“Good design”

My second-latest post was dedicated to a certain modern architect and designer, Alvar Aalto, whose work has become iconic or dogmatic for a whole country. Actually, the problem of modernism turned into dogma is much bigger than one single person in one single country. Take design, for instance – take a moment to think about what is considered good design in contemporary Western society. Perhaps some of the following items pop out of your neural circuits:

Eero Saarinen's Tulip chair photo:wikimedia commons Barcelona chair (1929) by Ludwig Mies van der RoheArne Jacobsen's Egg chair (1958)

The latest edition of Icon Magazine allows you to participate in a contest called The Ultimate Living Room where you can win items labeled good design. Here’s what came up. Many of the items presented by Icon Magazine, as well as the three chairs above, are widely accepted as iconic pieces of modern design.

“Neomodernism” sure is back after postmodernism. This is reflected by how we today define “The Ultimate Living Room”.While I do appreciate the forms and beauty of the modern, simple aesthetics, I do wonder what it tells of a society when many of its icons come from the past. – Or am I just spoiled by the momentum of societal change since WW2, expecting change to be present all the time? I mean, look how long it took us to get rid of the classical views. A couple of thousand years.

Only, I feel a bit sad for the modernist movement. The language of design was that of breaking free from the past, breaking free from the classical ornaments. It is funny to see the rigidity around the definition of good design today. But I guess that’s the way it works. Ideas are first innovative, then they become dogma only to finally they fall to limbo. “All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again.”

You might say society is not really through with modernism yet, so why should we change our icons? We still like the simple, industrially reproducable objects that emphasize the superiority of industry and technology. The three chairs above still reflect the society we live in, even though they were designed 50-70 years ago. Sure enough they do, but I still wouldn’t mind seeing some new ways to express the modern or neo-modern era we live in.

Hmm have this as a homework, try to find contemporary good design chairs. 🙂

photos: wikimedia commons (-hover over the photos to see who designed the chairs and when)


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