In conjunction with Milan Design Week 2018, Vitra presents the exhibition ‘Typecasting’ in the former sports arena La Pelota. The designer Robert Stadler, who curated and staged the exhibition, has created an expansive panorama of some 200 objects, drawing on the extensive Vitra archives to juxtapose current products with classics, prototypes, special editions and future visions. The show places a central focus on the social function of furniture in society.
The exhibition ‘Typecasting’ offers a new view of Vitra. In the spacious Pelota arena, a panoramic display of around 200 objects portrays the past, present and future of ‘Project Vitra’. Robert Stadler, who curated and designed the show, emphasises the social role of furniture – and of chairs in particular – as a key theme. Along with their obvious practical use as seating, chairs have historically always had an additional representative function: the selection of a specific chair is also a personal act of image cultivation.
The installation reflects this by presenting the furnishings as personalities with various attitudes. Stadler has selected pieces from both current production and the company’s archives, complementing them with design studies and grouping them into nine ‘communities’ based on specific characteristics. Stadler looks at the objects outside the context of conventional furniture categories, which are usually linked to their functional uses or historical origins. By contrast, his groupings are defined according to common stereotypes in everyday media: such as the ‘Spartans’, who make do with the bare essentials, or the dynamic, hardened ‘Athletes’, or the perfectly styled ‘Beauty Contestants’, or the transformable ‘Slashers’.
In this way, the exhibition playfully demonstrates that design is much more than the mere creation of industrial products. It underscores the role of design as a means of self-representation, of identifying with a specific group and establishing boundaries towards others. With a touch of poetic irony, the show treats furnishings as if they were props on the stage of self-portrayal. Thus Zaha Hadid’s Mesa Table (2007) becomes an ‘Athlete’, while the reductive form of Maarten van Severen’s MVS Chaise (2000) is identified as a ‘Spartan’, and Verner Panton’s vertical seating object Living Tower (1969) finds a place among the ‘Communals’.
The ‘Communals’ form the centrepiece of the installation. This category comprises furnishings that were designed for the purpose of shared use. The topic of communal living was showcased in the Vitra Design Museum’s 2017 exhibition ‘Together! The New Architecture of the Collective’. The traditional family dwelling is losing its relevance, leading to the emergence of new models for communal living. The sofa is moving from the private living room to a shared space, where it becomes the central stage for living and working together. This transfer alters its character. The new seating typology of the ‘communal sofa’ is exemplified in the Pelota show by six design studies that Vitra has developed in collaboration with Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Konstantin Grcic, Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, Robert Stadler, and Commonplace Studio. New designs by Hella Jongerius, Front, and Maria Jeglinska are displayed in other categories of the installation.
The changing perspective demonstrated by the exhibition is highlighted on a digital level by video collages. Three large screens will show live feeds of the installation at La Pelota.
Objects in the installation
The exhibited objects include designs from the current Vitra portfolio, some of which are presented in unusual versions that are not commercially available. A large number of items are taken from the Vitra archives and the collection of the Vitra Design Museum. These include Vitra Editions – a company project that gave rise to numerous experimental designs between 1987 and 2007, such as the Vodöl armchair (1989) by Austrian architects Coop Himmelb(l)au, the Chair/Chair (1987) by American artist Richard Artschwager, or the Slow Car (2007) by Dutch designer Jürgen Bey. Amongst the prototypes and objects drawn from the museum collection, visitors will find the mould created at the Museum of Modern Art in New York for the reproduction of the iconic design La Chaise (1989/90) by Charles and Ray Eames.
Designer Panel: Typecasting. Objects as Characters Wednesday, 18 April, 4:30 – 5:30 pm, La Pelota
With Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, Sofia Lagerkvist and Anna Lindgren of Front Design, Robert Stadler, Maria Jeglinska, and Jon Stam of Commonplace Studio. Moderated by Jan Boelen.
Tours: With curator Robert Stadler, 17/18/19 April, 9:30 am (Duration approx. 30 Mins)
Facts & Credits
Typecasting. An Assembly of Iconic, Forgotten and New Vitra Characters 17 – 22.04.2018
Vitra, La Pelota, Via Palermo 10, 20121 Milano
17– 21 April 2018: 10 am – 9 pm
22 April 2018: 10 am – 6 pm
Notes to Editors
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