One of the largest modern design exhibitions ever held in this country opens to the public at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday 29 October 2003. Living in Motion: Design and Architecture for Flexible Dwelling explores developments in the home, the workplace and in people’s lifestyles, which are now subject to greater and more rapid change than ever before. Also examined are the ways in which contemporary architects and designers have worked to adapt living environments to these new parameters. The exhibition features modular furniture, folding screens, housing containers and other forms of movable architecture and brings together design and architecture ranging from the traditional South American hammock to modern-day living pods. Organised by the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany, it includes work by such noted designers as Isamu Noguchi, Philipe Starck, Ron Arad, Gerrit Rietveld and Eileen Gray.
Although flexible modes of living draw on an age-old tradition and a wide variety of cultures – from early European stair ladders to North African tents – recent changes in living conditions and technical advances have greatly increased the relevance of domestic flexibility. This preoccupation with energising our domestic environment, using either multipurpose rooms or multifunctional furniture, is something which has caught the imagination of almost all the great designers of the last 80 years, from Frank Lloyd Wright through Gerrit Rietveld and Mies van der Rohe to Ron Arad and Rem Koolhaas all of whom are represented in the exhibition.
The exhibition also includes two pieces by the Irish designer Tony O’Neill, whose approach to furniture design is based not only on structural considerations but takes in more surprising aspects such as puzzles and paradoxes. As working and private lives increasingly overlap, a mobile independent lifestyle becomes increasingly important. Today, more than ever, people are seeking a way of living which is not tied to fixed patterns and predetermined locations. The 100 objects brought together in Living in Motion are displayed in six main groups based on their use:
Transporting, including Mathieu Mategot’s tea wagon and a model of an Asian houseboat.
Assembling and Disassembling, usually serving the purpose of easier transport, such as the Colonial Folding Chair by Kare Klint or Gerrit Rietveld’s Schroeder House with its moveable walls.
Adapting, comprising objects that can be adapted to alternating physical needs, such as Joe Colombo’s Mutichair, Ron Arad’s Transformer, and Tony O’Neill’s Slimline Folding Chairs.
Combining, including a ladder chair, a sleeping sofa, or David Green’s Living Pod, integrating various functions in a single object.
Folding and Unfolding, to save space or facilitate transport as seen in the folding screen of Charles and Ray Eames, or in a camper by Eduard Böhtlingk.
Wearing and Carrying, where individual domestic devices can be worn or carried: as in a jacket with integrated telecommunications equipment by Philips and Levi Strauss or a simple umbrella.
In addition to the objects exhibited, over 500 illustrations of further examples of flexible living will be displayed in films and on computer terminals.
The following talks have been organised to coincide with the exhibition.
The exhibition is accompanied by a 300-page catalogue with more than 300, mostly colour, illustrations. It includes essays by Mathias Schwartz-Clauss, Curator, Vitra Design Museum, Dr Robert Kronenburg, Dr Annemarie Seiler-Baldinger and Dr Stephen Rammler. The authors examine the major developments in mobile and adaptable architecture and interior design in the 20th century and also provide insights into causes and consequences of “living in motion” from sociological and psychological standpoints.
Mado, Netherlands bv, Eindhoven, Netherlands
Van den Born bv, Waspik, Netherlands
Dreissen, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Architectenbureau, Böhtlingk, Maasland, Netherlands
Photo: Architectenbureau Böhtlingk