Konstantin Grcic: Decisive Design 

Location and Dates:
The Art Institute of Chicago
November 20, 2009 – January 24, 2010

Zoë Ryan

Exhibition Design:
KGID: Konstantin Grcic

Konstantin Grcic: Decisive Design,
AIC/Yale University Press, 2010

Publication Design:

Zoë Ryan
Exhibition Website:


This was the first solo museum exhibition devoted to the work of Konstantin Grcic, one of the most important designers working today. Characterized by an uncompromising approach that favors simple, yet distinctive design solutions, Grcic has more recently harnessed an interest in new technologies and materials research that have afforded him a progressively ambitious portfolio of furniture and product designs that are transforming the landscape of contemporary design. 

Grcic’s studio, KGID, based in Munich, has gained critical recognition internationally for work that cuts across commercial and cultural fields for a cross-section of prestigious companies worldwide, including ClassiCon, Krups, Moroso, Plank, Vitra, Luminaire and Magis. These include the Mayday lamp, produced for Italian manufacturer Flos in 1999, a reinterpretation of the industrial lamps used in auto mechanic shops, transformed for domestic use, which won the prestigious Compasso d`Oro award at the Milan furniture fair that same year.

Grcic trained as a carpenter at Parnham College in southern England before graduating in 1990 with a master’s degree from the design department of the Royal College of Art in London. However, it was while working for British designer Jasper Morrison, known for reinvigorating everyday objects through a minimal visual language that Grcic cut his teeth. In 1991, Grcic returned to his hometown of Munich and founded his own studio. Since then he has become known for designs that favor a pared down visual language but one that defies the eye. What appear to be simple designs, however, are often the product of labor-intensive research and manufacturing processes using the latest digital technologies. In addition, Grcic’s refined aesthetic creates results that are at times unexpected through the mix of materials and their formal treatment.

The faceted form of Chair_One, for example, is made from die-cast aluminium and concrete, materials not commonly assembled to create a mass-produced chair. Its construction calls to mind the architecture of bridges rather than furniture design. In 2008, Grcic produced Myto in collaboration with BASF and furniture manufacturer Plank. The cantilevered stacking chair is made from BASF’s Ultradur® High Speed, a fluid plastic that is typically used by the automotive industry and whose strength afforded the complex design.

Grcic delights in creating fresh takes on familiar industrial designs—whether desks, chairs, benches, stools, a range of kitchen equipment, lamps, or a set of salad servers. This foundation has enabled him to carve out a unique career path that honors the tenets of modernism based on pure geometries of form but at the same time is unrestrained from ideologies and approaches steeped in industrial design theory and practice, resulting in innovative new archetypes of form and function.

The exhibition design that included prototypes, drawings, and mock-ups of projects, as well as realized designs illustrated Grcic’s hands-on approach and attention to detail. In addition, visitors were invited to try out Grcic’s designs for chairs and seating, encouraging them to form their own interpretations and conclusions about his playful but often daringly inventive new takes on everyday typologies.