Future Classics, Circa 2050?
It's something every designer, design writer, and design collector wonders constantly: Will this piece of furniture I made/ hailed in print/ bought still be in vogue in ten (or fifty) years' time? Julie Lasky addresses the issue in this week's New York Times, asking curators and design-world luminaries to select what pieces they think are destined to become future classics. (We've done the same, as evidenced in our July/August issue.) And while what was namechecked in the Times article is mostly worthy—notably Konstanin Grcic's One chair for Magis, nominated by four the dozen people Lasky polled, we want to open the floor to other ideas. What do you think will represent our present era of design in 2050? A few experts weigh in.
Monica Khemsurov and Jill Singer, Sight Unseen
"We were trying to think about what designs people will still be using and remembering in 20 years. Classics, the way I think about them at least, aren't always the objects that are the most groundbreaking, but are more the ones that people really want to live with." With that in mind, Khemsurov and Singer recommend Grcic's Mayday Lamp for Flos, Zero-In Table by Barber Ogersby for Established & Sons, the Bouroullec brothers' Steelwood Chair for Magis, Moooi's Dear Ingo Lamp by Ron Gilad, Lindsey Adelman's bubble chandeliers, and Oskar Zieta's Plopp Stool for HAY. Whew!
David Alhadeff, owner of The Future Perfect
"Where I concur with the people interviewed in the article is that the iPhone has been an incredibly influential piece of design—all versions will end up design classics, like those old Macintosh computers. They're unusable and outdated, but they represent technology that is iconic. Of course, we can only guess, really, since we're talking about design that's brand new!"
"My own take is trying to consider work that has a democratic appeal to it or defines something in the period we're living in. Jason Miller's Antler Chandelier for Roll & Hill: If there is and or was a moment called "Brooklyn design," this piece is the best example of it. There was also a time when everyone was casting everything. Harry Allen's Bank in the Form of a Pig, which is still produced by Areaware, continues to be loved by people and make people smile, though the fad has gotten a little stale. These objects have a mass appeal you can't ignore."
"One of the other pieces I think has been very important that's a little different is the Matthew Hilton Light Extending Table [for De La Espada]. It's so beautiful and the physics of it are incredible. It's expensive, so it doesn't have the potential to be consumed wildly, but it's loved wildly. This could be the future Barcelona chair."
"In the article, there was some talk of technological innovations in design but I don't know if those pieces can become anything more than a nod to innovation. They'll have their place in a museum, but a classic to me should be loved by the public."
"I would vote for the Ghost Chair as a future icon: it is a fairly affordable piece that goes with many decor choices, and was one of the first to remix old-fashioned decor and modern materials. It is certainly the root for much of Marcel Wanders's work."
"In a few cases, I think the designer is right but not the piece: why Jasper Morrison's Monopod chair and not the much cheaper Air Chair [for Magis, actually from 1999], an excellent example of the supernormal idea? Or his Lo Pad chair, which is part of the larger post-Eames constellation [Cappellini, 2002]."
"More affordable design means mass-produced design, and too many of our mass producers are simply mining the past with less grace. If I had to pick areas that might produce icons, I would look at task chairs (pitting the Sayl and the Mirra against the Aeron) and outdoor chairs, where technology and materials are still making changes. I recently wrote about Jonathan Olivares's elegant aluminum chair for Knoll, which was designed with the icons in mind, and I love Konstantin Grcic's Chair One with the legs, not that hideous pedestal."
Erika Heet, Dwell contributing writer
"I think the Crinoline chair by Patricia Urquiola [B&B Italia, 2008] will always stand as an exemplification of good design from the aughts. It's ubiquitous, yes, but immediately reminds one of an explosion of strength, elegance, and diversity within design that is a hallmark of modernism today. I'd like to mention the emerging return of the modern studio craft movement, defined by such designs as Brian Fireman's Swallowtail chair."
Throwing my own two cents in, I'd nominate Hella Jongerius's Polder sofa for Vitra. It's a striking form on its own, and the pieced-together design has had a trickle-down effect on contemporary sofas since. On a smaller scale, Sebastian Wrong's font clock for Established & Sons symbolizes to a tee (at least to me) the era of design since 2000. We're living in an internet age in which typography has become a part of pop culture no longer relegated to kerning-happy designers. The Font Clock isn't terribly expensive, and it's quirky yet massively appealing.
Of course, not everyone agrees with the question. Our own deputy editor Aaron Britt makes a case for keeping mum: "This kind of futurecasting, especially with such a short horizon is terribly silly. We live in the realm of the instant classic, the age where the work of someone still living (Bob Dylan, Florence Knoll, Philip Roth) is declared 'timeless,' where the short-term popularity of an object—the iPhone is five years old, gang!—is heralded as the harbinger of unseen lifestyles to come. You want a real timeless piece of furniture, one that you can be sure folk will still be using in 2050, 2150, 2250? The real classics are those pieces so widely used, so eminently copied, so fully embraced that original designer has completely receded: the Windsor chair, the piano bench, the church pew."