The ‘Typecasting’ exhibition offered a new view of Vitra. In the spacious Pelota arena, in conjunction with Milan Design Week 2018, a panoramic display of some 200 objects portrayed the past, present and future of ‘Project Vitra’. Robert Stadler, who curated and designed the show, emphasizes 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 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.

READ MORE: Can you name these 10 architects who double as furniture designers?

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’.

The ‘Communals’ form the centerpiece 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

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