . - 17 02 2018. - https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/utopia.

Modernism in Architecture: Definiton and History [Online] / aut. Poursani Ela. - 10 02 2018. - 2018. - https://study.com/academy/lesson/modernism-in-architecture-definition-history.html.

Searching for Utopia [Sectie van boek] / aut. Lodder Christina // Modernism: designing for a new world / boekaut. Wilk Christopher. - Londen : V&A publications , 2006.

Towards user design? On the shift from object to user as the subject of design [Tijdschrift] / aut. Redstrom Johan. - Sweden : Elsevier, 2005.

What was Modernism? [Sectie van boek] / aut. Wilk Christopher // Modernism: Designing for a better world / boekaut. Wilk Christopher. - Londen : V&A publications , 2006.

 

 

 

 

 

faux is functional


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

FAUX

 

TedNoten_ChewBrooch
Chew your own brooch • Ted Noten [1998]

 

who’s Ted Noten?

He is a Dutch artist who studied at the Rietveld Academy and at the Academy for Applied Arts. He works with themes of the unusual and familiar. The designer plays with our symbolic values and perception.

 

what’s the piece about?

Noten hands you a chewing kit, you chew the gum and send it back to him. In return he’ll give you a replica of your chewed creation but this time as a wearable brooch made out of silver or gold. Anyone can become a jewellery designer.

 

how’s that faux?

It is triggering to see the combination of the famous green gum pack next to the golden jewellery pieces when you encounter the work in the museum. Questions arise and curiosity grows. Then you realize the piece was created from saliva and teeth, and the gum pack is a replica of the real “doublemint gum” brand.

doublemint_0.351

Wrigley's Doublemint Gum

 

 A treasured replica

Ted Noten copies the recognizable design of the pack to attract the viewer’s eye and make the subject clear as most of us know this brand. As an audience you are appealed by what you think it is, but it actually isn’t. He fools us, trying to get our attention, and succeeds. However he adds his own instructions and name, and through a simple gum pack, sets the rules.

Also, the final pieces shown in the exhibition are the golden replica, which aren’t what the chewers created. It is a copy, even though it is more valuable than the original, it is still a copy, an imitation.

“It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it sometimes follows function (…)” (Het Nieuwe Instituut booklet)

In this case, no one would have worn a sticky piece of gum on themselves, but many would adore wearing a golden reproduction of what came out of their mouths (and still proudly say they made it). The function of the final piece is the reason why they accept the falseness of it.

There is a clear link between Chew your own brooch by Ted Noten and The Transylvania Archive by artists Marta Volkova and Slava Shevelenko (http://designblog.rietveldacademie.nl/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/VanilleOugen_screenshot.jpg). These three artists are trickery masters and no one blames them for it. Both of the pieces question the capacity of viewers to see through the surface and discern its core. Imitation is used plentifully and effectively but it isn’t perceived as immoral. As a matter of fact, imitation is the powerful characteristic that elevates them.

In conclusion, the copy of the gum pack served the function to explain the project visually, and the golden jewellery which is a reproduction of the actual creation serves the function to be functional.

 

follow my eyes


Saturday, April 5, 2014

 

Print

Print

Print

Print
Print

Follow my eyes through Designblog. Screen shot keywords. One image after another. In my collages each tag and image is connected. You can trace back the posts.

 

Turned to the grid


Monday, March 7, 2011

#####Turned to the grid#####

(Wim Crouwel)

When walking through the main entrance of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam towards the coatroom one quickly notices the array of poster prints papered to the subwalls of the main stairs to the second level. These prints are from past exhibitions and many are made by the functionalist designer Wim Crouwel. When Willem Sandberg (director of the SM and did most graphic work) retired in 1962 Crouwel took the job and designed many from ’64 until 1984.


Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Wim Crouwel Shapes of Colour exhibition
c Jean Pierre Jans Photography poster 1966, Contemporary Art museum poster 1971

Mondriaan or Miro 1958 (Letterpress), Vormgevers in SM, Hiroshima 1957

Wim Crouwel (Groningen, 1928) studied Visual Arts at the Academie Minerva in Groningen from 1946 until 1949. There he became acquainted with ‘The Ploeg’ artist collective that was established in 1918. His father was a block maker and perhaps this made the transition towards typeface design very logical. He Continued as an abstract painter with the ‘Creatie’ (Creation group) he joined the Amsterdam School of Art and Design evening courses and the Liga Nieuw Beelden (1954, co-created the Manifesto in 1955). The Liga was a group of urban designers making demonstrative exhibitions.

(more…)

Rietveld versus Calatrava


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Exploring Valencia (Spain) as a prologue to Manifesta8, most students of the Basic Year visited "The City of Arts & Sciences" designed by Santiago Calatrava. As inhabitants of The Gerrit Rietveld Academie designed by, and named after Gerrit Rietveld himself, a comparison became inevitable. What follows are their comments and images.

[comment by Alexandra Karpilovski]

Calatrava feels like something not for you and not for me, but for someone whom we do not see. It makes me feel small, but also nothing.
It makes me think of a monument over the times that has passed, something sculptural and grand and made to impress but fails in that and becomes something static and untouchable. That a buildng that takes up so much space is mostly used to see and not to be touched.
The difference between Calatrava and Rietveld is like comparing two different worlds. For me Rietveld represents a calm structure, everything fits effortless and live in symbiosis with each other, the whole mind behind the building is put into place, on the exact spot where they should be, the body of the houses is on the inside, while Calatrava on the other hand just goes manic and drags different forms into space, just to make it look interesting.
Calatrava makes me feel that someone is trying to say something, but of course I don´t understand, it is to big for me.

[comment by Michael Hautmulle]
Both Calatrava and Rietveld are known for the details in their work, and it shows in both their work. The way in which they both apply it is very different however, where Rietveld has designed beautiful buildings, they are beautifull because of their practicality, so that every detail is constructed to make the use of the building more clear and make the life and function of the occupant more clear. Calatrava has a very different approach, he uses details purely on an esthetic basis, his building may not be very practical, I do not say whether or not they are beautiful, that is an individual matter, but every centimeter has been specifically designed to create the image that he desires. Again I do not wish to say much on the matter of esthetics, but I do believe that the most beautiful design is that which serves a purpose, not for idle beauty but as an object, or building, that fulfills its purpose well. That is the most beautiful of all.

[comment by Titia Hoogendoorn]

While Calatrava’s architecture could be seen as a sculpture and sometimes almost as decoration for the surroundings, Rietveld’s buildings are anti-decorative and more an expression of architecture. They both include the environment in their works. One by fitting in (Calatrava) and the other by adding (Rietveld). The shapes and colours of Calatrava's buildings are flowing along with nature (blue and white/sea and air) in comparison to Rietveld who devides space accentuated by primary colours. The architectonic skeleton of his buildings coincide with the construction while the skeletons of Calatrava seem an effort to make them visible on the outside.

[comment by Anna Kinderman]


Inspired by organic beings Calatrava forms futuristic, abstract entities, which he covers with diverse details and additional figures. Many details are purely visual and omit practical ulterior motives. However, he is limiting to discreet colors like white, blue and azure. Inspirations: torso, bull ribs, foliage, wings. His buildings are more like sculptures than functional buildings.
In contrast Rietveld is interested in function. He was inspired directly by the materials and dealt with the use of the building. With the reduction of coloring to the primary
colors like red, yellow, blue, black and grey he wanted to emphasize the different layers/planes. His strict geometry and minimalistic tendency distinguishes him from Calatrava like black from white.

[comment by Lovie Peoples]

Rietveld and Calatrava are two totally different architectures to me, both in the way their buildings look and the feeling they mediate.




Calatravas buildings are like sculpture houses and bridges. Fixed artworks that was created to demonstrate what he wishes to show. His imaginations illustrated on the ground in a space. To me it doesn’t leave that much to my imagination you are in his world. Either you like it or you don’t.
Rietveld houses have an obvious presence, melting in to their environment instead of creating an environment totally in them self. Which makes them a part of it and lifts them up. They make a dialoged to the space around it and invite me to feel at ease with my own thoughts and feelings in them. A meeting point in what he has left as a building and the person in them. An open dialogue with the viewer.

[comment by Molnar Tamas]

The two architects represent opposite design philosophies and approaches to man and its created environment. While Rietveld takes man and its size as starting point and adjust details to this, Calatrava creates vast spaces and buildings to impress the viewer, making man’s size unimportant. The Spanish exaggerated “machosim” meets the cool and minimalist Dutch world. Experience vs. functionality.

However, both of them are lacking in cosiness, Rietveld’s sharp edges and grey colours are rather cold and not welcoming. Calatrava uses the huge size of his buildings to alienate the spectators, making them feel being in a church or at some futuristic place. His typical white colour also contributes to the sacred, church-like sensation, where one should feel devotion and its own littleness. The usage of forms is also different. Rietveld introduces forms derived from the cube, the “box”, making and industrial and artificial look. Calatrava prefers the organic shapes, however, those are clearly computer generated “natural” forms put in order which finally results in the experience of an artificial environment just like in the case of Rietveld.

[comment by Pieter Tensen]

Calatrava designs buildings you can hardly call buildings. They are more like sculptures you can visit.  This is something you really notice from the outside and is a major point where Calatrava confronts Rietveld in his designs. Rietveld cared about the outside of a building too, how it looks, but it appears obvious in that way.

In Rietveld’s buildings everything is build up out of 90 degrees corners. This was his main trademark. Natural shapes and the human body, on the other hand, inspires Calatrava. They have one major thing in comment. They both care a lot about details. Although the buildings they designed we’re big and impressive sometimes, the eye for detail is very specific for both.

[comment by Stefan Voets]

“Rietveld adored light and bright spaces without too much detail. This is why most of his buildings are made of primary colours and forms (squares, rectangles). According to Rietveld, a building has to be functional too (functionality is extremely present in his architecture). Calatrava’s work is differently shaped, because of the massive surfaces and the lesser subtility. The material is heavy-looking.”

FunctionalVsEngagé


Thursday, May 28, 2009

In my first post about two of the most important and influential dutch graphic designers, Wim Crouwel and Anthon Beeke (pdf), i tried to compare them by their different approach. Especially the way Beeke designed, really intrigued me.
It was provocating and controversial which made him one of the leading conceptual engaged designers.
On the other side, Wim Crouwel is known as a more functional designer, which means less conceptual.

But is it really that easy to divide and are all this categorizations correctly made?

Especially in the case of Wim Crouwel i doubt it. His design of the new alphabet was based on the begin of computer technology, in a time were blogs, facebook and internet in general didn’t exist. Coming up with a font type based on this new technology combines in a perfect way a clear, functional and computer like approach. Computer like is also the keyword for, in my opinion, a highly conceptual design.
With the awareness that this technology will change they way we communicate, document, the way we are. His style is timeless (even if it also relates to the early 70s) and applicable still nowadays.

Beeke’s Human alphabet, using the aesthetics (look at the swedish film makers Ingmar Bergman and Vilgot Sjöman) and social and political topics like sexuality, seems more related to that specific time.

So Aesthetics is next to conceptualism and functionalism a really important aspect, what makes Crouwel’s design less depend on a certain time period.

Never the less, Anthon Beeke’s radical and shocking way, even if it is not so applicable in our times anymore, was responsible for breaking through the conservatism of (Graphic design) and is so a mirror of other important political and social openings in this time period, and even if his aesthetics are not so up to date, his conceptual engagement is.

link: The Human Alphabet as a visual brand

link: Anton Beeke exhibit at Centre for Visual Arts Zeeland

BeekeVsCrouwel


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The most intriguing aspect of  ’100 years graphic design in the Netherlands’, out of all the graphics, fonts, posters and publications I saw there, was in my opinion the contrast between two different forms of an Alphabet.
These alphabets, or better Font types, were created by the dutch Graphic Designers Wim Crouwel and Anthon Beeke.
The computerlike and clean structure of Crouwel’s ‘New Alphabet’ and the unconventional and quite controversial looking letter type, made out from naked girls, of Beeke on the other side.
For me Beeke’s style visualizes the spirit of the time when this font was created. It let me think of the sexual revolution, the feministic movement and a general break out of traditional and conventional norms of these times.
But also Crouwel, with his mathmatical looking font, hits for me a certain actuality of the late 60ties and 70ties, as that was the begin of the development of the computer age.

Wim Crouwel vs Anton Beeke

for more on functional versus engagé, read part 2


Log in
subscribe