Chaise. Stoel. Chair. Defining Design
Design Museum Brussels, Belgium
March 26, 2021 – September 19, 2021
The Design Museum Brussels presents, from 26 March to 29 August 2021, the exhibition ‘Chaise. Stoel. Chair. Defining Design’. This exhibition uses the chair to question the world of design from the late nineteenth century until today. The chair, which the world of design has seized upon to explore its functions and shapes as well as the messages it conveys, will be at the centre of this exhibition. From Gerrit Rietveld’s famous Red and Blue Chair to Joe Colombo’s Tube Chair, from Marcel Breuer’s Wassily to Konstantin Grcic’s CUP, designers have constantly reinvented and redefined the chair,
questioning the cultural, technical, historical and social baggage it suggests. ‘Chaise. Stoel. Chair. Defining Design’ employs this everyday object to question design and its evolutions, developments and adaptations over the last century.
Visitors will be able to discover 100 chairs representative of design’s evolutions. Each adopting a specific perspective, five routes will offer a singular and original approach to the subject: production (mass production or unique pieces); use, since some chairs adapt their design to the needs of the user, while others question the user’s behaviour; innovation, whether technological (such as the use of polyurethane foam) or redefining the meaning of the object (such as Mart Stam’s cantilever chair); or its iconic value, with objects emblematic of a movement, a corporation, a social meaning.
The fifth route is experimental, with tactile and pedagogical applications for both children and adults. This original exhibition, proposed and produced by the team of the Design Museum Brussels, was made possible thanks to the collaboration between the chair collection of The Design Museum (London), the private collection of Galila Barzilaï-Hollander, and the collection of the Design Museum Brussels (The Plastic Design Collection). While most chairs are grouped together in the museum’s temporary exhibition space, a route through the other exhibition spaces (among others, Belgisch Design Belge and the Storerooms) will allow visitors to discover the entire selection.
By utility, experimentation, irony, claim or by simple envy, the chair appears as one of the “unavoidables” of the path of many designers. As an everyday object, it materialises and sometimes questions the cultural, technical and historical background of society. While our collective imagination associates it with a seat, a backrest and four legs, the chair actually meets our specific needs and is constantly adapting to the practices and evolution of technology and different ways of sitting. Using a variety of materials and textures, the concept then takes various forms: chaise longue, office chair, wheelchair, seat, bench, stool, pouffe or folding chair.
Five routes explore the different themes of a design project. A subjective selection creates new and unique interactions and dialogues between 100 chairs from the collection of The Design Museum, London, the Design Museum Brussels and Galila’s Collection (Brussels). Other than the grouped chairs in this exhibition space, the visitors can discover the entirety of the selection through a trail in the other exhibition spaces. The analysis of the user’s needs, habits and values is, for designers, the starting point for research that aims to solve and improve the relationship between the object, the human being and its environment.
The cross-disciplinary approach of design to different disciplines such as anthropology, marketing, engineering and material science sometimes leads to new products, which are the result of technological or sensory innovation. The object can then be mass-produced for the market or addressed to a particular target. Once available, the user can experiment with it and integrate it into their habits, sometimes making it the icon of a style, era or even a movement. The Chair. Stoel. Chair. Defining Design exhibition retraces the world of design from the end of the 19th century to the present day through this object – the chair – in constant redefinition, reaffirmation and hybridisation.