Last month saw the opening of the Herzog & de Meuron-designed Schaudepot – a new residential-style hub on Vitra’s German campus. Laid out like a timeline of design history, the permanent collections in the gallery cherish the products and people that have defined the industry to this day. Three times a year however, the gallery's curators take it upon themselves to shine the spotlight on a particular movement, designer or topic for a couple of months. For their first showing they have dived straight into a hugely divisive and consistently charming movement: 'Radical Design'.
The show explores the prominently Italian avant-garde movement and a plethora of cult classics that marked a political, economical and social change in design history. From the infamous pioneers Gaetano Pesce, Alessandro Mendini and Superstudio arrive a recognisable and innovative spread of their experimental concepts, all centrally located in the space.
'Radical Design' has been curated by Heng Zhi, who sought to focus on what the movement meant to society; in addition to its definitively pop-coloured, plastic-covered shapes, such as Mendini’s art and design straddling Lassù and Superstudio’s utopian Supersurface.
With their distinctive appearance, the bold shapes, colours and materials of the works are inimitable and immediately recognisable. ‘Thanks to the new materials and technologies available to the industrial designers,’ Zhi explains, ‘pieces such as the Cactus [by Guido Drocco and Franco Mello, for Gufram] and I Sassi [by Piero Gilardi] made bringing elements of nature into the living space possible.’
'Another point that is important to me is the connection between this historical movement and our society today,' Zhi concludes. Running until November, the five pieces are accompanied by interviews with leading design radicals and the brands who keep the movement alive today.