The collection of the Vitra Design Museum en miniature
The Miniatures Collection of the Vitra Design Museum covers the most important pieces from the international history of design from 1850 up to the present. The construction, materials and colours of the miniatures correspond precisely to the historical original. Extensive development work was carried out to adapt the manufacturing techniques to the requirements of miniaturization. Because they are so true to the originals, the miniatures are not only collector’s objects for furniture enthusiasts, but also serve as ideal illustrative material for universities and design schools. At present, the collection encompasses 80 models on a 1:6 scale with further pieces being continually added. The models come in their own wooden box and are accompanied by a descriptive brochure with details on the design. Net proceeds from the sale of the miniatures go towards the exhibitions and workshops of Vitra Design Museum.
Miniaturization means concentration
Vitra Design Museum faithfully replicates furniture design classics in miniaturized three-dimensional form. Many of these designs, like the chaise longue by Le Corbusier or the red-blue chair by Gerrit Rietveld, are as widely known today as the most celebrated works of art and are coveted by museums and collectors the world over. These miniatures illustrate at a glance what design means and what role it plays in the industrial production process. The clear and concentrated world of the miniatures yields a fascinating reflection of the stylistic diversity of contemporary design and provides a unique way of accessing the history of furniture design.
The manufacture of the miniatures
Vitra Design Museum has one of the most renowned collections of industrial furniture design – from the infancy of industrial mass production in the mid-19th century through the designs of functionalistic Modernism up to the postmodern furniture objects of the present day. With its many exhibits, the collection provides us with an ideal base for developing new furniture miniatures. Model builders measure the historical original in the museum collection, scale this down to one sixth of the original size and compile technical documentation. Subsequently, materials and manufacturing techniques are tested over a period of several months: the shapes are formed, materials and processes are selected, art historical research on the objects is conducted and then the production sequences are defined.
Maximum technology for the minis
On account of the high quality Vitra requires, specialized craft firms produce the miniatures in small numbers. Each of the delicate objects is made by hand with the aid of machines developed specially for the production of miniatures. Assembly, bonding and bolting work is carried out with microscopic precision using special assembly jigs and screws and nuts produced to a scale 1:6 of their normal size. Ongoing quality control reviews ensure that none of the models exhibits any faults in the surface or material and that every miniature corresponds to its larger original in terms of finishing, details and materials.
Quality to achieve perfection
Each model looks so perfect that one could believe it was the original, shrunk in size as if by magic. Yet not every shape and material can be reduced to one sixth of its original size. Surface, structure and weight of the original materials must also achieve a certain harmony individually and together in the miniature. When the wooden chair is made smaller, for example, only the measurements change, not the structure and grain of the wood. In order to avoid even the slightest unevenness, only selected woods can be used.
The Vitra Design Museum Miniatures Collection is unique the world over: for every miniature there is a licensing agreement with the designer or the designer’s heirs. Moreover, the matter of copyright issues is taken very seriously and artistic copyrights are honored by paying royalties, often in excess of the usual rates. Many designers collaborate with Vitra in the development of miniatures and review the prototypes before production begins.