Pastoe – 100 years of design innovation
Gert Staal / Anne van der Zwaag
NAI/010 Publishers ISBN 978–94–6208–068–3
I found a Pastoe chair. It was on the street, jammed in between bags of rubbish and the panels of an old bed, and not entirely visible. Perhaps that’s why for a moment I thought I had discovered an Eames DCW, although I suspected that no one in the Amsterdam district where I live would ever have owned such a valuable piece of furniture. The Pastoe chair, designed by Cees Braakman, does look remarkably like it. Starting with the name, SB02. I assume that this was intended to emphasize the fact that this piece of furniture is part of a larger series. Just like the Eames chair with the name DCW, which stands for Dining Chair Wood. There is a slightly lower model, the LCW, where the L stands for Lounge. Both pieces of furniture have opted for a name that is free of any type of seduction or promise of delight. Perhaps the poetry resides in the self-confidence that is on show. This furniture speaks for itself to such an extent that it doesn’t really need a name.
SB02. Design: Cees Braakman
Braakman’s design follows Eames’s design to a large extent as regards the use of materials, the design of the legs and their connection with the seat and the backrest. However, this version is much more austere. The SB02 is to its American predecessor what a DAF is to a Cadillac. It has a more compact, economical design, and is more modest. Perhaps it’s even slightly more intelligent. It certainly radiates less glamour, but the quality and functionality of this Dutch design are clear for all to see. Nevertheless, the previous owner of my chair must not have thought this or must have had different ideas about it.
DCW (Dining Chair Wood) Design: Charles and Ray Eames
The advertising slogans for Pastoe seem to have been inspired – particularly during the 1960s – by the potential buyer’s strong desire to be educated and elevated. The need to make the world a better and more beautiful place with plain and functional furniture is behind the way in which the acquisitions of modernism are defined by aspects of timelessness and high quality. Meanwhile, we are so permeated with these modernist values that I am aware of a certain degree of boredom. It is possible that Dick Bruna also already felt this boredom more than fifty years ago.
Design: Dick Bruna
While I trawled through the archive of Pastoe images, I came across a poster by the Utrecht designer dating from 1961. A clown in front of a black background stands on a Pastoe chest of drawers, balancing a Pastoe cube in each hand. The clown is made of roughly torn pieces of paper and is reminiscent of the Stedelijk Museum catalogs of Willem Sandberg dating from the same period. Thus it is clearly a clever clown – one could even say an intellectual amongst clowns. Nevertheless, he does not seem to know exactly what to do with all these chests of drawers – this is what happens with modular systems. So he’s just climbed on top and is holding up two of them.
I’m certainly very fond of Dick Bruna. He is an upright person and the poster was not meant to contain any cynical comments, although you shouldn’t really climb up onto cupboards. Everything in Bruna’s work follows the rules of “good” modernist design, and yet he seems to be wary of dogmatic applications. Beauty resides not only in the shape, but in the story told by the shape. A tree, an ice cream or a balloon would also have been possible.