Tomorrow Now
When design meets science fiction
Alexandra Midal + Björn Dahlström, December 24, 2007
Marc Newson_Alufelt, 1993_Galerie Kréa_Paris
Marc Newson_Alufelt, 1993_Galerie Kréa_Paris
The chair is perhaps the everyday object that shows most clearly the mutation of design under the influence of new technologies and new materials. Until the beginning of the 20th century, most chairs were made from traditional materials, decoration being their only criterion of differentiation. In 1926, the Hungarian designer Marcel Breuer (1902-1981), a teacher at the Bauhaus, devised a film project about the development of seating. He published a photomontage of six chairs that he had made in the school magazine. From his first creation, the African chair, to the last-but-one, the Wassily, a development from expressionism to modernity distinguished by a geometric approach and a simplification of shapes is noticeable. In the last image, that shows a woman sitting in a void, Breuer supersedes modern functionalist and aesthetic issues to defend an idea of seating that, like a flexible and immaterial column of air, defies the laws of classical physics (especially that of gravity). According to Breuer, the chair of tomorrow is anti-gravitational and promises adventures in space.

Hans Hollein_Mobile Office, 1969_Jens Ziehe
Hans Hollein_Mobile Office, 1969_Jens Ziehe
From the Twenties onwards, the column of air was displayed using a cantilever technique in which an element appears to be suspended or supported by the void. After World War II, the air column became structural. In response to science fiction (that seeks to give substance to that which does not yet exist and to that which is intangible), a radical design tendency directed itself towards a dematerialisation of spaces perceived as stable and perennial. Thus the collectives Archigram (a movement created in Great Britain in 1961), Haus-Rucker-Co (an Austrian collective, 1867-1983) and Ant Farm extended their research into the areas of architecture, urban planning and the environment.

Enclosed in a plastic skin, the air column could give shape to a space. Such was the case for Pneumakosm
by Haus-Rucker-Co, an urban landscape composed of a myriad of spatial cells in the form of transparent and pneumatic electric bulbs or the Cushicle Suitaloon by Archigram, a cockpit-skin which could be deployed to make a house. The various formulations of the air column took various paths including that of poetry when Shiro Kuramata (1943-1991, Japan) let a feather float in weightlessness as if by magic, or when the air rushed in under the folds in the chair Alufelt by Marc Newson (*1963, Australia).

Hans Hollein_Colonne Air_Jens Ziehe
Hans Hollein_Colonne Air_Jens Ziehe
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