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Mid-century Modern Designers Charles & Ray Eames

Have you ever wondered about the mysterious acronyms with which furniture by mid-century masters Charles and Ray Eames is named? Well, wonder no more as we explain it in full. Usually made up of three letters, the names describe the main elements of the furniture and encompass aspects such as the height or shape, the style or type, and the material or style of its frame. The Eames’ put this principle into practice with their earliest designs – the DCW and the LCW, which stand for Dining Chair Wood base and Lounge Chair Wood base, swiftly followed by the option for a Metal base: the DCM and LCM.

DCM LCW Charles & Ray Eames Vitra Aram Store

The DCM chair (left) in black stained ash plywood and the LCW (right) in red stained ash plywood

The most well-known of their designs came in 1950 – the Plastic Chair collection – and provided a plethora of acronyms. But all were based on the same principle:

DSR Dining (height) Side (chair) Rod (base)
DSW Dining (height) Side (chair) Wood (base)
DAR Dining (height) Arm (chair) Rod (base)
DAW Dining (height) Arm (chair) Wood (base)
DSX Dining (height) Side (chair) X-base
DSS Dining (height) Side (chair) Stacking (base)
RAR Rocking (height) Arm (chair) Rod (base)
PSCC Pivoting Side (Chair) Cast (base) Castors
PACC Pivoting Arm (chair) Cast (base) Castors
DSR DSW DSX chair Charles Ray Eames Vitra Aram Store

The DSR, DSW and DSX chairs – comprising Charles & Ray Eames’ Plastic Group


From left to right: the DAW, RAR, PACC, DAR, DAL and DAX chairs – the Plastic Group armchairs

The Rod-base for these chairs also gave them their unofficial nickname – the ‘Eiffel’ chair – as the base with its cross-bracing bears a very vague resemblance to the shape of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. One slight curiosity is the DKR chair from 1951 – or Dining height Wire shell Rod base – no one seems to know why the letter ‘K’ was chosen to represent the Wire shell. One can only suppose that ‘W’ was already in use for the Wood base, and the letter ‘K’ could possibly look a little like the junctions of the wire shell itself… Another unusual one is the elegant DAL chair, designed along with a table in 1961 at the request of Alexander Girard for his new Manhattan restaurant La Fonda del Sol. The ‘L’ therefore stands for La Fonda base, made in polished die-cast aluminium.

DKR Eames Wire Chair Aram

The DKR Eames Wire chair, plus one Eames House Bird in a photograph taken by the Eames in 1953

La Fonda Del Sol Eames Girard Aram

The DAL chair in La Fonda del Sol restaurant in the Time Life Building, New York

The naming convention did not just apply to chairs. Other types of furniture received the same treatment:

LTR Low Table Rod (base)
ETR Elliptical Table Rod (base)
EDU Eames Desk Unit
ESU Eames Shelving Unit
ETR table Eames Vitra Aram

The elliptical ETR table – a black or white laminate top on a chromed rod base

EDU PACC ESU Eames Vitra Aram Store

The EDU Eames Desk Unit, PACC chair and ESU Eames Shelving Unit

These simple, functional names seem to reinforce the simple, functional nature of Eames designs. Now, whenever you spot these twentieth century design classics, you will know exactly how it is named.


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Bowie Portrait_Bowie_Aram

“Art was, seriously, the only thing I’d ever wanted to own. It has always been for me a stable nourishment.  I use it. It can change the way I feel in the mornings. The same work can change me in different ways, depending on what I’m going through.”

–              David Bowie


Last week we visited Sotheby’s ‘Bowie / Collector’ auction, prompted by our interest in the late musician’s Memphis Group collection. Bowie had been a keen collector of the postmodern design collective founded by Ettore Sottsass, and had amassed an extensive range of works by the group. One hundred original pieces, to be exact, from ostentatious armchairs to graphic porcelain homewares. Unsurprisingly the outlandish designs did not disappoint and the auction smashed all expectations. What was most unexpected was the breadth of Bowie’s collection. We were captivated by artworks from 20th Century British Art, Contemporary African Art, Outsider Art and Surrealism (to name only a few). It seemed evident that Bowie was not buying for investment purposes alone – instead he seemed to be spurred by a genuine interest. The collection was for him a source of inspiration, or as he is quoted “a stable nourishment”.


Memphis Furniture_Bowie_AramCollection of works by Michele de Lucchi: First chairs, Polar side tables and Flamingo side table.


John Virtue_Landscape No. 87_Bowie_Aram 1Landscape No. 87 by John Virtue


Man Ray_Chess Set_Bowie_Aram 1Chess Set by Man Ray


Sotheby’s has produced two insightful interviews with art advisor Kate Chertavian and curator Beth Greenacre, both of whom worked closely with Bowie over extensive periods of time. They describe him as being inquisitive, highly informed and enthusiastic about art and design. Greenacre explains the scope of the collection saying “I always think about his collecting in a similar way to how his mind worked. So you could be sitting with David, you could have a conversation about a painting – all of a sudden you’d be talking about Nietzsche, which would then lead him to a new film release or book that I had to read, then back to another artist via Japanese folk art. There were all these beautiful networks between the works within his collection.” She then goes on to say “When people look at the collection as a whole, they’ll probably look at a few works and not quite understand why they are there. But then you’ll realise that X taught Y, or Z visited X. There are all these amazing associations and I think that’s how David worked.”


Ettore Sottsass_Carlton Room Divider_Bowie_Aram 1Carlton room divider by Ettore Sottsass


Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni_Radio Phonograph_Bowie_Aram 1Radio-Phonograph Model No. RR126 by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni


Joe Tilson RA_Reflector Column Ziglical I_Bowie_Aram 1Reflector Column, Ziglical I by Joe Tilson, R.A.


We sell a broad range of furniture and lighting by many designers whose early works are now selling for high figures at auction.  Twelve pieces in the Bowie / Collector lot by Michele de Lucchi from his decorative Memphis period were sold.  The designer’s later mass produced Tolomeo lamp series for Artemide has been available at Aram Store since we opened in 2002.  It remains a favourite range for architects and designers as well as for domestic use.  Ettore Sottsass’ Casablanca sideboard sold for £68,000 at Sotheby’s.  In 2015 Italian manufacturer Kartell produced a ‘Kartell goes Sottsass – A Tribute to Memphis’ collection, which revisited previously unreleased designs. From this range are the Colonna and Pilastro plastic table-stools that currently retail at £210 each.

Despite not having joined the group, Achille and Pier Castiglioni’s charming radio-phonograph machine was amongst the Bowie collection. The brothers – whose work varied from the organic Viscontea pendant lamp to the surreal Sella stool – were part of the same generation of forward-thinking Milanese creatives.

In total we stock products by six designers who for a slice of their long careers were involved with the Memphis Group. Highlighted below are some of their most interesting work, as well as our standout pieces from Bowie / Collector.


Michele de Lucchi_Continental Side Table_Bowie_Aram 1Continental side table by Michele de Lucchi


Michele De Lucchi_Tolomeo Light_ArtemideTolomeo table lamp by Michele de Lucchi for Artemide
Ettore Sottsass_Stools_KartellCollonna, Calice and Pilasto stools by Ettore Sottsass for Kartell. These are currently only available in-store.


Ettore Sottsass_Pepper Grinder_AlessiMP0210 pepper, salt and spice grinder by Ettore Sottsass


Ettore Sottsass_Callimaco Uplighter_Artemide_AramCallimaco uplighter floor lamp by Ettore Sottsass for Artemide


Romuald Hazoume_Le Saxophoniste_Bowie_Aram 1From the auction: Le Saxophoniste by Romuald Hazoumè


Norman Catherine_Fanagalo Store_Bowie_AramFrom the auction: Cat Man and Back Chat II figures both by Norman Catherine


NATHALIE DU PASQUIER_BOMBAY SIDE TABLE_Bowie_AramFrom the auction: Bombay side table by Nathalie du Pasquier


Shiro Kuramata_Progetti Compiuti Side 1_Cappellini_AramMemphis Group: Progetti Compiuti Side 1 cabinet (aka Drawer in an Irregular Form) by Shiro Kuramata for Cappellini, 1970.



Marco Zanuso_Antonio Side TableFrom the auction: Antonio table by Marco Zanuso


Marco Zanuso_Lady Armchair_AramMemphis Group: Lady armchair by Marco Zanuso for Cassina


Alessandro Mendini_Proust Mendini Armchair_Cappellini_AramMemphis Group: Proust Mendini chair by Alessandro Mendini for Cappellini



Javier Mariscal_Villa Julia_Magis_AramMemphis Group: Villa Julia Playhouse by Javier Mariscal for Magis.


Javier Mariscal_The Art BookJavier Mariscal’s cover for The Art Book (Phaidon)


Jean Michel Basquiat_Untitled_Bowie_AramFrom the auction: Untitled by Jean-Michel Basquiat


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AW16 Accessories_group 5_Bold_Landscape_Aram Store (1)


Christmas Shopping Event – Wednesday 30 November 2016 – 10am-8pm

Come and feel the festive cheer at our one day Christmas shopping event where we will be offering 20% discount off all accessories (in store only). Enjoy the backdrop of seasonal tunes, decorations and refreshments whilst you browse our collection of gifts for friends and family. There are lots of brand new products, and here are some of our favourites.

Above (left to right): Abstract Arc Desktop MobileOriginal Desktop MobileUrsula Jug (yellow), Ursula Jug (red), Prisma photo frame, Vitra matchbox (in-store only) and Stelton Vacuum Jug.

AW16 Accessories_group 1_Classic_Landscape_Aram Store (1) LRAbove: Olio Large Jug and Olio Teapot both by Barber & Osgerby for Royal Doulton,  Block Two Candle Holder and Lyngby Marble Vases.

AW16 Accessories_group 2_Classic_Landscape_Aram Store (1) LRAbove: Ettore the Mule by Konstantin Grcic for Magis and Ildhane Candle Holder. Woodern birds, marble fruitbowl, lazy Suzanne and Hammershoi ceramic candleholders all available in-store only.

AW16 Accessories_group 6_Bold_Landscape_Aram Store (1) LRLeft to right: Parrot jug, Eames elephant mouse mat, Tangram puzzle, Monkey coinbank, Spindle storage box, Paolo game and Welcome fish soap. Porcelain container (underneath Parrot jug) by Remember, available in-store only.

AW16 Accessories_group 8_Plant Cages_Aram Store (1) LRAbove: Air Plant Cages, various sizes and colours, available in-store only.

AW16 Accessories_group 3_Houses+Dolls_Aram Store (2) LRAbove: Girard Wooden Dolls by Alexander Girard for Vitra and Urbania Lighthouse candleholders available in-store only.

AW16 Accessories_group 4_Brass_Landscape_Aram Store (6) LR

Above: Boule Vases by Olivia Herms for Skultuna, Lily Candlestick by Ivar Ålenius Björk for Skultuna, Office Candlestick by Skultuna. Small brass candleholders by Skultuna, Brass bowl by Fundamental, available in-store only.


We hope to see you in store on 30 November!


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Jasper Morrison Tate Modern Aram Store

One of our highlights during this September’s London Design Festival was visiting Jasper Morrison: Thingness at the new Tate Modern Switch House. Morrison and the Tate have a long-standing relationship since, in 1998, the designer was chosen to select all public furniture for the original Tate Modern – something he was invited to do again for the recently opened Switch House.

Jasper Morrison Superloon Flos Aram Store

Right: Superloon floor lamp by Jasper Morrison for Flos

‘Thingness’ was nestled under the Switch House’s sweeping concrete staircase and presented a concise look back at the designer’s work since the 1980s. We were particularly proud to see Morrison’s Thinking Man’s Chair as it was first exhibited by Zeev Aram at our 23rd Anniversary Show in 1987. It was there that Giulio Cappellini spotted it and asked to produce the chair, and almost 30 years later it sits in the Tate Modern.

Jasper Morrison Thinking Man's Chair Cappellini Aram Store

“For a long time after I noticed an antique chair with its seat missing outside a shop I had the idea to do a chair consisting of only structural elements. Many sketches later I arrived at an approximation of the final shape, which included two small tables on the ends of the arms and an exotic assembly of curved metalwork. It was to be called ‘The Drinking Man’s Chair.’ On my way back from a tobacconist’s shop with a packet of pipe cleaners to make a model of the chair with, I noticed the slogan ‘The Thinking Man’s Smoke’ on the packet, which I quickly adapted as a more sophisticated title.” – Jasper Morrison

Jasper Morrison Hal Chair Vitra Glo Ball Flos Aram Store

HAL armchair for Vitra, HAL chair for Vitra, Glo-Ball Lamp for Flos.

Short quotes from Morrison (such as the one above) annotated the exhibition and offered a fascinating insight into his practice. Thoughtful and honest, the captions explained how chance happenings as well as the everyday can influence and inspire great design.

One particular comment that caught our imagination was Morrison discussing his Three Green Bottles for Cappellini: “I intended to have the 3 bottles hand blown, but as there were no glass blowers working in Berlin at the time, I found the only way to do them was to take ordinary wine bottles and have them manipulated, which in the end was far more interesting; it seemed to say “look how beautiful an ordinary bottle is – better than things which are ‘designed’.”

Jasper Morrison HAL APC Glo Ball Aram Store

Left: Basel chair for Vitra. Right: APC chair for Vitra; Glo Ball for Flos

Morrison often highlighted how the creative process, especially when designing for commercial production, is a collaborative activity. When discussing his Basel Chair for Vitra, Morrison said “Possibly the nicest detail on the chair is the connection between the back rest and the top end of the back legs, which was proposed by Thomas Schweikert, chief engineer for product development at Vitra.” In a note about the Magis Air Chair he wrote “Air Chair was born out of a length of simple plastic tube given to me by Eugenio Perazza, which had been moulded with a new technology called gas-injection moulding and which he suggested we use to make a new chair. I designed the chair from the leg up, imagining how the rest of a chair would look with a leg like that.” In our current landscape of icons and ‘starchitects’ his was a refreshing voice to read.

Jasper Morrison Basel Chair Vitra Air chair Magis Aram Store

Left: Basel chair for Vitra. Right: a stack of Jasper Morrison’s Air Chairs for Magis.

Jasper Morrison Aram Store

Left: Morrison’s rough sketches added character to the exhibit. Right: Coat Stand designed by Morrison for Aram Designs in 1987.

Jasper Morrison Glo Ball Flos Aram Store

Jasper Morrison’s Glo-Ball lamp for Flos sits with a collection of cast iron kitchenware.

Although ‘Thingness’ has now finished, Jasper Morrison’s furniture can be enjoyed throughout the Tate Modern and the new Switch House – and if you’re interested to read more of his design-related musings, Morrison has written a number of books. Notably ‘The Good Life’, in which he highlights the creativity and wit of ordinary things encountered during his travels. To see more of his furniture and lighting design click here, or visit us at our Covent Garden store.

Switch House Tate Modern Jasper Morrison Herzog de Meuron

Jasper Morrison’s benches in the new Tate Modern Switch House, designed by Herzog de Meuron

Tate Modern Switch House

Left: the Switch House’s concrete staircase. Right: the view from the Switch House viewing platform.


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Eames Lounge Chair Twill and Ottoman Vitra Aram Store

‘Why don’t we make an updated version of the old English club chair?’ With this comment, Charles Eames initiated the complex development of the Lounge Chair, which went into production exactly sixty years ago in 1956. Vitra began to produce the Lounge Chair in Weil am Rhein in 1959 and has used the same manufacturing methods ever since. The chair eventually became established as one of the most significant furniture designs of the twentieth century. To mark its 60th anniversary, Vitra is now launching the Lounge Chair and the accompanying Ottoman as a limited edition with fabric covers, priced at £4,890 – a very attractive price in comparison with leather covers.

George Nelson Ball Clock Cherry

UPDATE: Order an Eames Lounge Chair and receive a FREE George Nelson Ball Clock in Cherrywood and Brass – until 31 January 2017, while stocks last.

The Eames Lounge Chair is one of the great modern furniture classics and the most famous piece by the American designer couple Charles and Ray Eames. But even classics that have been on the market for decades need to be further developed and updated. That was a belief embraced by Charles and Ray Eames themselves, who created various versions of the Lounge Chair over the years. Vitra carries on this tradition in the spirit of the designers and in close collaboration with the Eames Office.

Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman Twill Vitra Aram Store

When Charles and Ray Eames designed the Lounge Chair in 1956, their primary aim was to create a soft and comfortable piece of seating furniture. They set new standards with their novel interpretation of the classic club chair: their model was light, elegant, modern and comfortable. With its functional perfection and careful construction, timeless materials and balanced proportions, the Lounge Chair has established itself over its sixty-year history as one of the most significant classics – as a product from another era that remains as relevant as ever.

Twill fabric Covers Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman Vitra Aram Store

Since its initial introduction, the armchair has been available with various veneers, leather upholstery colours and base versions. In the early years, the Lounge Chair was occasionally offered with fabric covers – however, Vitra has always produced it exclusively in leather. In the Twill fabric covers, the chair and ottoman cost £4,890 – approx 20% less than leather.

Black Twill fabric and Palisander wood veneer Eames Lounge Chair Vitra Aram Store

To commemorate the 60th anniversary of production in 2016, Vitra is now offering a fabric-covered Lounge Chair Twill and Ottoman for a limited period of time. The high-quality Twill fabric from the Vitra Colour & Material Library imbues the chair with cosy softness and inviting warmth – even though it is very hard-wearing (contract grade: 100,000 Martindale). The Lounge Chair Twill is available in the classic combination of dark-reddish Santos Palisander wood and black aluminium frame, in the new large dimensions. The Lounge Chair Twill and Ottoman with fabric covers are marked with a corresponding plaque and come with a ’60 Years in Production’ certificate. This limited edition is only available to order from 1 November 2016 to 31 January 2017 from Aram Store.


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New Flou bed showroom launches at Aram Store

Aram Store is launching the first dedicated space for iconic Italian bed brand Flou this month, and is the exclusive London stockist. Flou was founded in 1978 when it launched the first-ever ‘modern textile bed’, called Nathalie. Designed by maestro Vico Magistretti, it combined contemporary design and practicality. The soft headboard upholstery with its distinctive, bow-shaped ties was removable and washable; it had a manual reclining mechanism and making the bed took just seconds.

Olivier bed - Flou showroom at Aram Store

“In the ten years that we have been stocking Flou beds, we have built up an excellent working relationship with the company and the customers who invest in the brand are seldom disappointed,” says Ruth Aram. “We feel that now is the right time to devote a larger space to show more of Flou’s extensive range of products including wardrobes and sofas”.

Following the success of the Nathalie Bed, a slew of well-known designers including Enzo Mari, Mario Bellini, Rodolfo Dordoni and Carlo Colombo began designing beds for Flou. Investment in new production techniques and research into innovative materials have resulted in a range that’s reviewed every year and now numbers more than 50 designs from single to king-size and sofa-beds to studio couches.

Nathalie Bed - Flou showroom at Aram Store

The Nathalie Bed

The signature upholstery has expanded to include a choice of fabrics and leathers with optional duo-tone trims and coloured piping. Beds are supplemented with Flou mattresses, pillows, mattress supports and duvet covers in a wide range of colours and patterns. Contemporary bedroom furniture completes the look with chests-of-drawers, wardrobes, night-stands, occasional furniture, desks, armchairs, mirrors, lamps, poufs and bookcases.

Aram has dedicated a significant section of our 20,000 sq ft space to a large selection of products from Flou’s seven collections including the original, signature Nathalie range. The Gentleman collection caters to the modern man-about-town with masculine, angular statement beds crafted from multilayer beech wood. Matching furniture sports leather panelling and soft-close mechanism drawers and shelves with interiors clad in matt ebony – there’s even a cigar storage unit complete with humidifier. The Notturno Shabby Chic collection has linear, smooth headboards and elegantly distressed linen upholstery while the more curvaceous Olivier collection has taken a step out of the bedroom with a range of elegant sofas. The Duetto collection offers versatility with elegant single beds that can be conjoined to create a double and the Piazzaduomo range has raised the bar for the humble sofa-bed.

Gentleman - Flou showroom at Aram Store

The Gentleman range

Notturno Shabby Chic - Flou showroom at Aram Store

Notturno Shabby Chic Bed

Olivier - Flou showroom at Aram Store

Olivier modular sofas and occasional furniture

Duetto - Flou showroom at Aram Store

Duetto can be a single bed or convert to a double with a second bed stowed underneath.

Join us for the official launch event during the London Design Festival on Monday 19th September from 6pm to 8pm and see this fantastic showroom space for yourself.


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Monocle pop-up cafe and shop at Aram for LDF16

Monocle, the international briefing on global affairs, business, culture and design, will take up residence at Aram Store in Covent Garden from 14 to 24 September, during both the London Design Biennale and London Design Festival. The Monocle Shop and Café at Aram Store will provide visitors with a comfortable base to recharge while touring the multitude of design installations, exhibitions and events that will be on show in London.

Monocle Shop display on USM Modular Furniture shelving at Aram Store

The shop will be open Monday to Saturday from 10.00 till 18.00 (19.00 on Thursday), serving coffee and cinnamon and cardamom buns. On offer will be Monocle’s exclusive collections of bags, accessories, stationery, books, homeware and, of course, magazines, all displayed on USM shelves and furniture.

Monocle Pop-up Shop at Aram Store for LDF16

Monocle Editor-in-Chief Tyler Brûlé comments: “Monocle has employed pop-up retail ventures in on-brand environments, and ARAM is one such place. It will be our first retail foray into Covent Garden, and with the international Design Biennale on its doorstep in September, and the London Design Festival following close behind, we are looking forward to the visitors who will be coming in to see us”.

“Installing a café in our store has never been done before,” says Ruth Aram “and we couldn’t be more excited about our partnership with Monocle.  The Monocle pop up shop will also add an extra layer of retail theatre, complementing our existing design accessories and vast, curated furniture offer during this vibrant time in London.”


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Forecast by Barber & Osgerby at the London Design Biennale

The London Design Biennale is offering Aram customers a chance to win:
• A pair of tickets to the Biennale evening launch party on 8 September plus a pre-event Utopia cocktail at the Savoy Hotel
• One of five pairs of tickets to the VIP afternoon preview tour on 6 September
To enter, email events@aram.co.uk with LDB16 x Aram in the subject. Winners will be announced on Friday 2 September.
Please note that by entering you will be subscribed to our newsletter.

London Design Biennale 2016 at Somerset House

This September we look forward to visiting the latest addition to the UK’s cultural calendar, the London Design Biennale at nearby Somerset House. Created by the London Design Festival team (although it’s an independent entity), the first Biennale sees a diverse range of 36 countries present specially commissioned works on the subject of Utopia by Design. The theme celebrates the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s fictional text ‘Utopia’. This has naturally encouraged participants to explore issues such as sustainability, migration, pollution, energy, urbanisation and social equality.

“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias.”
Oscar Wilde, 1910

The Courtyard at Somerset House - London Design Biennale 2016

Barber & Osgerby collaborate with the Victoria and Albert Museum to present the UK wind powered kinetic installation Forecast. The piece harks back to Britain’s maritime history, as well as inviting the viewer to contemplate how as an island nation we could better utilise our geography for the production of clean power. Forecast will take centre stage in the Somerset House courtyard.

Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby are well versed in representing Britain at high-profile events, having designed the 2012 Olympic Torch. With a diverse body of work spanning multi disciplines, notable designs are Tip Ton chair and Mariposa sofa for Vitra, Steelwood collection of furniture for Magis and the new Olio range of tableware for British manufacturer Royal Doulton.

Tip Ton Chair Barber & Osgerby Vitra Aram Store

The Tip Ton chair – Vitra

Mariposa Sofa Barber & Osgerby Vitra Aram Store

The Mariposa sofa – Vitra

Olio Barber & Osgerby Royal Doulton Aram Store

Olio range of ceramics for Royal Doulton

London Design Biennale describes a Somerset House bursting with ‘interactive installations, innovations, artworks and proposed design solutions – all in an immersive, inspiring and entertaining tour of the world’. A statement from each country is presented on the Biennale’s website with entries including Konstantin Grcic & Olivia Herms’ Utopia Means Elsewhere for Germany, Chile’s Counterculture Room, Austria’s LeveL and Poland’s ‘Cadavre Exquis’.

Germany Konstantin Grcic London Design Biennale

Germany: Utopia Means Elsewhere

Chile Counterculture Room London Design Biennale

Chile: Counterculture Room

Austria LeveL London Design Biennale

Austria: LeveL

Poland Cadavre Exquis London Design Biennale

Poland: Cadavre Exquis

Diana Konstantin Grcic ClassiCon Aram Store

Diana Tables, designed by Konstantin Grcic for ClassiCon

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Le Corbusier Palace of Assembly Chandigarh ARAM

Palace of Assembly, Capitol Complex

“Chandigarh is the biggest example in India of experimental architecture. It hits you on the head and makes you think and the one thing that India requires in many fields is being hit on the head so that it may think.”
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru – 17 March 1959

Earlier this year, I travelled to the city of Chandigarh in Northern India. The following post provides a brief insight into the story behind this fascinating city and how it gave Le Corbusier the chance to realise his modernist vision on a truly grand scale.

Amidst the partition of the British Indian Empire in 1947, the city of Lahore was taken into the newly formed Dominion of Pakistan. This meant that a new capital city for the Punjab & Haryana States needed to be established and Prime Minister Nehru, wanting to create a new metropolis “unfettered by past traditions”, took a rather bold and visionary step by sourcing an architect from the west to take on this mammoth task.

Chandigarh Northern India ARAM

Nehru had met the American architect and town planner, Albert Mayer, in 1945 whilst Mayer was stationed in India during WWII working as an engineer for the U.S. Army. They discussed Mayer’s proposed schemes for model villages, aimed at improving the quality of life for rural Indians, and went on to develop a pilot project in the city of Etawah. It proved to be a success and the project was repeated throughout rural India which led to Mayer being appointed Planning Advisor to the Uttar Pradesh Government in 1947 and, subsequently, the commission to design this new capital city – Chandigarh.

Chandigarh the City Beautiful Le Corbusier ARAM

The name is a portmanteau derived from the temple Chandi Mandir, located in the vicinity of the proposed site for the city, and the local word for a fort or fortress – ‘garh’. It is often annexed with the term The City Beautiful which originates from the architectural movement that flourished in North America in the late 1800s with the intent of “introducing beautification and grandeur in cities to promote harmonious social order within urban populations that would increase the quality of life”. In 1949, Mayer set to work on his masterplan.

Albert Mayer Masterplan Chandigarh ARAM

His initial blueprint for the city showed an organically curving street grid reminiscent of a Clarence Stein Garden City layout with inlaid, tripartite superblocks. But this was as far as Mayer’s involvement in the realisation of Chandigarh went when, tragically, Mayer’s chief architect and partner on the project, Matthew Nowicki, was killed in a plane crash returning from India in 1950. Mayer walked and Nehru turned to the British duo, Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, to take up the mantle owing to their experience of designing architecture in tropical climates. They were heavily involved in the Festival of Britain at the time so felt unable to take on such a huge project but they knew someone who might have the chutzpah to take it on: the Swiss-French colossus, Le Corbusier.

Le Corbusier Masterplan Chandigarh ARAM

Within a few days of taking the reins, Corbusier had formulated a new scheme from Mayer’s initial outline and introduced neighbourhood sectors, each measuring 1200m x 800m, and straightened the curving lines into a right-angled street grid. He then superimposed a more free-form network over the traffic system including footpaths and public parks with Leisure Valley cutting a huge green swathe through the heart of city. Much like his Modulor system of scale, his plan for the city was analogous to the human body: the capital buildings are the head, the central business district is the heart, the industrial area to the east and education area to the west as two arms with the sprawling road system circulating throughout.

Le Corbusier Palace of Justice Chandigarh ARAM

Palace of Justice, Capitol Complex

Le Corbusier Secretariat Chandigarh ARAM

Secretariat, Capitol Complex

Le Corbusier retained the role of chief architect and took sole responsibility for the design of the Capitol Complex in the north. The city’s government buildings are all found here in the form of three, breathtakingly vast pieces of his brutalist architecture: Palace of Assembly, Palace of Justice and Secretariat. His recurring Open Hand motif (a sign of “peace and reconciliation… open to give, open to receive”) is also honoured here with a 26m high sculpture, the largest of its kind, named the Open Hand Monument.

Le Corbusier Open Hand Monument Chandigarh ARAM

He assembled a team of associates consisting of Fry and Drew along with his cousin and former office partner, Pierre Jeanneret. Collectively, they designed the main infrastructure and residential buildings throughout the city, eventually spending three continuous years in Chandigarh. Jeanneret produced a range of furniture for the city and his iconic, wooden V Chairs can still be seen in use within various institutions. However, owing to their age, a number of these chairs have been junked over the years which were then picked up by keen-eyed collectors and began to appear on the auction circuit in the west attracting vast sums of money owing to their Jeanneret provenance. And it isn’t just his chairs that have become a commodity from Chandigarh after one of the city’s defunct, municipal manhole covers (which have a map of the city inscribed in to them… “it’s impossible to get lost in Chandigarh”, so the joke goes), also designed by Jeanneret, sold at auction in the US for $21,000 only a few years ago! Authorities in Chandigarh are now intervening in such activity in an attempt to preserve these items of heritage and at the time of writing, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee has also now accepted 17 projects designed by Le Corbusier, with the Capitol Complex in Chandigarh among them, into their list of internationally significant architecture sites.

Jeanneret V-Chair Chandigarh ARAM

Jeanneret’s V-Chair and Desk at Punjab University

Le Corbusier Ghandhi Bhawan Punjab University Chandigarh ARAM

Ghandhi Bhawan Punjab University

Le Corbusier Chandigarh Ghandhi Bhawan ARAM

Interior detail at Ghandhi Bhawan auditorium

Jeanneret stayed on in Chandigarh after its completion and was eventually appointed Chief Architect. In 1965, his health began to deteriorate and he returned to his native Geneva for treatment.  He passed away in 1967 and in accordance with his will, his ashes were returned to Chandigarh and scattered on Sukhna Lake in the north of the city.

Chandigarh is most definitely an Indian city but with a European sensibility and a must-visit for any architecture buffs.  But best of all, underneath all that gracefully fading concrete, you can sense that its citizens are very proud and happy to live in their City Beautiful.


Images 1, 3, 6-11: copyright Myles Brown 2016. Image 4: Landlab Files. Image 5: Pinterest.

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LC Collection Le Corbusier Perriand Jeanneret Cassina Aram

The LC Collection by Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand and Pierre Jeanneret

Repeal of Section 52 of the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988 – July 28th 2016

The long-fought campaign to afford designers the same length of copyright protection that musicians and artists currently uphold in the UK is finally at an end. As of yesterday, July 28th 2016, the ‘artistic craftsmanship’ law came into effect and extends the current 25 year term of protection on furniture, lighting and jewellery designs to a term of ‘life of the creator plus 70 years’, bringing it into line with current EU-wide regulations. Thus the legacy of creators of design classics such as Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Charles & Ray Eames and Achille Castiglioni is guaranteed in this country.

Barcelona chair Saarinen table Knoll Aram

Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Chair, with Eero Saarinen’s eponymous side table

“Great design forms an integral part of our lives whether it be architecture, jewellery or home furnishings,” wrote UK intellectual property minister Lucy Neville-Rolfe in a document announcing the decision. “Both cutting-edge designs and those that have stood the test of time continue to be in high demand and we need to ensure designers have an appropriate incentive to create.”

Eames Lounge Chair LTR table RAR chair Vitra Aram

Charles & Ray Eames’ Lounge Chair and Ottoman, with their ESU Shelving, LTR Table and RAR Rocking Chair

The bill was officially passed in 2013 and at the point, the original commencement date of the repeal was due to be April 6th 2020 in order to give businesses affected by the change in law time to adapt. This decision was then challenged by a coalition of established design brands and designers who lobbied the UK government into expediting the process to the end of July this year.

Arco Lamp Achille Castiglioni Flos Aram

The iconic Arco Lamp by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni

The government has implemented a six month cooling-off period for any affected businesses with contracts in place prior to consultation. Therefore, after January 28th 2017, anyone intentionally infringing a registered design by producing, sourcing or selling a copy that differs from an original in only immaterial respects will be committing a criminal offence.

Eileen Gray Lota Menton Bonaparte Aram

Eileen Gray’s designs include the Lota Sofa, Folding Screen, Menton Table and Bonaparte Chair

As worldwide licence holders for the designs of Eileen Gray, Aram Designs is more aware than most of the need to offer greater protection on intellectual property. We hope that this new development in copyright protection will help provide greater clarification for our customers on this long-standing issue and highlight the benefits of investing in licenced and authentically produced furniture.

Click this link for our guide on how to identify an original edition, now protected by law.


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