Two ideotypes

Philippe Starcks neue Stuhllinie für Kartell

Mar 29, 2016
Photo © Kartell

Der König hat nicht nur zwei Körper, er braucht auch zwei Stühle – Generic A und Generic C.

It is always intriguing to discover how courtly French society still feels – despite or perhaps because of the Revolution. And there is also something royalist about Philippe Starck, when he refers to a predecessor of his latest project for Kartell: “I’d already made a start on this project, as the first step was ‘Louis Ghost’. You see the chair ‘Louis Ghost’ was an attempt to find the basic nature, the very essence of this classic item of furniture that has written history, our history. The various kings, Louis XIV and Louis XVI of France, in Italy the kings go by different names, and have different names again in England – but these kings have always sat on such chairs, and the common people, in other words us, have always coveted the king’s chair.”

The commoner’s chair is needed everywhere. So Kartell is presenting a new chair series by Philippe Starck, “generic ideotypes” of the chairs customarily to be found in civic centers, cafes or restaurants. And as form and appearance are secondary in such commonplace chairs, Starck, always the best promoter of his own ideas, describes the project’s creative process as a return to the true essence, to the soul of things and their function.

A process during which the designer asked himself: “Why make a collection called ‘Generic’? Well, because there is a mystery in everything. The mystery stems from this graphic symbol: the square root. In other words, we are looking for the square root of something that already exists. And herein lies the mystery. When we work out the square root, divide, divide, divide, we divide something until it cannot be divided anymore. This produces something from which we cannot extract anything else. From an intellectual and economic viewpoint it is an interesting undertaking ... the focus is on economy and ecology. Ultimately, it is a project about the intelligence of the material, the intelligence of the object.”

Specifically, “Generic A” represents the “civil authorities” type, in other words the essence of a chair we might find, say, in hospitals, police stations or ministries. By contrast “Generic C” represents the essential chair for cafés, bars and restaurants.
Starck also knows why that is interesting, and proceeds to impart this information: “A generic object cannot be fashionable. And as Coco Chanel once said, if something is not fashionable it cannot go out of fashion.” (tw)