Ten years ago, Vitra initiated a research project in collaboration with Dutch designer Hella Jongerius to study the properties and possibilities of colors, textures, finishes and materials found in the company’s portfolio. As art director for colours and materials, Jongerius creates designer-specific colour and material worlds in collaboration with Vitra’s contemporary creatives and development team.
The aim of the Vitra Color & Material Library is to showcase all the possibilities the company can offer. It is a dynamic system which has Vitra’s textile collection at its hear, offering a wide selection of vitra-exclusive fabrics that combine strong technical performance with high aesthetic quality for use in homes and offices. The library also includes solid materials, comprising colours and textures of leather, metals, plastics, and wood. Together these mediums form a system with countless possible combinations, but with a coherence and connection that makes it easy for architects, interior designers and private clients to define a lively interior space with a strong identity.
During Milan Design Week 2016 the Vitra Colour & Material Library is brought to life with ‘Colour Machine’ — an installation by Jongerius, Bas van Tol, and Müller van Tol, at Casa Vitra in the city’s Corso Como district. The vibrant scene reflects the continuous refinement of Vitra’s archive. As visitors enter Casa Vitra, giant spinning tops twirl on the floor, showcasing the full range of vitra materials in four colour worlds: lights, darks, greens and reds. Suspended from the ceiling, above the spinning tops, are nine colour wheels that revolve in spaces. These kinetic objects celebrate particular parts of contemporary and classic furniture pieces by Vitra designers, including the base of Jean Prouvé’s ‘EM table’, or Eames ‘plastic chair’. These wheels offer insights into the way colour is affected by volume, shape and material; and how they influence one another.
Wandering through the installation, visitors are immersed in an engaging polychromatic experience of the rich Vitra colour world, invited to touch diverse textiles, and try out the colour wheels; while also being able to inspect new materials on the flat spinning tops. The colour ranges revolve in a dynamic interplay of hues, materials come to life, and the process of building the library mapped out.
‘The concept of the Vitra Color & Material Library starts with organizing all colors in four contrasting color worlds: the reds, the lights, the greens and the darks,’ explains Hella Jongerius. ‘The library is like a living and growing organism — no color is static, everything is open to change. The internal structure of the color wheels keeps many options open. A wheel can remain incomplete, colors come and go, and this incompleteness engenders openness. There is no room, however, for thoughtless coincidences. Every choice is inspired and consciously determined,’ she continues.
‘My goal is to call attention to color as an ever-changing entity. Questioning color’s appearance, our relationship to it and speculating about its nature, is in essence, a never-ending process. There are no mistakes in choosing colors, only variations of subjective expressions. A good color library, though, can help make a decision,’ states Hella Jongerius.
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