Nr. 2600, Quaderna Superstudio, 1969 photo © Zanotta

Radical Design

Vitra Schaudepot, Weil am Rhein in Germany, until 17 November 2016

July 2016

Vitra has added a second Herzog & de Meuron building to its Weil am Rhein campus in Germany. Six years after the opening of VitraHaus in 2010, Vitra inaugurated Schaudepot, a showcase for its extensive chair collection, in June.

Located beyond the Álvaro-Siza-Promenade and the Vitra Slide Tower by Carsten Höller, Schaudepot is an unfussy structure constructed of small, red bricks. It houses the extensive collection of furniture which Rolf Fehlbaum amassed in the 1980s and moved to the Vitra Design Museum in 1989. Fehlbaum, who established the museum, is the eldest son of Vitra founders Willi and Erika Fehlbaum. The museum's subsequent directors, including present director Marc Zehntner, have continued to enlarge the collection. Today, it comprises some 20,000 objects, including 7,000 pieces of furniture from 1800 onwards, and 1,000 lighting objects.

A chronological display of the furniture collection, including chairs by Thonet, Gerrit Rietveld, Charles & Ray Eames, Ettore Sottsass and Shiro Kuramata, among many others, is on the ground floor while the restored office of Charles & Ray Eames is in the basement.

Punctuating the furniture collection is the temporary Radical Design exhibition about the avant-garde movement that peaked in the late 1960s/early 1970s in Italy. The design language by its exponents expressed a desire to break away from modern functionalism and accepted taste, as exemplified by Guido Drocco and Franco Mello's Cactus (1971). Gaetano Pesce's red lounge chair, La Mamma (1969), which is evocative of a woman's voluptuous body, is a comment on the social status of women in Italian society. Superstudio's Quaderna table for Zanotta (1971) – a honeycomb structure coated in white plastic with silk-screen printed black squares – is characteristic of the aim to find more emotion in design. Further along, Alessandro Mendini's Lassu chair (1974), built on top of a pyramid, reflects his trans-disciplinary way of working between design, art and architecture. Meanwhile, designers such as Piero Gilardi, Studio65 and Drocco/Mello spearheaded the influence of pop art through using polyurethane foam and latex rubber coating, in collaboration with Grufam, in furniture design.

UP5-6, La Mamma, Donna Gaetano Pesce, 1969 photo © Klaus Zaugg
Vitra Schaudepot, exterior
Installation view »Radical Design« at the Vitra Schaudepot photo © Mark Niedermann