Alvar Aalto’s Artek Stool 60 gets a makeover
Rei Kawakubo, Tom Dixon, Mads Nørgaard and Monocle Magazine rework the design classic for its 80th birthday
“I believe you should only change classics when people have become very familiar with them. Suddenly, they can rediscover something they already know.” So says German designer Mike Meiré, and he chooses his words wisely. He’s been dabbling with a piece of furniture that is the epitome of iconic.
Finnish legend Alvar Aalto designed the Artek Stool 60 in 1933. It was revolutionary not because it was beautifully basic, not because it stacked, but it was one of the first pieces to be made with bent wood rather than tubular steel. That allowed it go into mass production, and since then, Aalto’s prediction that “We’ll make thousands of these one day,” has come true hundreds of times over.
This year, Artek Stool 60 turns 80, and to celebrate the company has brought in a handful of contemporary creatives to give this three-legged classic a twist. Luckily – for the purists among us – they’re not tampering with the form. This is more of a cosmetic job. So Meiré has given the legs different colour combinations that relate back to the Bauhaus movement. Tom Dixon’s is fluorescent orange.
“Aalto was a great lover of bright colours, and I can imagine that he too might have been fascinated by these extreme hues,” says Dixon, who was Artek’s creative director from 2004 to 2009. The Japanese designer Nao Tamura has decorated the seat with tree trunk rings. And founder of Comme des Garçons Rei Kawakubo has put big black polka dots on white lacquered wood. Another fashionista, Danish fashion designer Mads Nørgaard was inspired by Harris Tweed. Meanwhile, one of phaidon.com's favourite magazines Monocle has covered one in moose leather. It’s all fun, and great for Artek’s profile, though the purist in us will always have a hankering for the original. You can read the full story regarding the creation of the Artek Stool 60 in our Alvar Aalto monograph.