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Five Stories of the Mid-century Era. A lecture by Maria Savostyanova

Lecture cycle: Twentieth and Twenty-first century design
1 February 2018


The lecture explores the alterations of mid-century Modernism—a movement that gained momentum almost everywhere in the West and even influenced Soviet design and architecture.

One of the main trends in world design of the 1950s and 1960s was democratization. The problem of making high-quality original, yet affordable things was discussed at international conferences in Paris and Aspen. The latter’s co-organizer and participant George Nelson became the promoter of new forms and ideas in American mid-century design, producing furniture and other objects for “optimistic interiors”.

In Europe, this period is the zenith of Scandinavian ecological minimalism, represented by Arne Jacobsen, Poul Henningsen, Finn Juhl, Hans Wegner, Børge Mogensen, and many others, whose drawers, armchairs, and lighting are still popular today; as well as the final transition to the International style in graphic design, based on modular grids, san serif fonts, and lower-case letters. The pioneering figure of “new typography” was Switzerland’s Jan Tschichold, who, among numerous achievements, famously restyled the Penguin Books series.

Mass design and architecture reached non-Western countries as well. Maria Savostyanova will discuss the practice of outstanding Brazilians of the 1950s to the 1970s, including Oscar Niemeyer, Sergio Rodriguez, and Joaquim Tenreiro. In the final part of the lecture, she will outline the design of the “thaw” decade in the USSR: standardized housing and interiors, new decorative principles, the establishment of the All-Russian Research Institute of Technical Aesthetics (VNIITE) and its practical significance.


Maria Savostyanova is an art historian and design critic, Deputy Editor-in-Chief at Interior+Design, and author of over 350 articles on consumer and collectible design. Convenor of the Theory and History of Culture program at the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia, she has been reviewing major contemporary art and design exhibitions for fifteen years.




Free admission with advance registration


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