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W.H. Gispen

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The history of industrial design could, in a sense, be more or less defined by the vast oeuvre of Willem Hendrik Gispen (1890-1981). He grew up in a time of major change, in the midst of movements like Amsterdamse School, Art Nouveau, De Stijl, and Bauhaus. Throughout the years his name has become virtually synonymous with cool and modern steel tubular chairs from the Netherlands. His Giso lamps, a series of which the very first lamp dates back to 1926, are adored for their refined design. The influence of functionalism is ever-present in his work, and though he sometimes flirted with more expressive aesthetics, he had a magnificent sense for modern taste. The Gispen designs were famed for their strength and durability, like demonstrated on a famous photograph of a table holding no less than 16 grown men!

Apart from being a talented industrial designer and respected founder of both his own legendary Gispen factory (in 1916) and the popular Kembo factory (in 1953,) W.H. Gispen was an excellent writer, with a witty and eloquent manner of speech, and outspoken opinion on design, art, and kitsch.

Recently the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam celebrated the Gispen factory’s centenary with an exhibition showing the impressive range of furniture which has had such an unrivalled impact on the history of Dutch design, including numerous designs by founder W.H. Gispen himself. Thanks to a special foundation (Stichting Gispen Collectie) dedicated to W.H. Gispen’s work and the Gispen factory in particular, an extensive array of documentation offers a beautiful overview of the Gispen legend.

Reference + images: André Koch, Industrieel ontwerper W H Gispen (1890-1981): een modern eclecticus, Rotterdam: De Hef, 1988
+ © www.stichtinggispencollectie.nl
Text: © KADER design

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