When a visit changes everything.
The story of a Vitra original
- Maarten Van Severen
In 1994, the influential Italian architecture and design magazine ‘Domus’ published an article about Belgian interior architect and designer Maarten Van Severen entitled ‘A way of work for a way of life’. It was researched and written by architectural historian Federica Zanco, the wife of Rolf Fehlbaum. As CEO and Chairman of Vitra at the time, Fehlbaum was so inspired by Van Severen’s work that he visited the designer in his studio in Ghent in September 1994. A few days later Vitra received a fax that marked the beginning of a personal and professional relationship: ‘I hope there will be an opportunity to work together, either on some furniture of my collection which I have conceived and developed in a semi-industrial way or on new furniture in an industrial spirit and strictly controlled.’
Van Severen developed his first seating design, CN° I (Chair number one), in 1986. It was made entirely of metal and represented the archetypal chair. It was followed by the table T88W (Table 1988 Wood) and the bookcase K88 (Kast 1988). By establishing his own workshop in 1986, Van Severen was able to research and develop his ideas, test materials and perfect structural details while retaining control over the production process – each product was the fruit of his mind and hand craftsmanship. However the workshop was soon unable to keep up with the growing number of designs and processes, inducing him to team up with a manufacturing partner, Top Mouton, which took over semi-industrial production and logistics.
After .03, further items ensued from the productive collaboration between Maarten Van Severen and Vitra: the office chair .04, the cantilever chair .05, the armchair .06, the office armchair .07, the T88W and AT04 A-Table, the Kast HU sideboard and shelving unit, as well as the MVSCH00 (MVS Chaise 2000).
Reduced to the essentials, Van Severen’s designs possess a timeless aesthetic. They have the potential to mature into classic pieces over time, and will receive the greatest care and attention from Vitra and the designer’s descendants along the way.
Publication Date: 22.06.2017
Images: Florian Böhm, Christian Coigny, Marc Eggimann, The Maarten Van Severen Foundation
Vitra originals and their stories in the Vitra Magazine
Invest in an original, for it will always retain its worth. An imitation will never be anything but a copy, a stolen idea. Appreciate the differences – not just the quality and more obvious variances but also the sensory and emotional appeal of the authentic product. An original is a lifelong companion and may well outlive you to be gratefully received by the next generation. But that’s a story for the future.