Flexform time travels to re-evaluate what good design means today

Meda, Italy – In 2009, MoMA presented an exhibition entitled What is Good Design? MoMA’s Message 1944-56. Intended as means by which to the explore MoMA’S message post-World War II, the six month exhibition featured iconic pieces such as Charles Eames’ La Chaise juxtaposed alongside surprising pieces like Peter Schlumbohm’s Chemex. From 1954 to 1966, ‘Good Design’ was MoMA’s doctrine – and its biggest advocate, curator Edgar Kaufmann Jr., largely based judgment within the parameters of eye appeal, function, construction and price. Today, these qualities are just as important – and Kaufmann’s question remains near to heart for the Italian furniture company Flexform as they continue to evolve.

Flexform was born at the peak of the time in which MoMA was focusing on Good Design: in 1959. Conceptually, their newest collection refers back to this golden era – Flexform answers to the question by putting maximal emphasis on quality and functionality, without forgoing artistic beauty. With subtle colour palettes and classic materials, architect-designer Antonio Citterio created six designs which echo rationality and beauty: the Campiello sofa, Leda and Hera armchairs and chairs, Ascanio occasional table and the Adda and Este beds. Each are meant to work seamlessly into domestic and hospitality spaces, understated and welcoming.

The Este bed is a shining example of luxurious simplicity – upholstered in cow hide, the tailored sharpness of the piece is versatile yet aesthetically unobtrusive. Raised off the floor in a cast metal base, different finishes allow each iteration to fit especially into their environs. Adda does the same, yet its star feature is a headboard composed from two goose down filled cushions. Translating that same comfort into a communal space, the Campiello sofa cushions are also filled with goose down, offered in different versions that allow specialised aesthetic and ergonomic effects.  The Leda and Hera seating options show reverence for Scandinavian design with a wood base, and boast removable upholstery that gives clients the ability to update the look if necessary. And, as an easily moveable living room fixture, the Ascanio table boasts maximum versatility in a wide array of material combinations.

For the company, retaining artisanal craftsmanship is essential as standardised production becomes inevitable

Ironically, 60 years ago, figuring out what good design really meant to the American public arose from another debate entirely.  Design standards and popular tastes were heavily questioned when the Industrial Revolution began in the early 19th century. By the time that the good design debate fixated itself into the ethos of MoMA, it had escalated to an international forum. And still, the design community struggles with that same question: whether or not good design is actually good design if it is not touched by the human hand.

At Flexform, though, this is not a matter of argument: for the company, retaining artisanal craftsmanship is essential as standardised production becomes more and more inevitable.


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