Design | Vitra: the Swiss Connection

The new Hopsack colours for the Aluminium Group (1958) by Charles & Ray Eames
Photo Marc Eggiman



Everything is Connected
(Vitra Home Collection)
Edited by Florian Böhm + Annahita Kamali
Published by Vitra AG & Gestalten
190 x 250mm
304pp, full color
English text
September 2014



There are few words in this book – just a two-page introduction by respected German author and lifestyle journalist Eckhart Nickel – plus short, factual captions to the pictures. And that’s the point. The theory behind its concept is that the carefully selected images included, their arrangement and juxtapositions, are all that is required to convey the ‘essence of connectivity’ – which, rather than the images themselves, is the subject matter.

Like the best modern household accessory, the package feels good in the hand and is easy on the eye. Perfect bound, the cover has french flaps that give it something of the feel of a hardback, but without the preciousness. Modest in format and 29mm thick, the book has a reassuring blockiness about it. Everything is Connected is not really for the Noguchi coffee table, its solid weight and the tactile, off-white linen cover, with a network diagram running around it that might have been scrawled by a laid-back philosopher, suggest a compact, scholarly text book. Flopping open effortlessly, it invites you to sink down with it into your Charles & Ray Eames (1956) Lounge Chair, and to swing your feet up on to the matching ottoman – both available from the Vitra Home Collection, for which this book is something more than just a clever marketing tool.

A group of nuns during the shooting of the Eames Office filming of Herman Miller at the Brussels World’s Fair, 1958. Right: Special edition of Panton Chairs at St Bartholemew’s Church in Chadovice, Czech Republic, 2006
Photos © 2014 Eames Office LLC, and Filip Šlapal



Environmental Enrichment Panels (1971) Alexander Girard
Photo Florian Böhm



Child’s room with the Hang it all, 1950. Right: Bistro Table (2009/10) Erwan & Ronan Bouroullec, Eames Plastic Side Chair DSW (1950), Charles and Ray Eames’ Hang it all (1953), .06 (2005) by Maarten Van Severen
Photos © 2014 Eames Office LLC, and Florian Böhm



Simply and cleanly laid out, there’s an inviting no-fuss feel about the inside pages. Less a photo book, more a Vitra furniture family album, there’s a lot of cosy nostalgia going on. Everything included has a certain familiarity about. There are lots of images of and references to the mid-century moderns – Charles and Ray Eames particularly – with, and working on, the designs for their own furniture, plus pictures of their homes which contain furniture by other designers they admire. There’s an amusing shot of Sir Norman Foster, Vitra chairman Rolf Fehlbaum and an unnamed other, all with bald heads, all lying or crouched face down on the floor, inspecting the underside details of the Airline Seating System (Foster, 1998). It faces a spread from graphic designer Tibor Kalman’s 2001 book, Chairman Rolf Fehlbaum, showing film director Billy Wilder relaxing on the Soft Pad Chaise (Charles & Ray Eames, 1968). There are pictures of furniture, fabrics and decorative Environmental Enrichment Panels (1975) by Alexander Girard, the latter produced for the exhibition Nelson / Eames / Girard / Propst: The Design Process of Herman Miller, 1975. A multiple-exposure photograph of Werner Panton sitting, or lying in various positions on his Living Tower (1968), is paired with a shot of Issey Miyake sitting in Shiro Kuramata’s delicate High The Moon (1986) nickel-plated rib mesh armchair, followed by Konstantin Grcic’s almost indestructible, steel grid Landen outdoor seating (2007). Of the more current designers, Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby are also not left out, and of course Jasper Morrison, who has been working with Vitra since the early 1990s. Vitra acquired the Finnish company Artek in 2013, so Alvar Aalto is also included.

The book is a triumph of picture research and editing, and once you start flicking through the pages it’s immediately apparent how the idea works. Distinct themes run over a spread or more. Sometimes the connection is obvious, while elsewhere a degree of horizontal thinking is required from the reader / viewer. The more you study the content the more discernible the links become, and you recognise that the themes are not isolated but continue without interruption, from almost any single point to another. Once familiar with how it works you start discovering your own connections. But it would be wrong to infer from its title that this book tells the complete story of connectivity in furniture design during the period the it covers – a world that is infinitely broader and more complex, and extends way beyond its scope.

All images from Everything is Connected, Edited by Florian Böhm & Annahita Kamali, © Vitra & Gestalten, 2014



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