Design European Championship 2016 Final - Starting line-up Portugal

After four weeks of competition at venues throughout France the 2016 Design EM prepares to bid adieu, au revoir and

Jean Prouvé - vom System zum Haus @ Architekturgalerie Kaiserslautern

By way of an addendum to our 5 New Design Exhibitions for November 2015 post, the Kaiserslautern University of Technology’s Architecture

Orgatec Cologne 2014 Vitra Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec

In comparison to the annual IMM Cologne furniture fair the corridors and halls of the Messe Cologne always seems curiously

Design Miami Basel 2014 Jean Prouvé Galerie Jacques Lacoste

While the art world is awash with anecdotes of cleaners disposing of installations having confused them for rubbish, we’re not

Happy Birthday Jean Prouvé!

Whereas, generally speaking, those designers we feature in these pages have trained as either an architect or carpenter, Jean Prouvé

Design Miami Basel 2013

In our post about Diogene by Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Vitra we noted that a Jean Prouvé house could

Passenger Terminal Expo 2012 Pascal Berberat Vitra Airport Division Suita

We suspect the reason we write so much about designer furniture in an airport context is simply because of the

Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln From Aalto to Zumthor Furniture by Architects

As tradition demands the Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln (MAKK) have organised a furniture themed, special exhibition to coincide with

october 2011

We’ve long since accepted that there are more design weeks in a year than actual weeks. But we still can’t

Last week we, finally, made our first visit to Design Miami Basel. Featuring 43 international design galleries, Design Miami Basel

This year we are finally going to make it to Design Basel. In the past something else always seemed to

Perhaps best known for her numerous co-operations with Le Corbusier, the Parisian architect and designer Charlotte Perriand played an instrumental

On 03.11.1989 the Vitra Design Museum opened. On 09.11.1989 the Berlin Wall “fell”. Coincidence? Almost certainly. But while the Vitra

Project Vitra (Birkhauser)

Project Vitra (Birkhauser)

The snow is back in Leipzig and so whereas the weekend was spent enjoying the warm spring air – the evenings are now being spent enjoying the warm living room and a good book.

And so it’s just as well we were recently at Leipzig book fair.
Among the seemingly endless piles of new historical novels, travel guides – each, naturally, with the best insider tips –  and Harry Potter wannabes there was also a few title that appealed to us.

“Project Vitra” from Rolf Fehlbaum und Cornel Windlin for Birkhauser is not only an interesting stroll through the history of Vitra – without question one of the world’s most important and creative designer furniture houses – but is also a design classic in it’s own right.

It was shortlisted in the graphics category for the Brit Insurance Design of the Year Award 2009, and won a bronze medal in the “Best Book Design from all over the World 2009” organised by the German foundation “Stiftung Buchkunst“. The prizes were awarded at a ceremony in Leipzig during the book fair.

Charles and Ray Eames with

Charles and Ray Eames with Willi and Erika Fehlbaum

The “Project Vitra” story began in 1957 in Basel and Weil am Rhein and can more or less be summarised as: Willi and Erika Fehlbaum meet Charles and Ray Eames and start making furniture.

And they haven’t really stopped.

In the intervening 50+ years Vitra have worked with designers as varied and individual as Jean Prouvé, Jasper Morrison, Antonio Citterio and Verner Panton. To name just five.

“Project Vitra” chronicles the decades and the creations and in doing so elucidates not only the Vitra story but also the philosophy which has guided Vitra since its establishment.

Writing in the Vitra Magazine in January, Rolf Fehlbaum – company Chef and son of  grounders Willi and Erika – explained part of this philosophy; namely, the importance of the “individual authorship” of articles and the importance of the relationship between designer as “author” and Vitra:

“Vitra works with independent “authors” – primarily with designers, but also with architects and graphic artists. What distinguishes the work of these people from that of other designers is the fact that their personal imprint and outlook is reflected in every one of their products.

In contrast, designers in fixed employment must adapt their personal interpretation to the requirements of the client. We do not define our roles in terms of client and contractor. Two business partners – the designer and Vitra – embark on a common quest for an optimal solution. Vitra’s task is to provide a stimulating environment, technical support, conceptual input and constructive criticism.”

Panton Chair Classic (Verner Panton) for Vitra

Panton Chair Classic (Verner Panton) for Vitra

A classic example of this process is the Panton Chair by Verner Panton which went through numerous design and prototype phases – all the result of the cooperation between Vitra and Panton – before the final, and widely copied, design was completed.

In “Project Vitra” the importance of this relationship and the eternal conflict between creative drive and commercial survival is wonderfully , and aesthetically, documented.

“Project Vitra” is not a book for cover-to-cover reading, and at 800 pages we wouldn’t recommend it – it is however a wonderful reference book for all who enjoy quality designer furniture, want to learn more about how design classics are created or who simply enjoy good photography.

Or for those who are looking to escape the late march Leipzig snow with a glass of Tempranillo and an exquisitely laid-out and designed book.

smow don’t stock “Project Vitra” but it can be ordered direct from the Birkhauser.

The (smow) blog has more than once suggested that designer furniture is more than just a comfortable place to sit