Chris Martin is honoured by the Bruno Mathsson Award 2020.
It may have been serendipity that he ended up on a furniture design course in Liverpool. It was the early 1990s. Modern furniture was a signifier of the present and for Chris Martin, design was a tool for divergence from a traditional home environment. He was not familiar with any contemporary design, but he discovered an exciting French designer by the name of Philippe Starck. However, his interest subsided as Starck’s position outweighed any dialogue about development. British designer Jasper Morrison met the ambitions Chris hoped to achieve in a different way. In his eagerness to move forward, he also wrote to one of the leading design writers of the time: Alice Rawsthorn, who encouraged his direction.
After the furniture course, Chris ended up working as an assistant to a model maker. And there, almost as a shock, one of his first assignments was to make a model for a bus stop shelter designed by Morrison. The model maker and designer had a fruitful meeting, and Martin was offered the sole assistant position in the little studio in Whitechapel, in London’s East End. Morrison worked for Italian Cappellini on the collection Progetto Oggetto, which involved multiple designers and architects: James Irvine and four Swedes, including Thomas Eriksson and Thomas Sandell. Chris describes working with Morrison as his best education. Almost daily encounters by the fax machine with the two Swedes named Thomas led to new messages and sketches for Jasper, which piqued Chris’s interest in Scandinavian design.
Two years passed, and he earned a master’s degree at the Royal College of Art, an institution with an incomparable, world-class standard. But Scandinavia kept calling to him. He contacted Eriksson and Sandell, and the latter offered him a position at his architectural firm. They designed furniture for the new Moderna Museet and Museum of Architecture. They also created products for the second PS collection for IKEA. The architects worked together closely and Magnus Elebäck, who also worked at Eriksson’s office, quickly became a friend. One day he told Chris that it was time for their independence.
The year was 1999. The offer consisted of an empty desk.
As consultants, they would sell design services. The promising start began with a contract for Chris from the head of design at IKEA, Lars Engman: pay for ten business days every month. The IKEA assignments were numerous, and some are classics, like the rocking chair and step stool. But Chris’s ambition to create timeless, high-quality design that was sustainable in all ways, including the right to think things through slowly, did not suit IKEA’s hunt for new products and fixation on price.
“It’s easy to go wrong in their machinery,” he said, explaining their decision to take the step to become responsible for the whole process, from design and production to marketing.
Chris and Magnus launched Massproductions in 2009.
The push came with the steel wire chair, Tio, an assignment for Flötotto that never reached production. With a striking identity, the steel wire chair is visually light and now belongs to an entire family. The Odette stools give Arlanda a conscientious design identity. The latest compelling architectural additions are the long table, Landa, which is simultaneously anonymous and exquisite, and the Roadie bench, which transparently delineates rooms in settings defined by nature’s freedom. Magnus’ talent for organization and communication paired with Chris’s versatile gift for mastering materials, technique and above all, proportions, unite to form a futuristic concept. They infuse spaces with normal functions in the form of bold dimensions surrounded by an aura of confidence, without dominating the life in progress.
In the fall of 2020, the Vandalorum Museum of Art and Design will present Chris Martin in an exhibition with an accompanying lecture.
About Mathsson Foundation
The Bruno Mathsson Prize is handed out by the Karin and Bruno Mathsson Foundation in Sweden, that was created in 1983 through a donation from Karin and Bruno Mathsson. The purpose of the foundation is to support research, development and education related to objects as well as indoor and outdoor environments.