Monday, January 21, 2013

A Pile of Chairs

Check out the younger Mr. Rietveld (around 1916-17) in front of his furniture shop with his staff.  He’s sitting in his original, prototype design of the now iconic Red Blue Chair.  This is a few years before meeting Piet Mondrian and other members of the De Stijl movement.

My own red Blue chair build continues to move along.  Work time was curtailed a bit this week by some needed focus on clean-up and some shop organization though.  I was able to clear out some of the space at the back end of the workbench that will allow me to move the bench and table saw down a bit toward the back end of the shop.

While it hasn’t been a huge problem there have been a couple of times I’ve gone to battle with the support column that stands a couple of feet to the left of the table saw.  It doesn’t impede working on the saw so much as mobility around the shop.

Despite having to dance around the pole (whoa, whoa, whoa…don’t go there!  It wouldn’t be pretty!  J) I pressed forward on the final sizing of the chair parts.

I squared up the ends and then cut the arm rests to length.

Then it was on to the rail stock that will make up the framing of the chair.

Here we have two chairs, minus the seats and backs.  Sure they look like a pile of sticks now, but soon…the magic of Rietveld’s design!

One of Rietveld’s chief aims was to design furniture that pushed the envelope of modern design, that explored and presented new ideas in fresh ways, and above all made it accessible to the masses.  The key design feature of this, and many of his designs, was that they could be built with easily produced parts…in this case, a pile of sticks!

One of the most intriguing aspects of the Red Blue design, for me, is how bold the chair is in the way it occupies a space when viewed from the front or from a skewed angle.  Moving around the chair and observing it from the side makes the design as a chair almost disappear.  It becomes a collection of points and lines…a painting on an invisible canvas rather than a piece of furniture.

For almost 100 years now, this specific design has sparked many discussions on what modern design is, what is considered good design, and how accessible modern design should be to the masses.  Many times the Red Blue Chair elicits responses of “love it” or “hate it” which is exactly what Rietveld was trying to accomplish.  He was starting a conversation on design that is still in full swing today.  What are your thoughts…if you dare to share?  Be careful…people could be talking about your contributions to the conversation 100 years from now.



Anonymous said...

Surely the "disappearing" trick only works in a black room (as I read on Wikipedia the colours were designed for)

Pete said...

You're absolutely correct. The original intent of the new color design was to work in tandem with the black walls and floor in the Schroder House that he designed in the early 20s. I wonder if I can convince my lovely bride to dedicate a corner of the room to black!