Gerrit Rietveld designer Gispen

Rietveld's chair for Gispen; Mondial

part 1 - The history of Rietveld & Gispen



In 2006, Gispen was in business for ninety years. To mark this anniversary, Gispen, together with Rietveld by Rietveld, reissued the Mondial stoel (Mondial chair) on the market. Since we are almost 100 years old, we're looking back into our rich history. This time 2006 and 1958.

 A chair for the world



The Mondial chair was Rietveld's 'chair for the world'. Paradoxically, it was never given the chance to become what it was intended for. The Mondial chair was only made in a small edition, and the remaining chairs are now held in museums and private collections. From being a 'chair for the world', Rietveld's Mondial has become a chair for collectors. A chair you can look at, but can't sit on. And that is a tragic fate for a chair from one of the most important furniture designers of the 20th century.

First sketch of Rietveld's Mondial for Gispen

World's fair 1958 



The Mondial chair was designed by Gerrit Thomas Rietveld and his son Wim Rietveld for the first post-war World's Fair, which was held in Brussels in 1958. Gerrit Rietveld's design was as minimalist as it was innovative. The slender legs of curved steel plate, a torsion pipe as a connecting element, a seat and back of curved aluminium plate. But however simple the design, at the end of the fifties the chair was not easy to produce.

Rietveld's sketch for Mondial at World's Fair 1958

Difference in opinion



Although Wim Rietveld, who had been working at Gispen since 1953, was convinced that the chair could be made as designed, actually making it the way it was intended proved to be more difficult. Various prototypes were made but in the end Gispen - as the producer - preferred to make the chair in a different way, namely with a seat and back made of polyester rather than aluminium. The difference in opinion on the construction resulted in Wim Rietveld leaving the company. The Mondial chair disappeared from the collection.



Rietveld: artist or designer?



For Gerrit Rietveld, this was certainly not the first time that one of his designs was never produced. However imaginative and pure of form his work was, it often met with practical objections - both in terms of its construction and its daily use. A table lamp that he designed in 1925 and submitted to W.H. Gispen was not produced either, because Gispen felt that the construction, as envisaged by Rietveld, was not stable enough. Sometimes the artist in Rietveld was stronger than the purely functional designer.


Rietveld the visionair



You could say that, in technical terms, the Mondial chair was ahead of its time. What was not feasible, or in any event did not seem to be feasible given the production methods of the time, is indeed possible now with the current technology and in accordance with the principles that have been the guiding forces at Gispen for some ninety years: design, innovation and quality. With the reissuing of the Mondial, Gispen demonstrates the visionary qualities of Gerrit Rietveld. No single design is timeless, but the Mondial can still become a classic.


Read: Part 2 - The design

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