In 1995, when Germany’s Vitra Design Museum mounted the exhibition 100 Masterpieces, it was, in a sense, a physical rough draft for Atlas of Furniture Design, the museum’s new über-comprehensive tome dedicated to the history of modern furnishings. “The first idea for the book came with that exhibition,” says Mateo Kries, the museum’s director, “but it took us until 2011 to really get the project started.” The thousand-plus page book—the most extensive ever published on the topic—will be available through Vitra’s website on December 1.
“There are many coffee-table books on this topic, but only a few are based on thorough first-hand research,” Kries says. “We wanted to convey what an incredible multitude of forms, constructions, and innovations furniture design has seen in the past 230 years, and how it connected to society, art, and architecture.” Compiled by more than 70 authors and a team of six researchers, the book spotlights 1,740 objects by more than 540 designers and features more than 2,800 illustrations, ranging from object photographs and design sketches to brochures, patents, and portraits of the designers. “Among all design objects, few items are so frequently used and so close to our body and our daily life as furniture,” Kries says. “Some of the greatest achievements in furniture design, such as the Eames chair and Barcelona lounger, can be seen as artistic achievements that are equal to some of the greatest works of art or architecture of the past decades. The difference is that you can have them at home.”