The LC3 collection by Le Corbusier and the Barcelona chair by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe surely paved the way. Today some of the most successful contemporary architects not only design furniture but also become creative directors of big design brands.
The news of Patricia Urquiola’s appointment as Cassina’s creative director shook up the design industry. She was not the first though. Architect Piero Lissoni was already in charge of the collections of Living Divani, Porro and B&B Italia. Soon Molteni followed the trend by appointing Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen as its creative director.
Coming closer to people
What is it with architects and product design then? David Adjaye answered the question in one of his recent interviews: “Designing a chair presents the opportunity to express my position. It is like a testing ground for ideas that interest me”. It is true that people can have a more intimate relationship with pieces of furniture than they can with buildings.
The early years
It all started in the early 20th century with architects like Mies van der Rohe designing pieces of furniture for individual buildings. This is the case of Barcelona chair. It was designed for the “Barcelona Pavilion” for the 1929 International Exposition that took place in the city. Later on, mainly in the 1950s, it became more common for architects to design furniture. In fact most of the icons of the Modernist movement are signed by architects: Alvar Aalto and Charles & Ray Eames are among the most well-known names to have done so.
A sense of home
As the years went by and the design industry matured, this practice became more and more popular. Big design brands now rely on architects to see their sales grow. Does the perspective of an architect differ from that of a designer? As Giulia Molteni, head of marketing and communication said: “Vincent will work on interior decoration to give a real sense of home, because of his architectural background”. So, architects tend to have a more “holistic approach” to design one could say. And this can only be a plus.