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Monday, October 5, 2015

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam with it’s exhibition Design Derby, was a starting point in my research about design objects and empty space in their form. Exhibition in itself had a huge task to make, it was comparing two countries: Netherlands and Belgium in years 1815 – 2015 in their history of design, in their possible differences and similarities. You could easily dive in home furnishing, textiles, projects of interior decoration (even if it was on the pictures), posters (which by the way collected the whole dynamics of social and political situation at a time) and many more. Design Derby is one of those exhibitions or I would even say shows, during which you can spend hours on watching and contemplating, literally eating what you see.

As soon as I enter the museum I am vanishing for a few hours, as was the case exactly here. At first very carefully I studied the objects until, while passing from one half to the other half of the exhibition, I came across some chairs. Chairs from which I didn’t know yet who, when and why they were made. They were known to my eyes, popular through the times, translated into many other forms of furniture.

Like in a football match (as the situation compared in the interview with curator Mienke Simon Thomas Netherlands on the left with Mart Stam (Martinus Adrianus Stam) and his ‘cantilever tubular steel chair‘ (1927) and on the right side Belgian architect, furniture designer Gaston Eysselinck’s ‘office chair for typist‘ (1931).

 Mart Stam chair       Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 22.24.24 copy

Both chairs are throwing in our eyes the amazing similarities. For Mart as well as for Gaston functionality was the most important thing. Form follows function and form is derived from function. For each destiny has to be a place. All this was dictated by the specificity of the times in which lived both creators. Shortly after World War I, damages especially in Belgium were enormous, economical situation was not the best for those who would like physically construct modern buildings. Despite the negative situation, technical progress is rising and with that faith in the future designers travel, meet, exchange ideas, communicate through new magazines (Werkbund G, ABC etc.). This gives freedom, freshness of development and creation, so needed after the hard, not so productive war times.

Mart’s chair, the icon of the modernist interior, looks in some way as a machine, it is smooth with its minimalist shape., with its slim figure and its perfectly bright, clean matching surfaces. In the same places will fit also good Gaston’s chair for typist, it will highlight even better its modest appearance.

My first meeting which described above chairs gave me a feeling of surprise, something attracted me in them, seduced but still not knowing what. It would be much easier to discover this riddle by sitting on them … but you know it was not possible to complete that at the museum. Then I got it! Such a simple answer. It was this empty space in the back part between the seat and a floor. This emptiness in the chair which gives you the possibility to hang in the air. These chairs were chairs for dreamers made by dreamers. Were explaining the spirit of the time in which its creators were living, their believe in future, freedom after the War, Utopian modernism.

With that feeling I went into the research. Internet did not give to me any juicy information and in the library I did not find any solutions in language that I’m able to operate. Resigned, I started to look through the pages of an other books in the field of design. In every few pages, in front of my eyes were appearing objects with desirable “chairish” looks. Let’s take into consideration for example Bridgestone Cycle (1985) designed by Giorgio Giugiaro.

Blouson Brigetstone

Of course, the whole project of the bike is deeply thought out so as to satisfy in the best way its function. Surprisingly it is a family bicycle, although it looks more sporty (maybe because of the whole shape). The specific form of the frame, its uninterrupted line and shape of a steering wheel, brings convenience while driving, pedaling becomes easier, plenty space for the knees, even if you want you can attach seating for a child. The design of steering, its suspension seduces the eye like in an example of a chair.


I had very similar feeling with shown above, funscate (1985) design by Ravarini Castoldi. Although there is no significant steering suspension any way the designer uses it between the pipes for its function and captivating gentle curvature.

Coming back to the chairs with a special hanging feature, I would like to introduce you to few more dreamed examples. Heinz Rasch developed his own interpretation of Mart Stam’s ‘cantilever’ chair but more warm, soft shaped one (see below).

Heinz Rasch chair

An other designer, as well known as Mart Stam, Marcel Breuer (Hungarianborn modernist, architect and furniture designer) also developed and improved extensively described above chairs. Their constructions are more resilience, thereby, more comfort. Visual division between seat and the base disappears by using continuous supporting frame.


Marcel Breuer chair  Marcel Breuer chair

My beloved lack in a form is called ‘white space’ or negative space. Even if empty it says a lot. Having the same or an even more surprising message to tell than ‘filled space’. It is used not only in furniture design but also and maybe more in graphic design. Examples below:

trojkat  kulka

neg space

Some people have a huge fear of empty space, perceiving it as undeveloped. It looks for them like a mistake,. They are trying at all costs to fill it with whatever, ruining at the same time the appearance and first of all message. As for me, I am swimming in ‘amor vacui’, appreciating aesthetic minimalism, unfilled surfaces, limiting elements in art works or surrounding space.

Empty space in those objects bears its function which is always fulfilled. For me it is a negative space that it renames thanks to the positive role that satisfies, thanks to the transparency of form and seduction which is giving by interfering with the eye. Empty space described here can give us a feeling of comfort or discomfort, can attack us with its size or just only appearance, it may cheer us with clarity and translation. One is for sure, it will always say or do something to us not without reason.

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