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Design from the fifties and sixties
Bernadette Deloose, July 7, 2008
Armchair by Emiel Veranneman, 1958
Armchair by Emiel Veranneman, 1958
 
While growing criticism of the prevailing society reached its apex in student uprisings and the hippie movement, a change in furniture design became apparent as early as the beginning of the 60s. Besides a shift of ideas, the cause for this change was mainly due to the growing technical and design possibilities designers enjoyed. While some designers continued to strive for the exploitation of the economic advantages of synthetic materials, others also acknowledged the material’s creative possibilities. The possibility to shape and colour synthetic materials almost at leisure led to a trend of organically rounded, transitionless shapes which seemed to be one-piece. Dane Verner Panton was the first to succeed in creating a design for a chair which was shaped from a single piece of synthetic material. Among the most influential individuals was Joe Colombo who designed innovative mass-produced items with individual and consistent design and futuristic space themes.

Electric home appliances by Nova Designteam, 1955-60
Electric home appliances by Nova Designteam, 1955-60
 
As of 1965, groups such as Studio 65 created a sensation with utopian architectural designs, experimental furniture designs and happenings. They wished to offer alternatives to strictly partitioned and determined spaces, alternatives to rationalist, right-angled architecture and furniture which limited and isolated the user. The communal living concept found its counterpart in colourful living landscapes which were composed of organically shaped upholstery elements and which sought to avoid inter-human demarcation. Sculptural and remarkable furniture pieces were fashioned out of polyurethane foam, which allowed for free, soft shapes to be made, and which was stable even without a supporting structure. The first inflatable furniture also turned heads by virtue of their humorous and novel aspects, and were attractive because of the unity of material and structure.

Hanging lamps by Pieter De Bruyne, 1965
Hanging lamps by Pieter De Bruyne, 1965
 
At the same time came the advent of postmodernism, of which American architect Robert Venturi laid out the basic tenets in the 1966 publication “Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture”. Instead of consistently striving for innovation, a common feature in any modern movement, Venturi propagated eclecticism, which consciously treated available styles and traditions.

Through October 12,  2008

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