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Vitra Design Museum

Clth, 7.75 x 10.75 in. / 512 pgs / illustrated throughout.

Pub Date

D.A.P. Exclusive
Catalog: SPRING 2016 p. 25   

ISBN 9783945852057 TRADE
List Price: $85.00 CAD $112.50

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Weil am Rhein, Germany
Vitra Design Museum, 03/16/16–01/17/17

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.

Mid Century Magazine



Alexander Girard: A Designer's Universe

Edited by Mateo Kries, Jochen Eisenbrand. Text by Susan Brown, Jochen Eisenbrand, Barbara Hauss, Alexandra Lange, Monica Obniski, Jonathan Olivares.

Alexander Girard: A Designer's Universe

This elegant, 500+ page Girard compendium is the first to draw on the vast holdings of the designer's estate

Alexander Girard was one of the most important modern textile artists and interior designers of the 20th century. He combined Pop and Folk art influences to create a colorfully opulent aesthetic language whose impact continues to be felt today. This richly illustrated catalogue draws on the vast holdings in Girard’s private estate, which were exhaustively investigated for the first time at the Vitra Design Museum. The book presents the oeuvre of the multitalented designer in all its facets, while offering the first scholarly, critical examination of his work. Six essays address Girard’s textile and graphic design for the furniture manufacturer Herman Miller, interior design projects such as the Irwin Miller House in Columbus, Indiana (1953), and the restaurant La Fonda del Sol in New York (1960), his activities as a pioneering exhibition organizer and curator, his roots in Italy and his passion for folk art, which resulted in a collection of more than 100,000 objects and served as one of the most important sources of inspiration for his own work. In addition to extensive portfolios with never-before-shown archive materials, the publication also provides a biography and a complete list of works, plus articles by Susan Brown, Jochen Eisenbrand, Barbara Hauss, Alexandra Lange, Monica Obniski and Jonathan Olivares.

Born in 1907 in New York City, Alexander Girard and his family moved back to Italy shortly after his birth. In 1932, Girard opened his first design office in New York. Five years later, he moved to Detroit, where he opened a second studio. His career breakthrough came in 1949, when he was chosen to design the Detroit Institute of Arts’ For Modern Living exhibition. In 1952 Charles Eames recruited Girard to become Herman Miller’s director of design in the textile division. Girard’s tenure at Herman Miller continued into the 1970s; while there, he designed the interior for La Fonda del Sol restaurant in New York’s Time-Life Building in 1960. In the early 1960s he relocated to New Mexico, where he began collecting folk art. Girard’s collection can be found in the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe. He died in 1993.

Susan Brown joined Cooper Hewitt in 2001, where she is Associate Curator of Textiles. She curated the highly successful exhibition Fashioning Felt, and edited the accompanying catalogue. She has co-curated numerous exhibitions, including Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance, Color Moves: Art and Fashion by Sonia Delaunay, Quicktakes: Rodarte, and David Adjaye Selects, and contributed essays to these publications along with Design Life Now: National Design Triennial and Making Design, the museum’s collections handbook.  She has published articles in Hali, Surface Design, American Craft, TextilForum, and Modern Carpet and Textile. She also teaches in the Masters’ Program in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies offered by Cooper Hewitt with Parsons/The New School for Design, as well as lecturing regularly for the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU. She currently serves on the board of the Textile Society of America.

Jonathan Olivares was born in Boston in 1981 and graduated from Pratt Institute. In 2006 he established his office, which is based in Los Angeles and works in the fields of industrial, spatial and communication design. His designs engage a legacy of form and technology, and ask to be used rather than observed. Recent projects include the Aluminum Bench, for Zahner (2015); the Vitra Workspace, an office furniture showroom and learning environment for Vitra (2015); the exhibition Source Material, curated with Jasper Morrison and Marco Velardi (2014); and the Olivares Aluminum Chair, for Knoll (2012). Olivares’ work has been published internationally, granted several design awards—including Italy’s Compasso d'Oro—and supported by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.

Alexandra Lange is a New York-based architecture and design critic. Her essays, reviews, and profiles have appeared in Architect, Dirty Furniture, Dwell, MAS Context, Metropolis, New York Magazine, the New Yorker, and the New York Times. She has been an opinion columnist at Dezeen and a featured writer at Design Observer. She is the author of Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012) and the e-book The Dot-Com City: Silicon Valley Urbanism (Strelka Press, 2012), as well as co-author of Design Research: The Store that Brought Modern Living to American Homes (Chronicle Books, 2010). She has taught design criticism at the School of Visual Arts and New York University. She was a 2014 Loeb Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Jochen Eisenbrand is chief curator at the Vitra Design Museum. Working at the Vitra Design Museum since 1998, Eisenbrand curated the exhibitions Airworld. Design and Architecture for Air Travel, Hidden Heroes. The Genius of Everyday Things as well as major retrospectives on George Nelson, Louis Kahn (with Stanislaus von Moos), Alvar Aalto and Alexander Girard. His exhibitions have been shown not only in Weil am Rhein but also at further venues in Europe, the USA and in Asia. From 2007 until 2010 he served as a member of the acquisitions committee of FRAC centre in Orléans. Having earned a Master degree in Cultural Studies from the University of Lüneburg (1998), Eisenbrand received his PhD in design history at the University of Wuppertal in 2014.

Monica Obniski is the Demmer Curator of 20th and 21st Century Design at the Milwaukee Art Museum. She was the inaugural Ann S. and Samuel M. Mencoff Assistant Curator of American Decorative Arts at the Art Institute of Chicago and a Research Assistant in the Department of American Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She received an MA in the History of Decorative Arts and Design from the Bard Graduate Center, and a PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she wrote the dissertation “Accumulating Things: Folk Art and Modern Design in the Postwar American Projects of Alexander H. Girard (1907-1993).” Obniski has taught art history at the University of Illinois, Chicago and Columbia College Chicago, has received fellowships from FIU-The Wolfsonian and the Center for Craft, Creativity and Design, and has published a number of scholarly articles and contributed to several museum publications.

Barbara Fitton Hauss is an independent American art historian and translator based in southwestern Germany. Her authored works in both English and German include a book on Renaissance architecture north of the Alps (Helbing & Lichtenhahn, 1991) and numerous essays with a focus on midcentury modern design in the USA and modernist art movements in Germany, which have been published in catalogues by Vitra Design Museum, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Dreiländermuseum Lörrach, and others. Her translations in the fields of art, design and architecture have appeared in noted books such as Women in Graphic Design (Jovis, 2012), Focusing the Modern (Bauhaus-Archiv, 2011), Migropolis (Hatje Cantz, 2009), Your Private Sky: R. Buckminster Fuller (Lars Müller, 2000) and many exhibition catalogues. 

Featured image is reproduced from Alexander Girard: A Designer's Universe.


Metropolis Magazine

Avinash Rajagopal

A landmark... looks beyond the iconic textiles and patterns to reveal a hitherto unseen side of Girard.

Blouin Artinfo

Jana Perkovic

Girard’s work restored what classical modernism had rejected in design: color, ornamentation, and folk motifs. He combined craftsmanship and pop culture with ingenious ease, and anticipated the colorful language of postmodernism…. the first scholarly examination of Girard’s oeuvre.


Annette Tietenberg

Alexander Girard’s collage principle is once again very much in fashion, succeeding as it does in breaking both with the ideology of the ‘new’ that underpinned Modernism, but also with the indifferent anything goes attitude of Post-Modernism. In Girard’s pieces, his own designs enter into a harmonious dialog with the found, the glossy new with the signs of use.

Interior Design

A beautiful and comprehensive survey.


Edward M Gómez

A rich testament to one of modernism’s most prodigious and prolific talents.

Eye on Design

Angela Riechers

Girard’s sophisticated sense of color and willingness to create things that were more folksy, even charming, within high Modernism is part of his continued appeal, bringing a warmth and humanity to design in an era of hard-edged, gridded corporate design that could appear cold and forbidding.

Grain Edit

This richly illustrated catalogue draws on the vast holdings in Girard’s private estate, which were exhaustively investigated for the first time at the Vitra Design Museum. The book presents the oeuvre of the multitalented designer in all its facets, while offering the first scholarly, critical examination of his work.

Mid Century Magazine

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. 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

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The Vitra Book on Alexander Girard

The Vitra Book on Alexander Girard

In 1965 Alexander Girard reconceived the graphic and color design for Braniff International Airlines, letting himself be "guided by 'two primary and seemingly contradictory design principles: First, design in depth to ensure variety, interest, and lasting excitement. Second, strip beautiful shapes of nonessentials, to permit freest appreciation of beautiful form.' The conventional striped livery of passenger aircraft was dismissed by Girard as camouflage. Instead, he painted the entire fuselage of each Braniff fleet plane in one solid color, chosen from a coordinated palette of seven different hues: yellow, orange, turquoise, dark blue, light blue, ochre, and beige. The same color scheme was employed for the airport service vehicles and also provided a principal design element in the aircraft cabins. The airplane seats were covered with fabric from the furniture manufacturer Herman Miller in two different simple geometric patterns—checkerboard and stripes—in a total of 56 color combinations. Braniff promoted Girard’s design concept with the slogan 'The end of the plain plane.'” continue to blog



Fathers Day Favorite 'Alexander Girard: A Designer's Universe' Opens at Cranbrook

Fathers Day Favorite 'Alexander Girard: A Designer's Universe' Opens at Cranbrook

Alexander Girard: A Designer's Universe is one gorgeous design book. Astonishingly, this 500-page linen-bound beauty is the first to draw from the prolific mid-century designer’s estate—which contains more than 100,000 inspirational folk art objects in addition to his own wide-ranging work. Featured here is Girard’s 1971 Environmental Enrichment Panel, “Love Heart,” produced when he was design director of Herman Miller’s textile division. Our love note to dads everywhere, it is included in the international traveling retrospective opening this weekend at Cranbrook Art Museum in Michigan. continue to blog



Alexander Girard: A Designer's Universe

Alexander Girard: A Designer's Universe

In 1957, Charles Eames wrote, "There is perhaps no designer of our time more concerned with the selection of beautiful things, and their relation to our environment than Alexander Girard." Although Girard was one of the most important and influential designers of the twentieth century—he planned buildings, interiors and corporate designs; drew logos and lettering; designed textiles, goods for the home, furniture, dresses, murals, postage stamps, secret codes, toys, matchboxes and even packaging for sugar cubes; curated exhibitions, ran a design studio; and amassed a collection of 90,000 works of folk art—there has never been a comprehensive monograph on this titan of twentieth-century design until now. Culled from the vast holdings of Girard’s private estate, this 512-page monograph by the world renowned Vitra Design Museum is gorgeous, playful, scholarly, rich and absolutely essential. Featured here is an illustration from the exhibition catalogue, The Magic of a People, Girard's keynote pavilion for the 1968 World’s Fair in San Antonio, Texas.

Girard worked for three months, seven days a week, fourteen hours per day on the building design and exhibition installation. "The Magic of a People, as Girard named the exhibition, presented over 10,000 objects from his own collection in an area of roughly 3500 square feet: folk art from Central and South America, placed into scenes in 41 individual dioramas with exquisite details. Nothing escaped Girard’s attention; every tiny thing was important to him. Georgia O’Keeffe helped him select the stones for the landscape settings in the dioramas. For a Mexican village scene, Girard made dozens of miniature banners to decorate the streets. He had the exterior of the L-shaped pavilion painted in vivid colors and adorned with a stylized golden sun and a silver half-moon. A huge snake slithered across the wall on one side of the building, while a 'tree of life' greeted visitors at the entrance." continue to blog



Alexander Girard: A Designer's Universe

Alexander Girard: A Designer's Universe

One of our favorite books of 2016 and a masterpiece of design scholarship that refuses to be uptight, Alexander Girard: A Designer's Universe is 512 pages of gorgeously printed joy, courtesy of the world's experts at Vitra Design Museum. Culled from the previously private archives of the designer's estate, this linenbound volume presents textiles, wallpaper, objects, interiors, exhibitions, showrooms, corporate and graphic design, as well as documentary photographs and items from Girard's own collection of more than 100,000 examples of international folk art. Featured image is the exhibition poster for The Nativity, organized by Girard in 1962. The show featured 170 nativity scenes from 20 different countries. continue to blog



EXQUISITE: Alexander Girard: A Designer's Universe

EXQUISITE: Alexander Girard: A Designer's Universe

Alexander Girard's iconic interior for Miller House (1953-57, in collaboration with architect Eero Saarinen and landscape architect Dan Kiley) remains, to this day, one of the most original and significant examples of American Modernism. Pictured here is the living area with conversation pit and iconic storage wall. It is reproduced from one of the greatest design monographs of the decade, Vitra Design Museum's 512-page bombshell, Alexander Girard: A Designer's Universe. Of the architecture and design, Elizabeth G. Miller, daughter of J. Irwin Miller and Xenia Simons Miller, who commissioned the house, recalls: "One of Sandro’s main efforts was to educate Mother. Both Eero and Sandro knew instinctively that Mom understood what she saw. She knew how to read floorplans. Her father had gone through two or three businesses during the Depression, and growing up in Indiana she lived in 13 different houses in 13 years. This would be the last place she would live, but she had to have a change all the time. That was her basic premise: if you are going to do a house for me it has to change. That meant everything from slipcovers for the pit to items in the storage wall, to flowers and artwork. Mother couldn’t have things be static." continue to blog



Alexander Girard: A Designer's Universe

Alexander Girard: A Designer's Universe, Braniff flight attendants

This mid-60s photograph of Braniff International Airlines flight attendants modeling Emilio Pucci-designed uniforms conceived to fit with Alexander Girard's complete airline redesign is reproduced from Alexander Girard: A Designer's Universe, Vitra's definitive survey of the great mid-century architect, designer, collector and textile artist. More than 500 exquisitely designed and printed pages, illustrated throughout, drawn from the vast holdings of Girard's estate. continue to blog


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