Vitra streams ‘Chair Times’ to let viewers immerse in the history of modern seating

The 90-minute film chronicles the journey of 125 iconic chairs from Vitra Design Museum’s permanent collection with objects dating from 1807 to the latest 3D printed designs.

by Zohra Khan Published on : May 14, 2020

'A sea of chairs' arranged inside the industrial gallery of Herzog & de Meuron-designed Vitra Schaudepot in Weil am Rhein, Germany is revealed in Chair Times: A History of Seating, a film by Heinz Bütler. The Swiss furniture brand Vitra has released the film on its website as a treat for all design enthusiasts during this lockdown period.

"Over 125 chairs dating from 1807 to the latest 3D printed designs are arranged in the order of their production years, forming a timeline of modern seating design,” informs the company.

 Poster of the film <em>Chair Times: A History of Seating | Chair Times | Vitra | STIRworld
Poster of the film Chair Times: A History of Seating Image Credit: Courtesy of Vitra

The chairs shown in the film are from Vitra Design Museum’s vast permanent collection and includes designs by 19th century modernists such as Flank Llyod Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Charles & Ray Eames, Enzo Mari, Alvar Alto, and Gaetano Pesce.

Rolf Fehlbaum, Chairman Emeritus of Vitra and founder of the Vitra Design Museum can be seen in the film, taking viewers through the journey of these chairs while also describing the change they heralded.

"In the old days, most people didn’t have access to chairs. They sat on stools or benches. Chairs were for the better off. And, with the advent of industrial production in the 19th century, modernity hit with the idea that what once was a luxury was now accessible to all,” he says in the film.

Rag Chair (1991) by Tejo Remy | Chair Times | Vitra | STIRworld
Rag Chair (1991) by Tejo Remy Image Credit: Courtesy of Vitra

From the famed 1930 Chaise Lounge B306 by the formidable trio Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand to Dutch designer Tejo Remy’s fully customisable Rag Chair from 1991 made up from old clothing – the collection chronicles an array of styles, and philosophies manifested into a single utilitarian product.

Sacco Chair (1968) by Piero Gatti, Cesare Paolini and Franco Teodoro | Chair Times | Vitra | STIRworld
Sacco Chair (1968) by Piero Gatti, Cesare Paolini and Franco Teodoro Image Credit: Courtesy of Vitra

"What fascinates me is that they have personalities. Each of them tells us something about the time it was created in, about the person who designed it, and of course about the society that utilised the particular chair. And the fact that they are basically all the same, that they are all an invitation to have a seat, that they are all small sculptures, makes all of them comparable," adds Fehlbaum.

Wiggle Side Chair (1969-72) by Frank Gehry | Chair Times | Vitra | STIRworld
Wiggle Side Chair (1969-72) by Frank Gehry Image Credit: Courtesy of Vitra

The vast collection also reveals a range of interpretations around the simple idea of a chair as well as the various material innovations and breakthroughs that resulted over the last century. These can be seen in products such as the 1972 Wiggle Side Chair by the extravagant architect Frank Gehry who is one of the first designers to produce cardboard furniture or Japanese architect Shiro Kuramata's 1986-designed How High the Moon that reinterpreted the traditionally bulky and upholstered form of a chair using wire-mesh.

Vegetal Chair (2009) by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec | Chair Times | Vitra | STIRworld
Vegetal Chair (2009) by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec Image Credit: Courtesy of Vitra

On the other hand, objects such as Dutch furniture designer and architect Gerrit T. Rietveld’s prototype of the Red Blue Chair from 1918 is not only remembered for its sculptural form but also for its contribution to the historic Dutch De Stijl movement. The chair expressed the fundamentals of the movement in the use of the same colours and right angles.

Austrian designer Peter Noever, who takes a round of the gallery with Fehlbaum in the film, brings an interesting insight: “What’s on display here," he says, "constitutes a part of the history of modern architecture. You don’t see lots of buildings in such close proximity…Chairs manifest something over and above their function."

DCW (1941-45) by Charles & Ray Eames | Chair Times | Vitra | STIRworld
DCW (1941-45) by Charles & Ray Eames Image Credit: Courtesy of Vitra

Dotted with many other dialogues with design experts, the film lets viewers immerse in the idea behind some of the most iconic chairs of our times in an enthralling 90-minute ride.

To watch 'Chair Times: A History of Seating', click here.


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About Author

Zohra Khan

Zohra Khan

A formal education in architecture combined with an avid interest in architecture journalism and design criticism led Khan to professionally venture into writing and research. She has worked in design communication for more than three years, generating content for mondo*arc india journal. When not writing, she kicks back by dabbling on social media for STIR.


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