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25 Years of Vision

The Vision range of cabinets, designed by Pierre Mazairac and Karel Boonzaaijer for the Dutch label Pastoe, is celebrating its 25th birthday.  To mark the occasion, a book, "Space For Imagination" has been published.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 04-01-2011

Vision, designed in 1985, is a cabinet comprising any number of chests in various sizes.  It has no handles or grips and instead utilizes a pressure-release mechanism borrowed from the car manufacturing industry.

“It’s been twenty-five years and it’s still going strong,” says co-designer Karel Boonzaaijer who says he still sees Vision as his baby and is still finding new ways to fall in love with it. “It’s so simple, but as with anything simple it has a big story behind it, which I wanted to finally share.”
Together with Pierre Mazairac, Boonzaaijer owned and ran a design studio in Holland for eighteen years before Mazairac decided to go solo in Switzerland.  “We always had a really nice cooperation,” Mazairac says.  “I have lots of wild ideas and he knew a lot about technique, and could always bring an idea back to structures and technical development.”
For Vision, both designers wanted to create something more typical of architecture.  “We wanted something that would exist in a home like a wall that plays with space, volume and line,” Mazairac says.
At the time, Mazairac was also involved with Pastoe, advising them on commissions.  “I remarked that they were missing a unit system from their collection," he says.  "They agreed and so we immediately set to work."
The idea was to create a lot of possibilities for the consumer.  “Almost like a child’s Lego set,” says Boonzaaijer.  “You can take it any direction or size you wish.”
When it was finished, some people thought it was cold and ugly, but both Boonzaaijer and Mazairac knew they had created something special.  They took it to Milan and the industry reacted rapturously.
Along the way, compromises had to be made and it took almost a full year to produce the first prototypes.  “Of course we had to reduce some of our wilder ideas because furniture designers always have to compromise,” Mazairac says,  “but I don't see that as a bad thing.  As a designer, I am working for a producer, or a market, not for myself.  It’s not art, it is furniture and it is important to keep that fact in mind.”
Since hitting the market in ’85, Pastoe’s former director Harm Scheltens has landed in court many times protecting Vision from copyright infringements.  “It depends on the judge, but I’d say they win about 90% of the cases,” says Mazairac.  “But if a judge doesn't have a good feeling for design, it can be more difficult to explain why copying is such a problem, or even how an object has been copied.  Sometimes they just look at the colour or shape.”
Pastoe is one of the few remaining locally-manufactured Dutch furniture makers.  Much of the production is still done by hand.
“It is a fantastic company,” says Mazairac.  “It’s been at the top for eighty years and still plays a leadership role when it comes to industry directions.” 

And on the former director Harm Scheltens:  “He is the best they ever had,” Mazairac continues.  “He is the motor behind everything and no other director ever managed to do it like he did.”
To mark Vision's 25th year "Space For Imagination" has recently been published.  It is written by Karel Boonzaaijer in association with Ilka Helmig and Johannes Bergerhausen.

"Ruimte voor verbeelding / Space for Imagination" can be ordered under ISBN number 978-90-5856-357-6 (in Dutch and English).

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