Dezeen Magazine

Office Pets by Hella Jongerius

Hella Jongerius has updated her website to include her Office Pets project commissioned by Vitra Edition last year.


The limited edition pieces are made mostly by hand from materials associated with the corporate environment. Details like the wheels reference furniture usually found in offices.


See more from Vitra Edition 2007 in our earlier story.

Here's some information from Jongeriuslab:


Office Pets

Date: 2007
commissioned by: Vitra, Basel
Type: Limited edition

For Vitra Edition 2007 Hella Jongerius designed three curious wheeled objects - Office Pets - combining worlds of difference. The underside, the wheels and the material used make each object seem at home in the context of corporate identities. But at the point where you would expect seats and armrests emerge semi-abstract shapes which allude both to Jongerius’ vases and animal figures. These strange office creatures combine rationality and imagination as if they were quantities which always and self-evidently belong together.


Office Pets not only provide office staff a light-hearted escape from their tightly organised office life, but also represent a new stage in design. Jongerius as it were pushes a slowly developed phenomenon beyond its ‘natural’ boundaries. In the last half century the word ‘functionality’ has practically lost its original instrumental meaning. Contemporary design is concerned with image, context, meanings and messages rather than immediate utility and use.


In 2007 we ask so much more from products than the serviceability that was the central feature of industrial design at the beginning of the 20th century. Appliances also feed our minds and our imagination, we feel a need to cherish them as if they were living beings. This shift in the significance of design has led the profession in many respects to seek support from the visual arts professions. Yet Jongerius explicitly calls herself an industrial designer, not an artist. Her ‘pets’ could be said to disentangle the contemporary meaning of functionality. ‘We express who we are by the furniture, the appliances and the accessories with which we surround ourselves day by day. There is hardly any point in making a fundamental distinction between these different things. All of them, in their own way, are necessary, functional’.


While these strange objects apparently herald a new direction in Jongerius’ work, their content actually makes them very easy to place. All her work is characterised by an experimental feeling for the boundaries of the design profession, with a crucial role being played by materials, methods of production and their intrinsic meanings and allusions. Steering a middle course between one-off traditionally made objects and industrially produced series has yielded many famous designs, including the B-service for Tichelaar (in which excessively high kiln temperatures led to the creation of unique examples in an industrial production process) and Repeat, an unusual fabric design for the textile producer Maharam.

Office Pets form the daring but logical next stage in Jongerius’ career. They are produced in a limited edition, mostly handcrafted, while at the same time alluding to serially produced office chairs. The animals, which recall Jongerius’ designs for Nymphenburg and Maharam, seem to have just escaped from a pretty parable into the commercial world of the open-plan office to make a powerful appeal to the imagination - a pre-eminent human need.