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Modern Architecture and Design - Vjenceslav Richter - Set

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Technical details
  • 29.11.2018
  • Orsat Franković, designer from Zagreb
  • AKD d.o.o., Zagreb
  • Offset Printing
  • Multicoloured
  • 42.60 x 35.50 mm and 35.50 x 42.60 mm
  • 3.10 HRK x 3
About Modern Architecture and Design - Vjenceslav Richter

Vjenceslav Richter’s work (Drenova, 1917 – Zagreb, 2002) is counted amongst those artistic achievements that became part of the recent cultural history of Croatia due to their originality, but also their scope which transcends the boundaries between different kinds of media. An architect by vocation, Richter was equally successful as an urban planner, artist, designer, set designer, theoretician and critic. As one of the co-founders of the EXAT 51 group (1951) and the New Tendencies movement (1961-1973), he actively took part in the most prominent developments on the cultural and art scene of the second half of the 20thcentury. Richter took part in a number of prominent international exhibitions and his works have been included in the collections of some of the most important museums, such as New York’s MoMA, London’s Tate Gallery and Rotterdam’s Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Whether he is exploring sculpture or playing with architectural forms, what defines Richter as an artist is his choice of experiment as the preferred method of creating well-rounded works of art. Richter’s professional career started in the turbulent days of the late 1940s and he developed a fondness for exhibition architecture around the same time. What drew him to this form was the fact that it gave him more room to experiment and a degree of artistic freedom that was not allowed when designing structures for “permanent use”. Amongst many exceptional achievements in exhibition architecture, which range from exhibitions and participation in international fairs to complex museum projects, the pavilion designed for the 1958 Brussels’ World Fair holds a special place. According to the original plan, the pavilion was supposed to be “emerging” from a body of water, hanging on a slim,70-metre-tall pointed cone mast, which was supposed to be illuminated by a red light at night. Richter’s notion of architectural design rested on the idea of capturing a fraction of time in an everlasting continuity of movement, so he chose the most appropriate associative form – that of a space shuttle. The idea of movement, or the temporal dimension, which here appears for the first time as an integral part of spatial articulation, represents one of the constant preoccupations present in Richter’s later work. However, it turned out that Richter’s vision for this construction, which he dubbed “foundations in the air”, was too bold. Yet, the key features – the initial relationship between the full and empty space, the interpenetration of the volume, the staircase and the wide glass surface, as well as water as the formative element – were all preserved in the original form. The most prominent feature of this space was its openness and its connection to the adjoining park, which allowed visitors to move freely. This was the only “open house” in the entire World Fair; a pavilion without an entrance gate sent a clear message on behalf of the new country in the international scene that, at the time of the Cold War bloc division, decided to find its own middle way between the East and the West. When the EXPO closed, the pavilion was purchased and moved to Wevelgem, a town some forty miles from Brussels, where it was adapted for the purposes of the private Sint-Pauluscollege Catholic school, where it still remains today as a rare example of Richter’s architectural visions coming true. Vjenceslav Richter’s interest in design should be considered as another separate dimension of his versatile career. His contribution to the promotion of design cannot go unmentioned, as he took part in numerous tenders and exhibitions, wrote both theoretical and critical pieces and played a part in the establishment of the Academy of Applied Arts (1949), the Industrial Design Programme (1955) and the Industrial Design Centre (1963), as well as the organization of the First and Second Zagreb Triennial (1955 and 1959). The fact that he did most of his work in furniture design in the 1950s and 1960s does not, therefore, come as a surprise. Richter’s plywood and wrought iron chair (1952) is a typical example of his innovative approach to designing furniture as “architecture on a smaller scale”. It is marked by simplicity, with an airy construction and a logical composition of parts that derives from the function and characteristics of the materials joined in a harmonious whole. The frequency with which this chair appears in images that capture some of the most prominent cultural events of the time, such as the first exhibition of the EXAT 51 group held in Zagreb in 1953, confirms that it is indeed an iconic piece of 1950s Croatian design. Relying on his understanding of architecture as “a comprehensive fact of space” that represents the grounds for design, Richter applied an analogous method in designing an outdoor seating set, which was exhibited in the 11thMilanese Triennial in 1957, as well as in designing equipment for the pavilions used at the 1955 Viennese Fair, the 1958 Brussels’ World Fair and the 1961 Turin Labour Exhibition. Richter’s accomplishments in the realm of system sculpture cannot be divorced from his explorations of spatial design, condensed in his vision of the city of the future, which he explored and developed in his project on sinturbanism (1964). Instead of resorting to traditional sculptural design, by applying specific methods of form construction, Richter developed the geometrical structures of prefabricated aluminium bars in order to create mobile, mutable structures in space. It is interesting to note that, in the 1960s, Richter already considered the potential role of computers in the construction of these sculptural objects. Endowed with the function of a new, programmed structural whole, the features of a raw industrial material assume a completely different set of optical, tactile and spatial characteristics. Richter’s decision to practice forms of art and design that are not an end in themselves but rather gain their full meaning in a broader social context is reflected in the experience of system sculpture, which requires an active participant, not a passive observer, in order to achieve its real meaning. Jasna GaljerProfessor at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb

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