Alexander Girard: A Designer’s Universe, Vitra Design Museum, 2016. Designed by Brighten the Corners
In MidCentury 10, we explore the colourful world of Alexander Girard, currently being spotlighted by the Alexander Girard: A Designer’s Universe exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany. For those of us unable to visit, the next best thing is to pick up a copy of the accompanying book. Although you might literally struggle to pick it up – as a 512 page hardback, it’s packing a hefty weight!
Alexander Girard in his studio in the early 1950s, photographed by Charles Eames
Charles Eames said of his friend and collaborator Alexander Girard, “There is perhaps no designer of our time more concerned with the selection of beautiful things, and their relation to their environment than Alexander Girard,” and this book makes that point stunningly. It explores all aspects of his work – from restaurant designs to furniture and tableware to the textiles for which he is probably best known today, accompanied by generous full page photographs. There’s more than a hundred pages simply devoted to “connections” – visual pairings made between Girard’s work, and sometimes also objects from his 100,000 object collection of Folk Art.
Design drawing for textile panel, 63 x 110cm, Alexander Girard, early 1970s, Alexander Girard Estate, Vitra Design Museum / photo: Andreas Sütterlin
In fact, this is where the book excels – it is a visual treat. It’s hard not to enjoy Alexander Girard’s joyful work and you’ll spot something aesthetically pleasing every time you open the book. However, if you are less familiar with Girard’s work, it may be harder to navigate – the essays on his varied interests proceed the biography section and it’s harder to get a sense of what was happening when. It will be amazingly useful, however, to students of Alexander Girard, thanks to the list of works provided – a feat that underlines just how prolific he was as a designer.
Design for matchboxes of the restaurant La Fonda del Sol, Alexander Girard, 1960 / Alexander Girard Estate, Vitra Design Museum
You finish the book with a balanced and rounded impression of the designer who, despite the exuberance of his work, was as disciplined and controlled as his mid-century contemporaries. And it really is something you’ll want to pick up and be inspired by again and again. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a reminder that we all benefit from some colour in our lives – and, as Alexander Girard so skilfully demonstrated, that pattern and colour can be truly modern.
Alexander Girard: A Designer’s Universe
by Mateo Kries and Jochen Eisenbrand
Published by Vitra Design Museum
20.1 x 27.9 cm, £60
Find out more about the work of Alexander Girard in MidCentury 10
Buy a copy of Alexander Girard: A Designer’s Universe here
‘Alexander Girard: A Designer’s Universe’ is at the Vitra Design Museum until 22 January 2017.
Read our article on the enduring appeal of mid-century pattern