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Fidgety Phillip

The World of Children's Furniture

4.10.2006 - 7.1.2007

The exhibition Zappel, Philipp! - Die Welt der Kindermöbel is devoted to the development of furniture designed specifically for children. The exhibition will focus in particular on developments in Austria and Germany from the 19th century to the 1970s.

The beginnings of children's furniture as design objects can be pinpointed exactly: in the 1860s the Viennese bentwood manufacturers Gebrüder Thonet were the first to design special children's furniture for mass production. Numerous new models were added over the following decade, and children's furniture became an important market segment of the bentwood furniture industry.

Children's furniture also became an interesting subject for design in the Viennese Modernist movement after 1900. Architects such as Josef Hoffmann, Robert Oerley or Otto Prutscher designed furniture for children. At the Bauhaus - founded by Walter Gropius in 1919 - Marcel Breuer, Erich Dieckmann, Peter Keler and Alma Siedhoff-Buscher developed new forms of furniture for children made of wood and tubular steel.

The furnishings and interiors of nursery schools and classrooms after the First World War became an important part of socially motivated design. The ideas of Maria Montessori regarding the furnishing of nursery schools began to be put into practice, with traditional rows of desks being replaced by individual seats and tables that could be rearranged as required. Ferdinand Kramer, Franz Schuster, Franz Singer, Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky and Wilhelm Schütte developed children?s furniture for the municipal-run nurseries of Socialist-dominated Vienna and Frankfurt during the 1920s.

Furniture for children was an important aspect of international design development both before and after the Second World War. Noted architects and designers such as Alvar Aalto, Jean Prouvé, Charles and Ray Eames, Harry Bertoia, Hans J. Wegner or Arne Jacobsen designed new children?s furniture made of plywood and metal. This era also saw the emergence of numerous creative playthings.

Children's furniture was given a changed status in the 1960s and 1970s when new child-centred forms of furniture made of wood and plastic were created by Johannes Spalt in Vienna and Günter Beltzig, Luigi Colani and Walter Papst in the Federal Republic of Germany. The German furniture industry in Eastern Westphalia with companies such as Kinderlübke were the centre of this development, while in East Germany Renate Müller created therapeutic playthings for children.

To accompany the exhibition a catalogue in German and English is being published by Böhlau Verlag.

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