In the eye of the beholder

July 2nd, 2011


At one of a series of design education workshops hosted by the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York and sponsored by Target, last weekend, children were given paint, glitter, pompoms and artistic freedom to transform vintage samples of the Artek Chair 69. The chair was designed by famed Finish architect and designer Alvar Aalto in 1935, and though still in production, these particular chairs were sourced from schools and offices throughout Finland, complete with knicks and bruises. It was the idea of executive vice president of Artek USA, Simone Vingerhoets-Ziesmann, to give the degenerate chairs new life as a child's canvas. Commenting on the workshop, as quoted in the New York Times, she said, "I want to teach children that this chair might look worn, but you don't have to throw it out. I also wanted them to see pieces that are 50 years old but still work."


The incentive is part of a larger movement by Artek to collect and revitalize its old, used pieces that have seen better days. Collected throughout Finland, each piece has had a different lot in life, many with schizophrenic commitments to colours, multiple dents and a few broken parts, but on the whole, the design and construction have lent to it an uncommon longevity. The restored pieces are resold with new R.F.I.D. tags that customers can scan with their smart phones to learn about that particular piece's history. The project, known as 2nd Cycle, was founded on the ideals of sustainability. Through 2nd Cycle, Artek wanted to 'raise the issue of conscious consuming, praise the authentic design and honour the importance of originality' as stated on the Artek website. 

As Aalto said in 1921, "Nothing old is ever reborn but neither does it totally disappear. And that which has once been born, will always reappear in a new form."

Caroline Engel for Danish Teak Classics

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