Hogeschool Rotterdam Willem de Kooning Academie

Old Heroes of WdKA: exhibition 'Piet Zwart'

Old Heroes of WdKA: exhibition 'Piet Zwart'

As a designer Piet Zwart (1885-1977) was a jack of many trades and therefore the perfect eponym of WdKA's Piet Zwart Institute, that houses our master courses. All of them combined define the professional field in which Piet Zwart has been active: he was an innovator of interior architecture, industrial design, typography and advertising, of photography and design critique, apart from teaching – at the Rotterdam Academy. He thus played an important role in the design climate of the 20th century, both in The Netherlands and abroad. His versatility and his influence on present-day designers led the Association of Dutch Designers to award him the title of 'Designer of the Century' in 2000.

Piet Zwart himself preferred to call himself a form engineer or form technician rather than a designer. He believed in functionality, standardization and machine production, and profiled himself as one of the first industrial designers in the Netherlands. In his eyes, a design must take account both of ergonomics and user-friendliness, and of the demands of mass production. The kitchen he designed for Bruynzeel in 1938 is a good example – a revolutionary concept that is the basis for most kitchen design even today. The same urge to innovate is also evident in Piet Zwart's graphic work. His designs are simple and functional, but also playful. Zwart soon incorporated photographs into his advertising images. His photographic work is also very no-nonsense, evidence of his predilection for lines and planes, and his keen eye for detail. Besides advertising photography, he also took images of the surface structures of wood, metal and textiles, and close-ups of organic forms for a while. Many of these photographs possess an almost machine-like element of repetition, reflecting Zwart's love of structure and balance.

The Municipal Museum in The Hague, where Zwart lived and worked, is organising a major retrospective this Summer.

'Piet Zwart (1885-1977). Form engineer'. June 21 – September 7, 2008. Municipal Museum, Stadhouderslaan 41, 2517 HV The Hague/NL. Open: Tue-Sun, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Source: Municipal Museum, The Hague