The Pan-European Living Room

OMA addresses the legacy and value of cross-border design

The Pan-European Living Room | Knoll Inspiration

The object catalog of the exhibition celebrates the diverse origins of modern design in the European context. Image courtesy of OMA.

“The furniture is Europe, emphasizing Europe’s fundamental commitment to modernity,” the designers explain. “Evidence that, despite the UK’s recent political choice, the process of Europe’s cultural integration continues, with or against the odds. Our most intimate daily environment constitutes the most eloquent example of Europe’s collaboration.”

The room, while intentionally arranged, is not a fixed tableau. It is instead a reconfigurable reminder of diversity in design and its endless potential. “Our point was not to specifically say that this chair should be only this chair,” explained Bantal. “The room, in how it is designed, could have a thousand other possibilities because for every combination of furniture you could create a different room. The idea was basically to say, for example, that without a chair or table there is no dining—all these things are connected.”

The Pan-European Living Room | Knoll Inspiration

Axonometric projection of the Pan-European Living Room, an allegory for cross-border collaboration. Image courtesy of OMA.

In placing objects of eclectic origins in close quarters, many of which were made by European designers who immigrated to the United States and subsequently collaborated with Knoll, the Pan-European Living Room argues that the reality of the modern interior is inextricable from cooperation, trade, and continuous cultural exchange.

Bantal offered an example: “If Knoll wants to have a piece of furniture designed, it's often about asking international designers to collaborate,” he said. “You become a diplomat, almost, as a company—moving between different borders and cultures before the final product exists.”

“You become a diplomat, almost, as a company—moving between different borders and cultures before the final product exists.”

—Samir Bantal

The Pan-European Living Room | Knoll Inspiration

From Knoll to the world—a diplomat of design. Image from the Knoll archive.

While trade and protectionism are most often considered in terms of agriculture or economics, the Pan-European Living Room scales the issue down to a register immediately comprehendible, and so perhaps even more ominous. “In a way,” concludes Bantal, “design, without being intentionally political, is always political.”

The exhibition Fear and Love: Reactions to a Complex World will be on view through April 23, 2017 at the Design Museum in London.

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