As anyone involved in the designer furniture industry will confirm; it’s a secretive old world. Probably only matched in its inherent furtiveness by the Freemasons, Papal Conclaves or the committee responsible for setting petrol prices.
Simply saying that you might have heard that designer X may be considering a possible future cooperation with producer Y is to risk a long interrogation by a Product Manager wanting to know who told you what.
The situation is even more clandestine when it comes to production processes and technical issues.
And so for us it is all the more wonderful that last year the Vitra Design Museum allowed video cameras into the factory that produces their Miniature Collection.
For just as with Area 51 it is a location that officially doesn’t exist. And that despite the commercial success of the product they produce.
Established in 1992 by the Vitra Design Museum’s founding director Alexander von Vegesack, essentially as a fund-raising platform for the museum, the original series of half a dozen miniatures has grown into a proud collection of over 100 models of design classics – all in 1:6 scale.
In addition to established Vitra classics such as the Panton Chair, George Nelson‘s Coconut Chair or the neigh-on complete Eames Collection, the series also features many of furniture designs most important moments including the Barcelona Chair by Mies van der Rohe, Hans J. Wegner’s Y-chair or Alvar Aalto’s Paimio 41.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Vitra Design Museum Miniature Collection a special exhibition is being staged during Milan Design Week 2012. Under the title “Dimensions of Design” 100 Vitra Design Museum miniatures are being presented in the Hugo Boss flagship store in downtown Milan; together with the most amazing “birthday cake” creation. In addition to the chance to marvel at the skill of the unseen craftsmen and women who create the miniatures the exhibition is also both a delightful documentation of the story of furniture design and a calming counterbalance to the madness that it is Milan. Here one has chairs that truly matter.
And then there is the aforementioned cinematic documentation.
Produced by Studio Rygalik for the Vitra Design Museum the film provides a rare, if all too short, insight into the precision production processes involved in the Miniature Collection – don’t miss the construction of the Marshmallow Sofa, pure genius - but much more it beautifully underscores with just how much care, professionalism and genuine innovation each and every miniature is created.
For as we learned from Vitra Design Museum Directors Mateo Kries and Marc Zehntner – not only is each chair a perfect 1:6 scale version of the original for which licence fees are paid to the rights holder, but where necessary special tools, moulds and processes are developed.
And it is this dedication to the cause that has made the Vitra Design Museum Miniatures Collection the global success it is.
And that is something that shouldn’t be kept secret.
“Dimensions of Design. 20 Years of Vitra Design Museum Miniatures” can be viewed at the HUGO BOSS Menswear Store, Corso Matteotti 1, 20121 Milan until April 22nd 2012.
Vitra Design Museum Miniatures Collection. Film by Studio Rygalik © Vitra Design Museum.