It is the most widely used furniture in the world: the white plastic chair. As a quintessential mass product, it can be found wherever a simple, cheap seat is needed, whether in European front porches, African cafes or Asian street restaurants."Monobloc" is the third exhibition in the Vitra Schaudepot, which was reopened in 2016 and designed by the Basel architects Herzog & de Meuron.
The basic idea of the "Monobloc" chair goes back to the old vision of many designers, To make a chair from a single piece of material. From the 1920s, this idea was first experimented with by the deformation of metal sheets or plywood. From the 1950s onwards, new plastic technologies made it possible to manufacture chairs in casting or pressing processes in a single production step. This is why the nickname "monobloc" is derived, which refers to this simple method of production and the simple appearance of the resulting furniture. One of the first series-built chairs produced by the Danish designer Verner Panton (1958-68), the "Bofinger chair" by the German architect Helmut Bätzner (1964-68) and the chair "Selene" by the Italian Designers Vico Magistretti (1961-68).
On the basis of these forerunner models the French engineer Henry Massonnet designed the »Fauteuil 300« in 1972, which is regarded as the original type of the affordable plastic chair. Massonnet was able to streamline the production process so far that a production cycle lasted less than two minutes. From the 1980s onwards, more and more companies brought similar models onto the market.
With its worldwide expansion, the white monobloc became an object in which questions and contradictions of the consumer society manifest themselves. The plastic chair is the epitome of affordable and therefore democratic furniture. However, it is considered to be less sustainable and represents a global mass consumption of uniformed products. Many contemporary designers have created reinterpretations of the monobloc, Which deal with these topics. Particularly prominent examples are "Café Chair" by Fernando and Humberto Campana (2006), "Respect Cheap Furniture" by Martí Guixé (2009), or the object "Monothrone" by Martino Gamper (2017).
The exhibition is supplemented by background information and pictures showing the chair in the most diverse contexts - at the garden party or in the political crisis area. The exhibition shows the technical development of the Monobloc chair on the basis of 20 objects, on the other hand, insights into its cultural significance. The same plastic chair, which is considered a disposable device in some countries, is preserved and repaired in other countries as an object of value. The monobloc stands for a pluralistic design history apart from canonized classics. Its contradictions make it a symbol of the complexity of the material culture of our time.
The curator Heng Zhi will lead the exhibition on this omnipresent, yet little researched design object, give insights into the history of the chair and show how contemporary designers work with it.