17, 20 — 24 Sept 2022
Industrial & Product Design, Interiors & Furniture
A 30-year-old Dieter Rams designed the 620 Chair Programme for Vitsœ in 1962. Using pioneering materials and a concept of modular adaptability, Rams created a chair without compromise – a kit of parts, engineered to outlive its owner. This year, Vitsœ celebrates 620’s 60 years of good design.
To mark this 60-year anniversary, Vitsœ presents the story of the 620 Chair Programme through early photography by Ingeborg Rams and items from the Vitsœ archive, alongside the opportunity to experience the comfort of the chair for yourself. High-quality materials – many hidden from view – are used throughout the manufacturing process to achieve a degree of satisfaction that often surprises the first-time sitter. From the outset, Rams wanted to achieve the comfort of a fully upholstered chair with a visually lightweight frame. He talks about how company founder Niels Vitsœ’s experience in the bed industry helped inform the design, resulting in the use of coil-springs to achieve a high level of comfort. Mark Adams, Vitsœ’s managing director, explains: “I’ll always remember Niels Vitsœ saying to me, ‘Mark, you have to realise that the trouble with Dieter Rams’ design is that you don’t see where all of the cost goes.’ And this is especially true about 620, and it’s the reason we display a cut-away cross section of the chair seat for customers, so they can see exactly what goes into making each chair. That’s the Vitsœ virtue – all the cost is in there and it’s hidden, but it’s the reason why your chair will still be going strong and remain in good condition for decades. We have customers returning for new upholstery after 50 years, so excited that they can not only buy it, but also fit it themselves in their own home.” What appears at first glance to be a relatively simple chair belies the intelligent and comprehensive design. It’s not obvious at first sight that 620 is a kit of parts; like Lego for grownups. There’s no such thing as a three-seater 620 sofa, it’s three chairs joined together, which could easily become a ten-seater if required, or a two-seater and a single seater and so on... Vitsœ has always encouraged its customers to buy less, but better. Today the signs are all around us. Nature is showing its contempt for our disrespectful, disposable way of life. Increasingly we have a responsibility to buy fewer items of better quality – and to make them last longer. Ideally, we should buy them directly from the makers, where we are sure of the provenance – and the value-for-money. The 620 chair represents the pinnacle of Vitsœ’s decades of determination to make, sell and support its products for the benefit of customers, suppliers, employees … and the planet on which we all live. Adams states: “Every component of 620 can be replaced if needed. I think it’s because the design comes from a time when people were encouraged (or expected) to take more ownership over their products and feel that if something was broken, they could take it apart and fix it. These days, products are being designed in such a way that you’re actively prevented from being able to do that, but with 620 and 606, the assembly is honest, we’re not trying to hide anything.” Seven years after 620 first appeared on the market it was copied. Legal action resulted in the 620 Chair Programme being granted copyright protection in 1973. The court substantiated: “The design of this chair is a personal, original creation of highly aesthetic value.” The 60-year history of the 620 Chair Programme proves that Rams did indeed design a remarkable chair. Surprisingly comfortable, the 620 remains a popular choice for the discerning customer who understands the meaning of true value and appreciates the freedom to easily adapt their furniture whenever their lives change.