Gerrit Thomas Rietveld and Dick Bruna, born in Utrecht, the Netherlands, are both giants of the design world, having a significant major impact on 20th century design. Rietveld began his career as a furniture craftsman, but eventually became a world-renowned architect, acclaimed for innovative designs using pure colours and geometric forms, including his classic Red Blue Chair and the Rietveld Schröder House, which is listed as a World Heritage site. Bruna produced an incredible number of graphic design works, and his “miffy” series of children’s picture books has made him a familiar name worldwide. His approach of attaining a diversity of expression through the use of pared-down forms as elements suggests the influence of Rietveld. The works of these two designers at first appear contrasting, but they are both firmly rooted in the history and climate of the Netherlands, and from the perspective of producing pure expressions composed of basic elements, they can be said to share a fundamental philosophy of design. The exhibition further links Rietveld and Bruna by including the ADO series of toys that became almost a national toys in the Netherlands, and which are exhibited in Japan for the first time. The ADO toys have their origin in fabrication by sanatorium residents as occupational therapy, under the guidance of designer Ko Verzuu. They are distinctive not just for providing residents with an opportunity to contribute to society through productive activities, but for the quality of their design, and for the delight that they brought to children throughout the Netherlands.
Rietveld, Bruna and ADO provide three unique perspectives originating in different periods. Bringing them together in a single exhibition provides an opportunity to explore Dutch design culture’s close links to everyday life, and the attractiveness of the designs generated by the human warmth that they embody.