Love is always in season

A Vitra Anecdote

In the beginning of the 1970s, Alexander Girard designed a powerful collection of 40 Environmental Enrichment panels. Including such archetypal symbols as the Love Heart, Sun, Snake, Eyes, Four Leaf Clover, man and woman, a myriad of geometric patterns and many more, these panels served a universal purpose of bringing life, pattern and colour into a room. Many institutions at the time had become drab, staid places of work, learning or healthcare. These injections of familiar yet totally original depictions had an undeniably positive effect on the rooms they adorned.

Girard was a pioneer in so many ways and is often lauded for resurrecting colour, pattern and texture in the world of textiles. While this is certainly true, the value of his legacy runs much deeper. It was Girard’s messages of cross-cultural similarities, interfaith ambitions of peace, and a belief that wide gaps can be bridged through good design for all, which continue to make the most profound impact.
Inspired throughout his career by the diverse folk art he collected, Girard was unafraid to use boldness in both line and colour. He once said:
"Colour was considered vulgar, extreme. As soon as people got educated, they got scared of colour. It was a victory for the antihuman, because colour was considered ugly or sexy. The folk art people did not have these complexes. They were uneducated. They were left to be free."
Alexander Girard
It is this sense of freedom juxtaposed with masterful precision that you feel when looking at these designs. They are both gallant and sweet, simple and complex, personal and universal. None of these is more enduring than the symbol of the Love Heart. The Heart was something that Girard explored again and again throughout his career, as it represents the very essence of life; and Love, a global sentiment that permeates different cultures, languages and even time itself, was a message he never tired of sharing.
The Love Heart can of course be a declaration of intimacy between two individuals, but the broader intention of making this message available in a large-format silkscreened panel to hang in public spaces was to serve as a ubiquitous and eternal sign of hope for all humanity.

Publication Date: 02.02.2017
Author: Aleishall Girard and Stine Liv Buur
Images: Alexander Girard’s hearts, designed for different occasions. © Girard Studio, LLC

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