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DASH #11 – Interiors on Display

The home interior is a measure of time. It envelops and reveals the home, the private sphere; it explains how we deal with the past, as well as with the things that surround us. It shows how the complex world around us forms part of our lives. A history of the home interior can also be read as a historiography of everyday life, which is more and more in the grip of technology, as well as about changing attitudes towards family relationships, privacy and publicity, consumption and information. Although the interior of a home can be very personal, in the past century this meant that the interior has been a theme par excellence that architects use to reflect on modern dwelling, and a tool for unfolding future visions about dwelling and everyday life. Dwelling, after all, is very close to the skin, and the home is also an accessible tool for drawing attention to the future.

This issue of DASH examines the interior as a tool for depicting architectural visions by publishing 15 exhibited interiors from the last century – interiors that were not intended to be lived in, but that instead had an artistic, educational or commercial purpose; in many of these cases, the drawings were also reconstructed. This documentation includes plans by Peter Behrens, H.P. Berlage, Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Joe Columbo, Ugo La Pietra, Kengo Kuma and Hella Jongerius. These projects have been framed by essays written by Irene Cieraad, Fredie Floré and Rika Devos, Peter Lang, Hans Teerds and Jurjen Zeinstra, in which the period rooms are placed in their specific era, the influence of IKEA is examined and the relationship between the public and private is investigated. In an interview with Louise Schouwenberg of the Design Academy in Eindhoven, the relationship between the interior and the things that we surround ourselves with is discussed in the light of a vision for the future of dwelling.

CONTENT

Editorial Dash #11

The cover of this issue of DASH shows a home interior that was exhibited in Berlin in 1952, at the exhibition ‘Wir bauen ein besseres Leben’ / ‘We’re Building a Better Life’. In this model interior, which was designed like a brilliant white laboratory, American actors showed the audience that had flocked to Berlin how you were supposed to live in this kind of house. An expert in a white coat, who towered above the drab audience, was on hand to explain the house, and what the actors were doing.

Like no other picture, this photograph shows how the housing interior has been seized upon in the modern era as a tool in emancipatory and political processes (from both the outside in and from the inside out) that have dramatically changed the dwelling landscape. With the rise of mass housing in the previous century, dwelling undeniably became an architectural task, and the interior has played an important role in this process.

Yet one can also ask whether the home interior can indeed be seen as an architectural project. After all, within the four walls of one’s own house, the resident will go his own way, unseen and undisturbed, with the walls separating the private from the public. The house is furnished and customized to one’s own needs, and is decorated with the paraphernalia of everyday life and the memories of the past. Despite this personal dimension, history has shown that the home interior has also always been linked to representation, and that makes it by definition an architectural assignment: just think of the interiors of large houses and noble palaces. The rise of mass housing over the past 100 years concentrated on dwelling as an architectural task, and that created the space for the home interior to also be an architectural assignment, one that has since overtaken the noble elite and the decorative. Nowadays it seems that every interior is considered an ‘architectural’ project, or better yet a ‘design’ project: just take a look at any magazine kiosk to see how dwelling consumers are inundated with information on the latest trends. The interior seems more than ever to have become an instrument by which an individual presents himself to the world, much in the way that fashion is also such an instrument.

For DASH, this focus on the home interior is interesting because (in)explicitly formulated ideas about the interior always play a role, and always have done, in the design of homes; this is true not only in the design of private houses, but also of mass housing. The transfer of these ideas primarily took place, and still takes place, through the interiors themselves, which are publicized by the media (books, magazines, newspapers, television, films, exhibitions, department stores, catalogues, home design blogs). Some of these interiors are specially made to express a specific view about dwelling and architecture. In this issue of DASH, we explicitly focus on these exhibited home interiors, which we call ‘interiors on display’. We examined
15 of these rooms from the last century: interiors that were never inhabited, but that were exhibited at exhibitions and fairs. In most cases, the interiors were broken down, and only live on in the form of drawings and/or photographs. Leading up to this documentation, five essays and an interview offer different perspectives on the idea of the interior as an architectural assignment, as a commercial object and as a tool in creating artistic, avant-garde and cultural reflections on society. This issue of DASH thus presents a small cross section of more than 100 years of dwelling, in the context of the rapidly changing (Western) society, and shows how these developments have been architecturally projected onto the interior.

 

Essays
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Lebensraum

Notes on Hannah Arendt and the Private Realm

In her novel The Fountainhead (1943), American author and philosopher Ayn Rand describes an interior within the first four pages: the student room of her protagonist, architect Howard Roark. This early introduction of an interior is an indication of its importance, in novels as much as in daily life. A previously unfamiliar interior can tell us a great deal about its occupant, and not just the obvious things like the style of furniture he or she has chosen (from IKEA or Milan) or what books are displayed in the bookcase (if there is a bookcase at all). It also reveals something about the life being lived there. And an interior also poses a challenge: it invites the visitor to relate to the occupant, precisely because it is an everyday and in some sense a shared environment, which evokes either recognition or alienation.

Rand uses the interior as a mechanism with which to shed light on her protagonist’s character. The novel opens just after Roark has been suspended from his architecture degree. His landlady is waiting for him in front of her house…

 

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‘In welchem Style sollen wir wohnen?’

Exhibited Interiors in a Debate about Style

In ‘The Exhibitionist House’, Beatriz Colomina highlights how the house has become ‘the most important vehicle for the investigation of architectural ideas in this century’.1The role that what I would call ‘style rooms’ – exhibited house interiors – have played in this process should not be underestimated. These temporary and relatively simple architectural installations are not only able to quickly demonstrate an idea to a large audience, but can also transcend the manifesto, the sales brochure, or the promotional leaflet by evoking an immediate illusion of the interior.

In my article, I want to position several of these style rooms in a debate about style and interiors that up to the present day remains of great importance to architecture and design. These specific interiors played a role in this debate at crucial moments in the first half of the twentieth century. Style, a key architectural concept, forms the foundation of many architectural-theoretical considerations and polemics,2 and is defined in the dictionary somewhat laboriously as the ‘collective characteristics of (…) artistic expression or way of presenting things or decorative methods proper to a person or school or period or subject.’3

Style also plays an important role in the private interior of the home. The personal character of the interior and the relative ease of adapting it to changing needs and tastes mean that it is often difficult to maintain ‘collective characteristics of artistic expression’ in the long term, but style is nonetheless an inescapable issue in the interior of the home. The major changes in society over the past few centuries, such as the rise of the middle class, increasing industrialization, and the development of the free global market, have turned the home, and by extension the interior of the home, into an architectural assignment. Style in this sense is not so important in terms of its art-historical significance, but rather in describing the aesthetic choices of the designer in terms of space, proportions, coverings and comfort, which are indeed eminently architectural concepts.

In the nineteenth century, style was the subject of a lengthy and intense debate among historians and architects.4 In welchem ​​Style sollen wir bauen became the lofty phrase that managed to sum up that debate within the field of architecture, with all of its eclectic freedom, but also the nervous despair that was implied by the question itself.5 The question goes far beyond the choice of this or that historical building style: style represents not only an era and a culture, but also takes on a strong ethical and political meaning as an expression of power, or a projected ideal. In the process, the inherent relativism of the style debate is consistently beset by a desire for a ‘natural’ style that is supposed to express the new era.

The question of whether and how this kind of Überstil should or could arise forms an important breeding ground for the theoretical edifice that architect Gottfried Semper constructed in the middle of the nineteenth century, one that is still important today for reflecting on architecture.6

Notes:

  • Beatriz Colomina, ‘The Exhibitionist House’, in: Richard Koshalek, Elizabeth A.T. Smith and Zeynep Çelik (eds.), At the End of the Century: One Hundred Years of Architecture (Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art, 1998), 126-166. See, for example: OASE, no. 42. (1995).
    H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler (eds.) The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1964), 1282.
  • Mitchell Schwarzer, German Architectural Theory and the Search for Modern Identity (Cambridge/New York/Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 33-87.
  • Nowhere was the style debate more actively contested than in the German language countries. The title In welchem Style sollen wir bauen appears at least three times: in Heinrich Hübsch in 1828, in August Reichensperger in 1852, and in Albert Hofmann in 1890.
  • Ibid., 331, 332, 336.
  • For a concise version by Semper himself (translated by Harry Francis Mallgrave
    and Wolfgang Herrmann), see: Gottfried Semper, The Four Elements of Architecture and Other Writings (Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 101-129.
  • Udo Garritzmann gives a good summary of the theories of Semper: ‘From the Colour of Dressing to the Dressing in Colour and Back Again’, in: Suzanne Komossa, Kees Rouw and Joost Hillen (eds.), Colour in Contemporary Architecture (Amsterdam: SUN, 2009), 172-196.
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Model Interiors and Model Homes at Expo 58

Exhibited Interiors in a Debate about Style

Model interiors and model homes were a recurring element at the world fairs of the previous century. At Expo 58, the Brussels World Fair of 1958, these forms of presentation were also a common feature. Various participating nations saw the model interior or the model home as a powerful didactic instrument with which to draw attention to the idea of successful post-war reconstruction, a new national identity or a promising future. Model homes offered an accessible formula, instantly recognizable across national borders and extremely suited to the synthesis of industry and culture.1At the same time the model home was a rewarding formula for participants with a more commercial purpose. Within the Belgian Section,2 especially, contributions such as the pavilion of the Buildings and Dwellings group or that of the furniture company Vanderborght provided an overview of what the Belgian market had to offer – or might be offering in the future.3 As well as giving expression to progress, these model homes and interiors often appeared to be referring explicitly to the overall theme of the world fair: ‘A balance sheet for a more humane world.’ A good or comfortably furnished home was a basic need, the social importance of which had been brought into sharp focus since the horrors of the Second World War.4

The model homes and interiors at Expo 58 were extremely wide-ranging, not least because of the diversity of the participating nations and businesses and their different visions of ‘modern’ or ‘better’ living. Besides, by the end of the 1950s the model interior was familiar to the general public, which had become acquainted with the national promotion of ‘new’ and ‘good’ living during the post-war years. Expo 58 gave designers the opportunity to deploy this tried and tested exhibition formula in a range of different, often subtle and innovative ways, stretching from realistic, full-scale models to fictitious or evocative settings in which furniture and other furnishings played a significant role. This article sheds light on the rich palette of model homes and interiors at Expo 58, and reflects on examples that pushed the medium’s boundaries…

Notes:

  • We would like to thank architectural engineers Iris Bauwens and Céline Goessaert for their archival research into the model homes in the German, French and Dutch pavilions. They wrote
    a Master’s thesis about these model homes: Iris Bauwens and Céline Goessaert, Modelwoningen op Expo 58. Drie cases: de Nederlandse, Duitse en Franse paviljoenen (Ghent University, Master’s thesis, 2006). They subsequently published an article based on their thesis: Iris Bauwens and Céline Goessaert, ‘Modelwoningen op Expo 58. Drie cases: de Nederlandse, Duitse en Franse  paviljoenen’, Gentse Bijdragen tot de Interieurgeschiedenis, no. 36 (2009), 87-107.
  • The world fair was divided into different sections based on the nature and origin of the exhibitors. They included a Belgian, Foreign, Colonial, Commercial and Global Section. Inside the pavilions, the exhibition was organized in ‘groups’ encompassing the different aspects of society. Each group was divided into different ‘classes’. With its encyclopaedic approach, Expo 58 fits
    into the nineteenth-century exhibition tradition.
  • Fredie Floré and Mil De Kooning, ‘The Representation of Modern Domesticity in the Belgian Section of the Brussels World’s Fair of 1958’, Journal of Design History, no. 4 (2003), 319-340.
  • Paul Betts and David Crowley, ‘Introduction’, Journal of Contemporary History, no. 2 (2005), 213-236.

 

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Superstudio: Inhabited Space

[Part 1: Karma Sutra]

Renowned architect Giovanni Michelucci and art critic Laura Vinca Masini were the two principle curators for ‘La Casa Abitata’ (the Inhabited House), the 1965 Florentine biennale on interior architecture and design that introduced a set of walk-through room installations inside Palazzo Strozzi. The all but forgotten Florentine exhibition brought together some of Italy’s most noteworthy architects and designers to showcase new and creative visions for the contemporary domestic environment.1 In a feature article on the exhibition published in Domus, the editors lamented the fact that this kind of research of the home by such an esteemed group of architects and designers had not originated in Milan at the Triennale.2

While Vinca Masini stressed in her catalogue introduction that there was a complete lack of consensus among the selected participants, her premise was to raise ‘awareness of the inability of contemporary homes to perform an exact function, conditioned by the market, the general building situation and the crisis of our cities, dominated by an increasingly anonymous building program that is ever more confined by the immediate needs of the masses.’ She went on to stress: ‘It seems clear that the average person can save himself only by rediscovering his own measure, by recovering his freedom, where the conditioning, incommunicability and inurement provoked by propaganda and advertising, imposed by all means by all the means of the “culture of affluence”, can be brought down to size and re-established within the limits of their meaning through an individual thought process.’3 With this exhibition, Vinca Masini wanted to show that it was possible for man to gain a real freedom of lifestyle…

Notes:

  • Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi Catalog: La Casa abitata: biennale degli interni di oggi, (Florence, Formatecnica Publicazioni, 1965)
  • Domus editors, ‘Introduction,’ Domus, no. 426 (May 1965) reprinted in Charlotte and Peter Fiell, Domus Vol VI 1965-1969 (London: Taschen, 2006), 552.
  • Lara Vinca Masini, ‘The Inhabited House’, Domus, no. 426 (May 1965), in: ibid., 553.
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IKEA and the Dutch Domestic Landscape

In 2013, IKEA, the furniture store from Sweden, celebrated the 35th anniversary of the opening of its first branch in the Netherlands. The retrospective exhibition in an old factory building in Amsterdam told not only the history of how IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad had turned a simple catalogue firm into a multinational, but also the success story of IKEA’s impact on the Dutch interior. The impact was primarily contributed to the annual door-to-door delivery of the thick sales catalogue; that explains why all 35 covers of the IKEA catalogue were printed on large banners, providing the visitors with a nostalgic look back. In addition, the curators of the exhibition had asked holders of the IKEA Family card (that is, the IKEA fan club) to take pictures of themselves with their favourite IKEA trophy. Of the many framed pictures of proud owners on their IKEA sofa, at their IKEA table, or in their IKEA bed, several were selected to be printed in a large format, professional portraits with a detailed explanation of what the piece of furniture or lamp meant to them…

 

Interviews
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‘Living and Things’

Interview with Louise Schouwenberg, Design Academy Eindhoven / Sandberg Instituut Amsterdam

The Design Academy Eindhoven (DAE), which evolved from its forerunner the Akademie Industriële Vormgeving Eindhoven, has played an important role in design education in the Netherlands since the Second World War. The academy has been considered one of the most important design schools in the world since the 1990s and, as a result, attracts an increasing number of foreign students, particularly for the Master’s courses. After the departure of Gijs Bakker, the founder of the DAE Master’s programme, Jan Boelen, Joost Grootens and Louise Schouwenberg took over responsibility. Since 2010, Schouwenberg has headed the department of Contextual Design, which focuses on product design in a broad sense. Schouwenberg successively studied psychology, sculpture and philosophy and is the author of many publications, including a monograph about artist Robert Zandvliet (2012) and two on designer Hella Jongerius (2004 and 2010). In addition, she curated several exhibitions for, among others, Galerie Fons Welters in Amsterdam, the TextielMuseum Tilburg and Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam…

[This interview took place on 26 August 2014 in Amsterdam. Parts of the interview are taken from the text ‘De Dingen’ (The Things). Louise Schouwenberg wrote that text, which appeared in a limited edition in 2006, for Marres, House for Contemporary Culture in Maastricht.]

Plan Documentation

Plan Documentation Interiors on Display

The project documentation for this eleventh edition of DASH shows 15 style rooms that cover a time span of more than 100 years. These home interiors, which were never inhabited, were explicitly designed to illustrate a contemporary or futuristic form of dwelling at exhibitions and fairs. This distinguishes them from the traditional style rooms or period rooms in museums that depict a historic domestic style. The interiors shown here demonstrate how certain themes from the past 100 years continue to play a role in the debate on architecture, design and dwelling.
In selecting the style rooms, an attempt was made to find a certain variation in design philosophies, without striving for completeness. The rooms from the first decade of the twentieth century made by Peter Behrens and Hendrik Petrus Berlage for Wertheim, the department store in Berlin, show two different approaches: the Gesamtkunstwerk and the composed interior. The home furnishing of Behrens became well known and was reconstructed in Darmstadt, whereas Berlage’s room has been forgotten. The three exhibited interiors from the 1920s illustrate the great importance that architects from this period gave to the phenomenon of ‘dwelling’, as well as the important position that housing exhibitions (and the interiors they featured) played in a debate about space, materials, standardization and domestic culture. Noteworthy of the two interiors documented here by the great Modern masters Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier is the essential role of two women, respectively Lilly Reich and Charlotte Perriand, whose names have remained somewhat in the shadows until recently. In comparison to these two installations, the furniture arrangement of Heinrich Tessenow shows a completely different approach: here, a link was sought to the conventions of a natural domestic culture. In their 1930 installation for the Triennale di Milano, Luigi Figini and Gino Pollini took an intermediary position between Mies and Tessenow: in a spatial arrangement that was clearly indebted to Mies, they placed furniture as ready-mades, referring to traditions from the Italian countryside. From the same period, we also included a furniture arrangement by Josef Frank for Svenskt Tenn, which was exhibited with great commercial success at the World’s Fair in New York: the home interior had become a global market.

After the Second World War, the relationship between architecture and the home interior changed. The ambition to educate the dwelling consumer about good taste took off significantly during the reconstruction period. In the early 1950s, Finn Juhl was asked by the Trondheim museum to give shape to this particular kind of taste, in a modern period room. Likewise, at Expo 58 in Brussels, Karl Augustinus Bieber and Ernst Althoff showed the interior of a more ordinary but still modern model apartment. A specific way of exhibiting distinguished this pavilion from the many model homes and arrangements that, for example, the Goed Wonen foundation had furnished in the Netherlands.

The shift from architecture to (product) design, or more accurately the gradual disappearance of the strong interest that architects had shown for home interiors during the pre-war years, was perhaps best seen in the 1972 MoMA exhibition ‘Italy: The New Domestic Landscape’. Two completely different projects by Joe Colombo and Super-studio, both related to this exhibition, showed how the architecture of the home dissolved respectively into an all-inclusive object and a series of neutral furniture pieces in a landscape. Product design, encouraged by the spirit of postmodernism, threw itself wholeheartedly into the domestic interior, by depicting trends like the rise of the media, as can be seen in the project by Ugo La Pietra from the 1980s. Apparently, in the current consumer society, product designers have recently been better than architects at giving shape to their ideas about dwelling: Jasper Morrison and Hella Jongerius created installations that critically questioned their own profession, whereas Kengo Kuma seemed to be looking for a reinterpretation of an ancient culture. But at the same time, this also illustrates a fundamental and at least 100-year-old debate among architects and designers about the role of innovation and tradition in home interiors.
All of these interiors on display were specially redrawn for this issue. In so doing, we looked for a drawing technique that specifically worked for interiors. Showing the floor plan with unfolded walls (known as ‘developed surface drawing’) is a technique that has traditionally been used by those who focus on the treatment of the surfaces of the inner walls, such as painters and other craftsmen. In the England and the Netherlands of the eighteenth century, this technique achieved a certain popularity among architects in the design of interiors. Because this drawing technique allows the relationship between the floor plan and the elevations of the room to be united in a single drawing, we have consistently used it in this project documentation, and we have thus drawn the 15 style rooms in a similar fashion. This inevitably led to a number of complications. As a drawing technique, developed surface drawing is particularly suitable for ‘classic’ rooms with a flat floor, walls and ceiling. But with this technique, steps or projections in these surfaces lead to interruptions in the uniform depiction of the figure, as can be seen in the drawings of the rooms by Behrens, Figini and Pollini, and Juhl. Despite these interruptions, these drawings still create the illusion of a model cut-out, which only needs to be folded together to be viewed from above. This becomes difficult, however, with exhibited home interiors that are not so much rooms or spaces but objects, such as the model apartment by Bieber and Althoff, the Total Furniture Unit by Colombo, or the Ideal House by Jongerius. Here we have used a variant of this drawing technique, where the outer walls of the object are grouped around the floor plan, so that you look from the outside to the inside. This variant of the floor plan with unfolded elevations has also been used in what is perhaps the most outspoken ‘anti-style room’, namely Superstudio’s placement of the Misura furniture in an open space.

Interiors that were once displayed at fairs or exhibitions have not always been well described or documented. For the most part, the new drawings shown here are therefore reconstructions of the project, based on the available (historical) material: sketches, drawings and photographs.

 

With contributions by:
Frederique van Andel, Rika Devos, Fredie Floré, Dick van Gameren,
Julia Hegenwald, Paul Kuitenbrouwer, Peter Lang, Pierijn van der Putt,
Louise Schouwenberg, Hans Teerds & Jurjen Zeinstra

Drawings:
Guido Greijdanus, Carlyn Simoen & Davida Rauch

Speisezimmer

BerlinPeter Behrens

In 1902 the department store Wertheim in Berlin started to showcase state-of-the-art living spaces designed by contemporary architects and artists. A set up of two typical Berlin flats was built into one of the sales areas, allowing the visitors to walk through real-life rooms. Among the contributing architects were British architect Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott, one of the main actors of the second-generation Arts and Crafts Movement, as well as Peter Behrens, co-founder of the Deutsche Werkbund and later creative director of AEG. Influenced by the young Jugendstil movement that originated in Darmstadt and influenced the entire nation, they wanted to spark a revolutionary change to establish art and nature in modern everyday life. The exhibition was to show the new upcoming style that Germany had long been searching for…

 

 

Kleinbürgerliches Wohnzimmer

DresdenHeinrich Tessenow

In 1925, the year in which Le Corbusier exhibited his Pavillon de L’Esprit Nouveau at the ‘Exposition des Arts Décoratifs’ in Paris, the ‘Jahresschau Deutscher Arbeit’ was held for the fourth time at Dresden’s downtown exhibition area, this time under the leadership of city ​​architect Paul Wolf. Whereas previous exhibitions had themes such as ‘porcelain, ceramic & glass’ (1922); ‘game & sport’ (1923) and ‘textiles’ (1924), the 1925 exhibition was entitled ‘Wohnung und Siedlung’, due to the post-First World War housing shortage. Across an area of ​​approximately 16,000 m2 and in several exhibition halls, about 60 interiors were decorated by various interior designers and artists. The outdoor area contained 16 model houses by Bruno Paul, Albin Müller, Gustav Lüdecke and others. A ‘scientific’ department showed the developments in housing construction, in words and pictures. Heinrich Tessenow designed the ‘Oberbayern’ restaurant as well as several sample interiors, including a large and a small bedroom, a dining room, a sitting area (Wohnzimmerecke) and a ‘petty bourgeois’ living room…