Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Ausstellungsstrasse
Permanent exhibition of the collection
Seven chronological period rooms featuring highlights from the collection present the most important trends in Swiss furniture design in the 20th century and illustrate changing lifestyles. This is what ideal living would have looked like according to the formative designers and producers of these eras. Fully decorated rooms reflect the tastes of a time even more strikingly than outstanding individual pieces. Seven model rooms lead through an eventful century in chronological order. The furnished rooms are supplemented with historical photos and advertising brochures from Swiss manufacturers.
Reform – circa 1918
After World War I, affordable living space was needed. The traditional lifestyle, which required a separate room for each function, had to be reformed. Criticism of mass-produced period furniture manifested itself in hand-crafted pieces. Around 1918, plain, unadorned form was the defining theme.
The New Home – circa 1925
In the second half of the twenties, Swiss manufacturers brought the first timeless standardized products to market, including everyday ceramics, lights, and furniture. In 1928 the Zürcher Kunstgewerbemuseum (today Museum für Gestaltung Zürich) presented the result of the balanced combination of traditional and avant-garde ideas which now began to shape a specifically Swiss brand of modernism.
Pragmatic Solutions – circa 1935
In the thirties, the Swiss Werkbund (SWB) created furnishings for “liberated living”. An example is the furniture program designed for the Werkbund’s Neubühl housing development in Zurich and thereafter marketed commercially. Foldable, collapsible, lightweight, and multifunctional: each piece was tailored precisely to the modestly sized living spaces.
Good Form – circa 1955
After the hardships of the war, consumers longed for new furniture that promised a freer and more comfortable way of life. The Swiss Werkbund inaugurated the award “Die gute Form” for exemplary design in 1952, believing in a world better equipped in both ethical and aesthetic terms.
Max Bill became the promoter of this label, which defined “form” as an expression of the unity of material, construction, and purpose of an everyday object.
Pop – circa 1965
Around 1968 the canon of modernist design had exhausted itself. Meanwhile, Pop Art brought flashy advertising, comics, science fiction, and folk art into the home. New plastics technologies enabled the production of colorful, flowing forms. Movies, music, and fashion spread the lifestyle of a new generation.
Post-Functionalism – circa 1975
By the mid-seventies, however, people were once again longing for a return to traditional values. The room as a Gesamtkunstwerk was once again the focus of interest, although designers now relished the subversive alienation of its traditional elements. Innovation was supplanted by remixing what already existed.
Minimalism – 1985
By the late eighties, the simple, self-evident utilitarian object had become a rarity. Functional furniture now appeared as a contrary trend to the sensual objects of postmodernism. A designers’ ability for formal reduction was now more important than grand gestures. These new, simple designs offered the right solutions for the daily life of urban nomads. They revived the minimalist tradition with technoid coolness and constructive cleverness.