ArkDes shows a new side of Josef Frank

On March 10, the doors opened for the exhibition, Josef Frank – Against Design, at ArkDes. The exhibition was first produced for MAK in Vienna in 2015. In Austria, Josef Frank is known primarily as an architect, which is a side of him that is relatively unknown in Sweden, and ArkDes saw this as an opportunity to show a new image of Josef Frank. Half of the material for the exhibition consists of objects from Vienna, and half comes from “Svenskt Tenn’s” archives, which has been complemented with material from ArkDes. Big Image has produced several large images for the exhibition and had the opportunity to interview Lena Landerberg, who is a producer at ArkDes!

How have you worked with the structure and set design of the exhibition?

When you get the opportunity to show an exhibition produced by someone else, you cannot venture too far from the initial concept. So everything that has been shown in Vienna, we also show, but with a whole new set design with Camilla Ed as set designer. Then, along the way we have constantly been in touch with MAK, so that they are comfortable with how we are going to present the exhibition.

To put more focus on the text and make it more readable, we have worked with banners in different colours produced by the graphic agency, Le Bureau. These have been based on, and been inspired by, the colours from Joseph Frank’s palette. Our goal has been to bring in more colour while also ensuring that it would work well together with Frank’s patterns and the rest of the exhibition. We have a large exhibition room with a high ceiling, and therefore we have had the opportunity to work with large images, while simultaneously working in a scale from large to small.

The images that we enlarged were not of a very high resolution and quite old. We were concerned that the images would be perceived as pixelated when enlarged, but due to fact that the viewing distance is sufficiently long, everything has worked out great!

How is the exhibition organized?

The exhibition is organized in chronological order following Josef Frank’s life. You start by entering a room that brings to mind a café in Vienna during his time there as a student, and the exhibition concludes with his time at Svenskt Tenn. The aim is that once you come out from the show you should have seen and experienced new sides of Josef Frank.

How was Josef Frank as an architect and designer?

The first furniture he designed can be perceived as relatively heavy compared to what he created later in his career. However, since the beginning, it has been important to Josef Frank that furniture not go all the way down to the floor. Many pieces have feet in order for people to be able to see the meeting between the wall and the floor. The same thing is true for chair backs; that they have transparency so you can continue to see the room through the back.

He was against classic design rules and creating solely for the sake of creation, which has inspired the name of the exhibition; “Against design”. He always based his designs on people’s needs and how they use their home and living space. Designers at that time wanted all the furniture to be linked, while Josef Frank believed that furniture should serve as solitary pieces and be able to speak for themselves individually. This is something he adhered to throughout his life.

He wanted space to grow over time and for furniture to be a part of that space almost as a “coincidence”. This is a concept he also used in his architecture. In the forties and fifties, Josef Frank designed several fantasy houses that were never built. His favourite house, “Number 9”, is the one he was most pleased with and is designed with almost no right angles.

Why do you think Josef Frank has become so popular in Sweden?

He based everything on people’s comfort and needs, and his furniture has the ability to be perceived as completely timeless. The patterns never get old or boring to the eyes. They retain a certain freshness.

This is interesting, because even though “Svenskt Tenn” and Josef Frank are associated with a wealthy target group, I still feel that his patterns and designs are publicly loved!


The exhibition runs through 27 August, 2017, and we highly recommend a visit!
Read more here!