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INCEPTION

In 2016, with the aim to unearth this collection for the public and to familiarize them with the inner workings of the museum, the Vitra Design Museum created Schaudepot.

VAST ARCHIVE

Designed by architects Herzog & de Meuron, Schaudepot is an archive and exhibition space with over 20,000 objects, including 7,000 pieces of furniture, and over 1,000 lights.

DESIGN OF SCHAUDEPOT

“The general structure of the display (i.e. the shelves, the floorplan) is constant, but we wanted this natural fluctuation of a museum collection in the Schaudepot.” - Dr. Mateo Kries.

INNER WORKINGS

Along with the collection, the visitors can also see the museum staff at work in the offices, library, and conservation laboratory through large glass windows.

NEW ADDITIONS

“We want to look beyond our typically Western perspective and also include more pieces from emerging regions such as African countries, Latin America, or India.” - Dr. Mateo Kries.

EVOLVING COLLECTION

“We are constantly monitoring innovations on the furniture sector and trying to acquire the most relevant pieces.” - Dr. Mateo Kries.

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Lab 18 Jul 2018

CQ Interviews: Mateo Kries, Director of Vitra Design Museum, on curating the museum’s permanent collection for public

In 1989, Vitra and its owner Rolf Fehlbaum founded the Vitra Design Museum, located in Germany. Over the years, the museum amassed an impressive design collection including objects, furniture and lights. In 2016, with the aim to unearth this collection for the public and to familiarise them with the inner workings of the museum, the museum created Schaudepot.

Designed by architects Herzog & de Meuron, Schaudepot is an archive and exhibition space with over 20,000 objects; including 7,000 pieces of furniture and over 1,000 lights. It also contains archives and works of designers such as Charles and Ray Eames, Verner Panton and Alexander Girard. Along with the collection, the visitors can see the museum staff at work in the offices, library, and conservation laboratory through large glass windows. CQ speaks to the Vitra Design Museum’s director, Prof. Dr. Mateo Kries, about Schaudepot at length. Edited excerpts below:

It’s now been almost two years since Schaudepot was launched. What has been the response from general visitors? Have you made any changes to the collection or the exhibition layout ever since it started?

The response of the visitors has been great and has led to a 30% increase in our visitor numbers last year. People are enthusiastic that they can finally see our collection. There have been changes to the display at Schaudepot, as we are constantly acquiring new pieces that we may integrate in the display, or we replace pieces that we loan to other museums. The general structure of the display (i.e. the shelves, the floorplan) is constant, but we want to have this natural fluctuation of a museum collection in the Schaudepot.

When it was designed, what were some of the key ideas discussed with the architects responsible – Herzog & de Meuron?

We wanted neither a temporary exhibition, nor a permanent one. It should have the character of a normal museum storage, but elevated with subtle elements of scenography. We also wanted to have a visual connection to those parts of the collection which cannot be displayed, so the architects came up with the great idea of incorporating huge windows into the collection in the basement of the Schaudepot.

INCEPTION

In 2016, with the aim to unearth this collection for the public and to familiarize them with the inner workings of the museum, the Vitra Design Museum created Schaudepot.

 Sometimes, I have the impression that these views in the Schaudepot basement are what people like the most – what you cannot see entirely is always more interesting than something that is very close.

“The general structure of the display (i.e. the shelves, the floorplan) is constant, but we want to have this natural fluctuation of a museum collection in the Schaudepot.”
DESIGN OF SCHAUDEPOT

“The general structure of the display (i.e. the shelves, the floorplan) is constant, but we wanted this natural fluctuation of a museum collection in the Schaudepot.” - Dr. Mateo Kries.

VAST ARCHIVE

Designed by architects Herzog & de Meuron, Schaudepot is an archive and exhibition space with over 20,000 objects, including 7,000 pieces of furniture, and over 1,000 lights.

One of the important goals for Schaudepot was to make design research visible by exposing the workings of the museum. Tell us a bit about some of the ways in which this has been achieved. How do you use the collection for internal research and give the public, access to this research? 

From the Schaudepot café, people can look directly into our offices and the library. There they see our team of experts from different fields at work, which should give them an idea of what design researchers actually do.

EVOLVING COLLECTION

“We are constantly monitoring innovations on the furniture sector and trying to acquire the most relevant pieces.” - Dr. Mateo Kries.

 We use collection pieces for nearly every major exhibition, and one of our main projects of the past years has been to accomplish a huge publication called the Atlas of Furniture Design. This will be the definitive book on this topic, with more than 1000 pages, more than 1700 objects, and around 70 researchers involved. The book will appear in early 2019, and it would not have been possible without having the collection that allows us to study the objects in detail. In design history, every detail counts, and sometimes you have to take an object into your hands or lay underneath it if you want to understand its make or if it is an original.

In the context of the collection, we wanted to know a bit more about the most recent pieces. Could you tell us about some really unique, exciting 3D printed pieces which are part of this collection? What are your plans to evolve the most modern part of the collection?

We are constantly monitoring innovations on the furniture sector and trying to acquire the most relevant pieces. For example, we recently bought Joris Laarman’s 2015 Gradient Chair, which was the first piece to be 3D printed out of aluminium. But 3D printing is by far not the only interesting innovation in furniture design at the moment.

NEW ADDITIONS

“We want to look beyond our typically Western perspective and also include more pieces from emerging regions such as African countries, Latin America, or India.” - Dr. Mateo Kries.

I think that the influence of digitalization on furniture might be more important on the field of logistics and distribution. This is why we also acquired pieces from the platform “Open Desk” or by the Keystones Table by Minale Maeda. They are visually less spectacular than some Joris Laarman or Nendo, but no less significant for current tendencies. And finally, we want to look beyond our typically Western perspective and also include more pieces from emerging regions such as African countries, Latin America, or India.

INNER WORKINGS

Along with the collection, the visitors can also see the museum staff at work in the offices, library, and conservation laboratory through large glass windows.

“Sometimes, I have the impression that these views in the Schaudepot basement are what people like the most – what you cannot see entirely is always more interesting than something that is very close.”

How do you decide on what temporary exhibits to hold at Schaudepot that sort of correlates/complements the permanent exhibition? You could perhaps use the example of the past exhibition of Hans J. Wegner’s works?

For the temporary exhibitions, we select topics that are of general interest to our audience but that are also specific for our collection. We have hundreds of Scandinavian pieces, so by showing Hans Wegner’s pieces we wanted to give a small impression of this.  

But sometimes, we also do more narrative exhibitions wherein we show links from collection pieces to very normal objects that people might have at home. This was the case with the exhibition on the Monobloc chair, which is the typical, cheap white plastic chair. This chair has indeed a very interesting design history that goes back to pieces by Verner Panton, Charles Eames, or Joe Colombo. It was a great occasion to showcase how the evolution of design sometimes leads from iconic and exquisite pieces to an object that is sold on high street. This is what I like the most, to tell these stories that relate design to people’s lives.   

Read more about Vitra Design Museum`s Schaudepot exhibition here.