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"Modernism" Tag


Niban-Kan building, Tokyo


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Walking around Shinjunku, Tokyo’s district, one may have noticed the unusual buildings standing out on its east side.
The Ichiban-Kan (“building number one”) and the Niban-Kan (“building number two”) were designed by the architect Minory Takeyama in 1966. They were commissioned by a Korean Toyota salesman, asking him to design both buildings at the same time, and finally completed in 1969. Respectively, one was home of 49 tiny bars distributed through its eight floors, and the other hosted bars, clubs and sauna.

Slides from the 1970s, reproducing the two buildings. Domus Archive

 

In 1977, the cover of Charles Jenks’ The Language of Post-Modern Architecture features an enigmatic Japanese building. It raises the Niban-kan as an icon of Supergraphics, along with its adjacent brother building the Ichiban-kan.
Niban-Kan’s colored surface has been painted over by now, blending now with Tokyo building’s flat designs.
But what made this building so special, beside its colorful surface ?

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In the 60’s, East-Shinjuku was the land of protest and porn, where one could meet the radical, intellectual, and other underground Japanese subcultures. This area’s hyper activity led to an important street competition, where signs and speakers had to be bigger and louder.
Minory Takeyama was challenged to implant a new architecture in the given context. It had to stand out of this saturation of lights and neons, while blending in with the energy of the district.

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Entrance of the Ichiban-kan building

 

Japanese architecture is typically vertical, where each floor has a common area with entrances to shops and bars. As architecture was being more and more influenced by western design in term of multi-storey models, Takeyama exploited the local past of architecture and brought the verticality back to the front, creating a vertical street through the facade. The late-Modern “High Architecture” aim to reveal the movement directly from the outside, such as what’s going on, and how to get there.
The front shows the circulation, to arouse curiosity. This is completed by signs that bring an informative layer to the surface. At night, neons reflect on the glazed area, which emphasize the gap between the surface and the platform, and reveal part of the building’s activity.

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Left: a view of the Niban-kan interior today. Right: The same space with the original flooring, as seen in a 1970s Japanese publication, Domus Archive

 

The Niban-kan and the Ichiban-kan are representative of Tokyo’s relation between private and public space. You can go from the street to the seventh floor without encountering a door. By directly opening to the street, those buildings breaks the boundary and transmit a feeling of public space from the street.

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Entrance of the Ichiban-kan building, with a direct access to the outside

 

In the exhibition “Designing the surface”, The Niban-Kan was presented as an item from the, ‘agency’ category, through Charles Jenck’s 1977 bookcover.
Agency is an action or intervention producing a particular effect. Minory Takeyama’s colorful and ambitious buildings were possible to realize at that time, far from the actual strict rules of urban planning. This freedom made it possible to bring local tradition in the actual architecture and –promoted by Charles Jenk– become a figure of Post-Modernist Architecture.

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Ichiban-kan and Niban-kan seen from Google street view 2016

Architecture became almost a banal experience, we are surrounded by buildings that we don’t question much, because the more we see them, we forget them. We take design for granted. But sometimes one stands out and makes you travel.
It’s fascinating how design, by small changes of the interface, can revolutionize the way we experience our environment.

 

Charles A.Jencks, The language of Post-Modernist Architecture 1977-1987, London. New Institute. exh.cat.no.61-agency

Turbulant Times for Tubular Chairs


Monday, October 19, 2015

In the Boijmans Van Beuningen museum Design Derby exhibition there were two chairs that use a different main shape to catch your eyes and bring them to ‘ their side’ of the show. In both cases, the armrests follow this main shape; the rests of the Dutch chair are symmetrically shaped by an oval, while the rests of the Belgium chair are asymmetrical and sturdy angled.

 

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The Auping fauteuil, 1931 • The Chaise Lounge by Gaston Eysselinck, 1932

 

Despite this difference, the chairs are rather similar because of the chrome-coted construction parts, the use of wood in the armrests, the shared function, and the same exact period in witch these chairs were made (1930′s). Without any background information you could say that these chairs were made by the same enterprise or you can take it the other way around; these designs could have been competing with each other back in the day. This tension field spiked my interest to take a closer look in the history of both designs. Are they that different?

Examinating these chairs further I found that the same Dutch designer movements influenced the choices that were made in both of the designs. Designs meant for modern progressive consumers. These influences include Dudok [x], J.P.Oud [x], Gerrit Rietveld and De Stijl movement [x].

In the 1930′s Auping decided to broaden their horizon and manufacture a line of tubular living room furniture including the Auping fauteuil. At this time, this branch was not important. The designer of the fauteuil was not even linked to the chair itself. Later investigation concludes that the unknown interior designer Ben Reynsdorp is likely to be the designer of this magnificent chair. (jaarverslag 2014 Bojimans.nl [x])

At the same time, at the end of heroic period of the Avant Garde, the young architect Eysselink succeeded in assimilating these influences in a highly personal way. He went after Rietveld and designed his own home in Gent and manufactured fitting and unique furniture;

House_Eusselinck

“In 1932 he designed all the furniture for this house. It is tubular steel furniture [x], of which the stacking chairs and the large recliner are the most interesting. He hoped to manufacture the furniture at a later date, with the name FRATSTA (Fabriek voor RATioneelse STAalmeubelen – Factory for Rational Steel Furniture), an enterprise which in fact proved unsuccessful. Eysselinck is the only architect in Belgium from the period between the wars to produce a ‘collection’ of tubular furniture.”

The latter brings me by another less fortunate similarity found; both chairs were part of lines that initially were not well received in the market and this brought production to an end in both cases. As said, the enterprise of Eysenck went bankrupt after only two years. His unique “machine à habiter” was not mentioned by the media. Auping on the other hand, focused on the improvement of their bedding and the continuing of their existing production lines in the crisis. They did not continue the production of tubular living room furniture as it was not as popular as their beds.

Nowadays Eysselink is seen as one of the great in Modernism. The Chaise Lounge [x] even got a re-edition in the 70′s; a modern and luxurious implementation.

 

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The re-edition of the Chaise Lounge by Gaston Eysselinck, 1970's

 

The Auping chair ultimately got the attention and the designer the credit he deserves. Both chairs flourish at the Holland – Belgium Design Derby Exhibit and defend the honor of their ‘native countries’.

But ‘What differs the Chaise Lounge from the Auping fauteuil?’ you might ask. These chairs can not possibly be from the same designer for one major reason: The Auping fauteuil is not designed by Eysselinck’s ‘Form Follows Function’ regime. The armrests of Auping are used in a more decorative way than Eysselinck would have wanted. This makes that, although these chairs may look very similar, my gut feeling was right and they can be categorized in a whole different way.

 

Marshall Moderism


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

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The Design Derby exhibition at Boijmans Museum in Rotterdam compares what was happening in design in the Netherlands and Belgium from 1815 to present day. Pieces were picked as representative of the era of design in both countries, which allowed you to make comparisons of the objects for design and aesthetic value, but also by being displayed chronologically, you are able to see where on the timeline they place and thus allowed you to to understand the context in which they were designed and the preceding works/ inspiration. I picked two pieces from the 1950’s produced during the post war reconstruction period; a fascinating time for the reestablishment of design as a social, economical and cultural actuality.

I chose two pieces with very similar aesthetic qualities and obvious connections visually/materially, produced a year apart they are from exactly the same period so can be perceived from a single point in European history despite different national situations.
The first piece is a bookshelf designed by D.Dekker for Tomado – Dordrecht in 1958, The shelves are a genius design, with simple brackets on either side and tin trays which can be slotted in at any level, there’s a variety of combinations/arrangements of the unit so they adapt easily to any room.

Tomado Bookcase

The second is desk and chair by Jacques Seeuwes, designed for the architecture department of the University of Ghent in 1959. The only colour used is a bright blue Formica on the table, which compliments the soft dark tones of the oak seat and foot rest.  Its a vivid primary colour which is fitting with the modernity that was being practiced in the design at the time, when the chair is tucked under the table, there is brilliant flow of the basic forms, and the subtleties in angles of the chair suggest a certain spring to it by highlighting the ergonomics which contrast to the stubborn rigidity of the black tubular frame, they both exhibit a neo-plastic approach to design. This is collection of research i made in order to further understand the situation of each country after the war and how design fit into their society at the time. What were the inspirations/ defining influences in the Netherlands and Belgium which concluded in two very similar pieces of furniture.

Jacques Seeuwes Desk

 

De Stijl introduced an important merging of art an design by promoting an Utopian philosophical approach to aesthetics. The goal was to catch timeless beauty in spare precision, De Stijl movement was a reaction against the excessive decoration of the Art nouveau that preceded. It was an attempt at a universal language in design and aesthetic, that applied rules which erased all subjectivity to the artist because the individual was loosing its significance, ideals of the period shift from visually heavy to visually light and ‘de Stijl could be seen as social redemption.

During the post war reconstruction period, Tomado thrived because its products represented the incoming modern Dutch household; cheap, affordable, functional furniture. The core of Tomado string furniture was formed by pragmatism, before the war there was a demand of bits and bobs and comfort in clutter, but in the aftermath, there was a desire for a fresh functional way of living to maximize efficient recovery and thus wanted to be surrounded by practical and rational possessions. Tomado’s minimalist airy structures symbolized the modern age, and these bookshelves in particular were commonly present in households around the country, just like IKEA is nowadays.

tomado bij charlie ikea

 

The Dutch government returned to the Netherlands from its exile in London in 1945. The government, while in London, had created plans which would speed up the country’s challenging industrial and economic reconstruction, there was no conflict between industry and the arts, because the Netherlands has a trading history and sourced its cultural input from its colonies in Asia. This meant that recognizing the need for mass production to furnish homes wasn’t politically opposed and the dutch produced functional furniture for the masses with talented designers appointed to every sector, Marshall Aid investment into the Netherlands accelerated industrialization and by 1950, 38% of the population was working in manufacturing or some form of industry.

In Belgium, there is a rich history of the arts and crafts from their own country because they had no interest in their colonies in Africa. This meant that high level professional craftsmen worked hard to produce and design quality products, and then after the war they were fighting against the industrial takeover. However there were a lot of poor factory workers and thus mass production was a cheap necessity, people weren’t as encouraged by the government to pursue design careers whereas in the Netherlands every state company had a designer.

Marshall Aid played a large role in the modernization of Europe, with the investment to rebuild its financial economical and industrial systems, and along with the money came the intention to inject a new ‘spirit of productivity’.

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In Belgium they funded the Belgium Office for Increasing Productivity (BDOP), which supported The Design Centre. Design in Belgium was struggling to find its place in society, The Design Centre aimed to broaden the understanding of design as a social, economical and cultural phenomenon, however, the BDOP demanded a definition of design which was appropriate to the contribution towards the economic efficiency, it was struggling to leave behind the origins of design promotion, dominated by national export interest and be recognized for its social and cultural value by the Belgian government, this was frustrating because of course they believed that design is the most visible and pervasive cultural manifestation of a country at any time.

Industrial design was redefined in Belgium  in the 1950’s, and planted foundations in 1954 under the reign of the first social-liberal government.
Industrial design is a creative activity whose aim is to determine the formal qualities of objects produced by industry. These formal qualities are not only the external features but are principally those structural and functional relationships which convert a system to a coherent unity both from the point of view of the producer and the user. Industrial design extends to embrace all the aspects of human environment which are conditioned by industrial production.

With this definition you can understand how the values of De Stijl integrated easily with this new wave of industrialization. Design was being viewed as a practical notion where productivity and efficiency is key, with such a mechanical demographic, it makes sense that the prevailing approach to design in Belgium was that of De Stijl – the international modern style, and easy to replicate in industry.

After WW2 De Stijl became known as the International Modern Style. However without Theo van Doesburg to lead the way and enforce the ideals and definitions of the movement, the strict pre-war rules were broken. The post-war reconstruction forcing society to depict a new way through complete disarray towards the future, efficiency was key and maintenance of artistic values weren’t withheld so preciously. Broader structural design properties of industrial materials could be worked with more easily in mass production too and the extreme ideals of De Stijl were not practical anymore.

To conclude, the unifying desperation of each country to rebuild after the upheaval of the war and the catastrophic state in which the Nazi’s left, meant the productivity objectives that accompanied the Marshall aid from U.S, persisted to define the countries’ reform and thus profitability and potency heavily determined design of the post war era.

 

Gesamtkunstwerk ?


Saturday, September 28, 2013

ARNE JACOBSEN (11 February 1902 – 24 march 1971) is a danish architect and designer. He was first able working as an architect, then mostly influenced by the modernist ideas. Typically, modernists reject decorative motifs, to emphasize more on materials, pure geometrical forms, function and adaptation to the industry.
Following the modernist philosophy, Jacobsen concieved buildings such as the Stelling House on Gammeltorv (left picture), or the SAS Royal Hotel (right picture), both in Copenhaguen.

old-square-gammel-torv-gammeltorv-_-6-k-c-3-b-8benhavn_700_0 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

He went to design products because of his interest for the Gesamtkunstwerk concept. It concerned the preoccupation of building a place as a whole, every objects matter, one place (architecture, furniture’s, light…) is driven by one full concept, vision.
Jacobsen’s design products are therefore influenced by modernist ideals, but are more precisely a part of the organic modernist movement. This movement gave to Denmark and Scandinavian countries a particular place in modern design. Jacobsen played an important contribution to that.
The philosophy of organic modernism’s main concept is to emphasize on the harmony between human living and the world of nature, so that they are combined in an united, interrelated composition for a better living. Actually, it brings to modernism a humane element to its rationnalism. It’s to create clean, pure lines based on an understanding of classical furniture craftsmanship coupled with careful research into materials, proportions and the requirements of the human body.

Kokfelt House 1957 Kokfelt House

The Kokfelt House (1957) by Arne Jacobsen is a representation of what organic modernism can be in architecture.

Jacobsen uses craft and “natural” materials to build his design works. Jacobsen combines aesthetic for a better living and adaptation to industrial production (social matter); which made his works a critical and economic success in the 50’s.

The Egg

            The Egg is a chair designed in 1958 for the Radisson SAS hotel in Copenhagen. It is manufactured by Republic of Fritz Hansen.
The chair answers to the project Jacobsen was commissioned for : designing the whole hotel. He could therefore fully following his interest on the Gesamtkunstwerk concept.
The Egg is considered as a triumph concerning Jacobsen’s design : the organic form of the chair constrats with  the building’s almost exclusively vertical and horizontal surfaces. Jacobsen searched for the perfect shape by first sculpting clay in his own garage. This shape offers to the user a bit of privacy in a public space such as the hall of the hotel. It also can be used in a private place such a home to lounge. The Egg is available in a wide variety of fabric upholstery as well as leather, always combined with a star shaped base in satin polished aluminium.
By combining pure organic form, industrial adaptation, craft (strong foam inner shell underneath the upholstery technique), and conception as a part for a whole; the Egg is an excellent representation of how was design conceived in Scandinavian countries in the 50’s.

 

Interior of SAS Royal Hotel Interior of SAS Royal Hotel

        This piece shows a particular vision on human living. A better living combining functionnalism (research of materials), human proportions (requirements of the body) and aesthetic (part of a whole, pure forms). It allows the user to take distance from the flows going through public spaces or even in a private one; to find again a bit of intimacy. In a world where we are constantly solicitated, this chair offers with a cleaned form the possibility to manage to deal with those requests. That doesn’t mean to disconnect, but to get better relation to our environment.

         I wonder if the search for better living through the concept of Gesamtkunstwerk, which was the main preoccupation of Jacobsen, can be found in our daily lives. What happens to interior spaces when they are not conceived by professionals, but by individuals. Can we find the concept of Gesamtkunstwerk in vernacular spaces ? Do the objects, the planning of the space allow the user to enter one full vision of it ?

IS GESAMTKUNSTWERK UNCONSCIOUSLY PRESENT AROUND US ?

The revised edition of Die Neue Typographie.


Saturday, December 31, 2011

summary

650-MaartenKanters5  As part of the graduation program at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, we were asked to write a thesis. I conducted a research into the early days of Modernism and Constructivism. One of the books on my list was the English translation of Die Neue Typographie, by Jan Tschichold.
This publication included an introduction by Ruari McLean, translator of the original, German version, who was also a personal friend of Jan Tschichold. On the first page of his foreword, McLean tells us that already in 1967, Tschichold asked him to translate Die Neue Typographie. McLean continues his introduction: “He planned it as a second, revised edition.” McLean states that he translated the greater part of Die Neue Typographie, incorporating all the revisions, but no publisher could be found. For the 1995 edition, McLean together with the University of California Press, made the editorial decision to translate the original text, treating it as a historical document.

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original ©1928 "Die Neue Typographie" by Jan Tschichold - first English edition "The New Typography" ©1995

After finishing the introduction, I was curious about the revisions Tschichold made to his original text. McLean tells us in his introduction that after the death of Tschichold, in 1974, he placed the draft of his translation in the St Bride Printing Library. So, the next day I called the library. It took me some weeks, to finally get hold of the document, but these weeks gave the opportunity to research Tschichold’s personal and professional life.
Tschichold transmogrified from a traditional, German trained typographer, into a “true modern designer” (his own words), to finally reform back into his old working method, a classical and traditional approach to typography. Over time, he became his own frenetic antagonist, with Die Neue Typographie in the center.

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What I found out, is that Tschichold during his life, tried, but repeatedly failed, to publish a revised edition of Die Neue Typographie. Throughout his life – while criticizing himself and others, who were still confederated to Die Neue Typographie movement – he worked on this document, trying to mitigate his rather excessive statements from his younger self. This revised edition of Tschichold was now fragmented in different archives. As an archaeologist I started to recollected these sparse pages and revisions by Tschichold, and incorporated all my findings into a version, as coherent as possible.
While working out the manuscripts by Tschichold, I tried to find out in what physical form, Tschichold wanted to present his revised edition. In correspondence with Piet Zwart, he speaks about presenting it in A4 format, a format he later labeled as: “devils format”. Die Neue Typographie was set in either Aurora Grotesk, or Akzidenz Grotesk. The choice of typeface, was decided by practical circumstances: no other sans serif font was available in an amount large enough, to set a whole book. I took this opportunity to design my own sans serif font, called Takhir. The shapes of Takhir were drawn, to tell a story about Modernism. But, it is too bumptious to appear, as pure, as Modernism would have wanted it to be.

Tschichold_book-2

This whole project resulted in the revised edition of Die Neue Typographie, containing all the revisions I collected in my research. The publication is introduced by a foreword, that I wrote as my thesis [presented as pdf at the end of this post], in which I present the historical background of Die Neue Typographie movement, and the publication by the same name. Beside all the revisions Tschichold made to his text, he made a number of personal comments, which reflected or criticized the content. The combination of these two, are really important for me, because it shows Tschichold’s difficult relationship to Die Neue Typographie. In one hand he rewrites its whole content, but he no longer agrees with its tenor. In the final publication, these personal comments are presented on errata’s, placed on the corresponding page of the content.
The whole publication is set in the typeface Takhir, which was finally created in two weights, both with Italics. Printed digitally in an edition of 50 copies 157 pages on 110 grams silk machine coated paper with a silkscreened cover, for sale at San Serriffe Bookstore [x].

text by Maarten Kanters [graduate student department of Graphic Design 2011] : more www.mrtnkntrs.nl

 

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