We have Jony Ive to thank for launching Dieter Rams to upper stratosphere of design history, so most of us are more familiar with his electronics than his furniture. But today, Rams introduced a reengineered version of a lesser known masterpiece: the modular 620 Chair Program.
620 was Rams’s second Vitsœ product, arriving two years after the 606 Shelving System made its debut. It’s an elegant piece of furniture, but the thing that makes it really beautiful is the thought Rams put into its lifespan. Most customers start with a single chair, which arrives flat-packed in cardboard and is assembled using a single tool. Then, as babies arrive and apartments become houses, you can order more chairs and make your single seater into a double seater, triple seater or sextuple-seat sofa. It’s also incredibly easy to replace the textiles or components as the chair ages.
For the chair’s 50th anniversary this month, Rams worked with Vitsœ to overhaul the components and improve accessibility to its innards. It’s an interesting thing to see a designer overhaul one of his earliest projects (Rams was 30 when he designed 620). Part of the revamp was a drop in price too — though at $3340 per module, it's still astronomical for most of us. Then again, it's designed to last a lifetime (or beyond), during which you'll probably buy three or four normally priced couches.
“We cannot go on continuing to make furniture that no longer fulfils its function and therefore ends up in a hole in the ground," explains a rep from Vitsœ, whose tagline is against obsolescence. In other words, modular doesn’t always have to be disposable. Now if only the tech industry would take that mantra to heart.