The exhibition “Home Stories: 100 Years, 20 Visionary Interiors” is extended until February 28, 2021 at the Vitra Design Museum. Temporarily closed during the coronavirus crisis, it illustrates the social, societal and political developments of the modern interior.
An interior is the reflection of a lifestyle, of a daily life and of an era. With “Home Stories: 100 years, 20 visionary interiors”, the Swiss furniture manufacturer Vitra presents the evolution of the modern interior and invites to reflect on the future prospects – which take on a new dimension of topicality with the crisis of coronavirus. Drawings by architects like Adolf Loos, interior designers like Elsie de Wolfe, and artists like Andy Warhol illustrate the historic upheavals that the interior has experienced since the turn of the 20th century – open floor plans in the 1920s, the appearance of modern household appliances in the 1950s and the discovery of the loft in the 1970s.
Space, Economy and Atmosphere: 2000 – Today
The first interiors of the exhibition reflect the radicality of the current changes observed in private interiors. Indeed, the rise in real estate prices and the resulting shortage of affordable living space favors the design of micro-housing and their convertible furniture. We can see it in particular through “Yojigen Poketto” (which translates as “4D pocket”), an apartment designed by the Elii architecture studio in Madrid (2017).
At the same time, reconversion projects, such as “Antivilla” by Arno Brandlhuber near Berlin (2014) – which uses textiles as movable partitions – offer strategies to efficiently optimize space and present a new definition of comfort. and luxury, based on simplicity and the language of materials.
The relevance of the sharing economy, which is reflected in the interior design, is illustrated by the “Granby Four Streets Community Housing” project in Liverpool (2013 – 17), initiated by the multidisciplinary collective Assemble. Working closely with potential residents, Assemble saved a patio of a Victorian house from urban decay, redesigned interiors for contemporary needs, and helped set up a workshop that reuses building materials to create the furnishing of new spaces.
Today, Internet platforms like Airbnb, Instragram and Pinterest fuel the perception of an interior as a commodity, which can be displayed and capitalized on at any time. However, the imagery and display strategies in many private interiors date back to the premodern period or even vernacular living traditions. This can be seen in a slide show by Jasper Morrison commissioned exclusively for the exhibition, which explores how the arrangement of objects fundamentally affects the character and atmosphere of a private space.
Rethinking the interior: 1960 – 1980
The second part of the exhibition examines the radical changes in interior design from the 1960s to 1980s. With the spread of postmodernism, designers, and especially the Memphis design group, began to think about the symbolic meaning of furnishings, patterns and decorations.
A passionate collector of Memphis creations, fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld turned his apartment in Monte-Carlo into a postmodern showroom in the early 1980s.
During the previous two decades, social upheavals have had repercussions on the interiors of houses. In collaboration with the philosopher Paul Virilio, the architect Claude Parent introduced the concept of “oblique” to counter the neutral and cubic spaces that prevailed at the time. Parent furnishes his own apartment in Neuilly-sur-Seine with inclined planes that can serve equally as a seat, a dining room or a workplace, or even a day bed.
The New York Silver Factory by Andy Warhol (1964-1967) is a perfect example of early lofts, becoming an almost mythical symbol of the artist’s studio as a combination of living and working space.
At the same time, furniture maker and retail company IKEA is set to revolutionize the industry with its program to bring modern furniture to the masses. IKEA’s rise to the world’s largest furniture manufacturer and retailer has helped change the perception of furniture – from an object that is passed down from generation to generation, it becomes a fleeting, disposable and quickly outdated consumer product. .
The 1960s and 1970s presented radical ideas for interior design. Verner Panton’s “Fantasy Landscape” (1970) consisted of upholstered elements in different colors that formed a cave-shaped tunnel. This installation is reconstructed, during the exhibition, in the Zaha Hadid fire station adjoining the museum. In front of the museum, the “Hexacube” micro-house by George Candilis (1971) shows how prefabrication, modularity and mobility have shaped notions of domesticity.
Nature and technology: 1940 – 1960
Another decisive era in the formation of the modern interior was that of the post-war years. This period is marked by the entry of the modern style, developed before World War II, into the interiors of the Western world. During the Cold War, political competition between East and West crystallized around the question of standard of living, culminating in the famous “kitchen debate” between Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev which took place in an American prefabricated house exhibited in Moscow in 1959.
Before that, the mid-20th century saw the language of the modern interior become more refined. The “House of the Future” designed by Peter and Alison Smithson for the Ideal Home exhibition in London in 1956 embraces the methods of prefabrication and household automation, including the latest kitchen appliances and the self-cleaning bath. Much more skeptical of technological progress and functionalist design, Jacques Tati, in his film “Mon Oncle” (1958), stages Villa Arpel as a sanitized house with a spirit of its own, dominating its inhabitants.
By combining modern shapes and materials with a sense of ‘home’, Scandinavian interiors are becoming increasingly influential, as evidenced by the private residence of architect Finn Juhl (1942). He used his own house, in Ordrup, Denmark, as a test interior: the furniture is designed to explore how it can fit into an interior.
In addition, “living with nature” and the “fluid boundaries” between indoors and outdoors become key topics for architects like Lina Bo Bardi and her Casa de Vidro in São Paolo, Brazil (1950/51) . Bernard Rudofsky, another architect who envisions the relationship between private housing and its natural surroundings, draws on vernacular building traditions to promote homes with exterior rooms. With artist Costantino Nivola, he created an outdoor living space called “Nivola House Garden” in Long Island, New York (1950).
The birth of the modern interior: 1920 – 1940
The 1920s and 1930s saw the emergence of several key concepts of space and interior design that still predominate today. In these early years of modern design, yet so different from today, the private interior is at the center of the architectural debate. This is illustrated on a very large scale by the social housing program “Das Neue Frankfurt” (1925-30). Led by architect Ernst May, it includes the Frankfurt kitchen by Margarete Schütte Lihotzky (1926), but also affordable furniture designed by Ferdinand Kramer and Adolf Schuster.
While May pursues a strong social agenda, other architects reinvent the distribution and versatility of domestic space. In his villa Tugendhat in Brno, Czech Republic (1928-30), Ludwig Mies van der Rohe created one of the first houses based on an open space concept, with flowing spaces in which carefully placed furniture and textiles create islands for different uses.
Rather, Adolf Loos defends the “Raumplan”, a spatial planning concept that could not be understood in two dimensions due to its three-dimensional complexity. His Villa Müller in Prague (1929-30) presents a carefully choreographed sequence of spaces at different levels and different heights, which go beyond the standard notion of a single-level floor. Fellow Austrian architect and designer Josef Frank introduced the concept of ‘accident’, according to which interiors develop organically over time and appear to be composed by chance.
Contrary to these modernist positions, some of their contemporaries adopted ornamentation as a means of expression. Elsie de Wolfe, who published her book “The House in Good Taste” in 1913, is often considered one of the first professional interior designers. De Wolfe advocates interior design as a representation of the identity of the person who lives there. This is also true for the interiors created by photographer and interior designer Cecil Beaton who uses his domestic setting as a medium for self-expression. For his “Ashcombe House” (1930 – 45), he was inspired by the arts, theater, and even the circus.
Throughout the twentieth century, the debate over interior design evolved between the opposing concepts of normalization, functionalism and formal reduction on the one hand, and individualization and ornamentation on the other. , who both continue to shape our homes on this day. The “Home Stories” exhibition revisits some of the decisive moments in this development and asks the question for today: how do we want to live?
“Home Stories: 100 years, 20 visionary interiors”
February 8, 2020 – February 28, 2021
Vitra Design Museum
79576 Weil am Rhein