«It is about the usage – the way we are going to sit together. I wanted it to be a form of nostalgia. It also recalls the gardens and flowers Mr. Dior showed his reverence for»
French designer Sam Baron interpretation of Dior’s medallion chair
When the Office of the Naval Research in the United States studied the sixth sense of the country’s soldiers on the battlefield, the researchers – led by Professor Joel Pearson of University of New South Wales in Australia – devised a method to measure intuition, a first in the field of research as previous researchers found difficulty in quantifying the term. In this experiment, images in colors of monochrome and of dots moved around on half of a computer screen, and the researchers asked the participants to decide whether the dots floated to the left or right, a determinant of whether people used intuition to guide their decision-making. The research defined intuition as the non-conscious emotional information the body or the brain elicits such as gut-feeling or -sensation. From here, intuition speaks of a brain process tapping one’s ability to decide without analytical reasoning, a surrender to the flow of the unconscious, and the method of reflection French designer Sam Baron employed to interpret the medallion chair for Dior. «A feeling, an instinct. Calling it a blueprint would be a bit too strong. Mr. Dior was someone who was passionate about astrology, flowers, smells, decorations, and artifacts, so on one side, you see the fashion body of work that he had been doing, one that is recognizable, and at the same time, he had this side of fantasy, which I thought was interesting as it resembles a recollection of myself as a designer. I thought about how I could best serve the brief of the project. While it was an open brief, meaning we were free to interpret it, I wanted to find my and the Maison’s middle ground, our comfort zones where we could push our boundaries. The result touches on one’s belonging in a community through dreams and fantasies».
Dior exhibition at Palazzo Citterio in Via Brera 12
The columns and arches of the bygone century introduce the space, bonding in sync with the cobblestones that design the pavement. A glance at the floor of the center affords a view of a hexagon, sliced into parts of triangles, while the sunlight that cuts through the building pulls the attendees back to the eighteenth century. Gazing to the right, a silhouette of a chair’s back in oval and lines sprawls across the white background. Beside the image, a description accompanies the print in sans-serif: The Gold Medallion Chair – an emblem of Christian Dior and a gesture of Dior’s invitation to the seventeen artists who redefined the medallion chair. Descending in the flight of steps adjacent to the entrance of the palace, the bask of the faint glow of light and gray walls succumb to the mist. The seventeen artists spread out their byproducts in the room, highlighted by the spotlight that directs its beam to their pieces. At the far, left side of the exhibition, a set of chairs has their oval backs hollow and intertwined into hoops, at times transitioning from two to four, a nuance of cyclicity and community. The transfusion from pink to white, a gradience, may only appear once the attention remains focused on the sculpture and against the obscurity of the lighting in the space, yet there, among the flower and line carvings of the seats, it lives.
Lampoon review: Sam Baron Medallion Chair crafting
To understand how Baron crafted his seats, two parts demand comprehension. First, Dior pivots back to the founding of the Maison through «the heart of Dior still beats in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, at 30 avenue Montaigne, where it all began. ‘I will set up here and nowhere else,’ he once said to his friend Pierre Colle. And this dream was realized on 8 October 1946, when he opened his House there. The townhouse was the ideal size and reflected the spirit of the designer: molding on the walls, gray tones, medallion chairs, brightly-colored bouquets scattered here and there, and Louis XVI neoclassical furniture. These stylings are repeated today in boutiques around the world». The medallion chair as a symbol of the Louis XVI style, chosen by Christian Dior since the founding of his Maison to seat guests during fashion shows, entwined with a decor that invokes sober, simple, but above all classic and Parisian as he himself says in his memoirs. The emblem has appeared in black and gold or pink and gray on the bottles and packaging of the Maison’s perfumes from Diorama to Diorissimo as well as in the interior decorations of the boutiques, such as that of Colifichets where the chaises médaillon display their cannage montaigne and Toile de Jouy. Second, within the edifice of Granville, a commune of coast located in the Normandy region or the West of France, and among the gardens by the seaside villa belonging to his parents, Christian Dior acquired his knowledge and sensitivity to horticulture, the art of garden cultivation. Outside of the theories the books he had read fed him, he closed the pages to experience the flora and nature as he worked in the garden. From the Maison’s archive, Dior supervised the erection of a pergola and a rose garden right on the clifftop, his penchant for flowers and gardens blooming.
A form of nostalgia – Sam Baron’s medallion chair
After understanding the archives Dior has in store for the designer, Baron leveled his mindset into how would Christian Dior desire the medallion chair to be in the present. «It is about the usage – the way we are going to sit together. The fact that to seat the guests was the goal of the chair, I wanted it to be as such and not just a design. At the same time, I wanted it to be a form of nostalgia, an anchor to bring the guests into the atmosphere Dior and I have created. It also recalls the gardens and flowers Mr. Dior showed his reverence for. Then, I used lacquered metal for the structure and the gradient pink and white for the palettes to display a contrast of hard and soft materials coming together». Walking upstairs from the exhibit, the expanse of Palazzo Citterio’s garden comes into view. The gravel rocks crunch beneath the shoes’ soles as one strolls towards the exit path that curves to pave a way for the platform in the middle, where Baron’s three other designs take refuge: a swing set, a bench, and a seat that echoes a seesaw. They may summon the sense of childhood – of children chasing each other on the playground or of banter on who would use the swing first – but Baron moves beyond such a concept. «I would not call it as a take on childhood, but more on building fairytale-like narratives through designs. In my mind, if I had the opportunity to converse with Mr. Dior about the gardens, it would look like this: us talking about flowers, horticulture, gardens, designs, and art on a bench or swing set. Aside from that, I imagine our capacity as humans to let our imagination drive us into the unknown through these designs, where we see reality from a new or different perspective, and rewrite the world we live in, and compose it to our own references, inspirations, and moods».
The culture of sitting
Rifling through the ethos Baron works on, he once mentioned how he advocates reading humans, the environment we live in, and the way we view objects, themes, and instances. Inside a room at Palazzo Citterio, Baron reaches out for the bottle of water in front of him, removes his mask for a moment, and ponders on the culture of sitting. Once he wears his mask again, he starts with: «you may not sit on a chair like how people from Asia, Europe, or the Americas sit because of the habits and cultures that are inducted in our behaviors. If you think about how we act and move with our bodies, there is a strong sense of what is naturally included in our movements, meaning they just come out. In the culture of sitting, the depth of it gives you so many options and may be a way to give impressions too». As he continues, he nestles his left leg under his right one on the white sofa where the interview is taking place, removes it and sits straight, and crosses his ankles on the floor. «As a designer, the arrangement of the designs proposes an attitude of sitting», an echo of his medallion chairs as he ruminates on the number of people the seats may host and the positions they find themselves at, such as side by side, face to face, and back to back. In line with his approach, Baron referenced his culture, what it means to be a French designer in his generation and the way he learned art at school in France during the conception of the chairs. In the designer’s words, he would not call what he creates his invention, but rather his take on the briefs, projects, and ideas that have been put out for consumption. Dior’s invitation to the seventeen artists carves a path for him to even underscore how each culture has its means of design.
Paying homage to Christian Dior
As for the French system, Baron notes its quality of creativity, education, classicity, elegance, diversity, and youthfulness. While he touches on this theme, he moves towards his recollection of the art history in Italy and France. «In France, art was seen more as classical. The pre-market designs in France were antiques, which Americans would buy out to sell in the United States, and France loved this as it wanted to share its art to the public to show the world how strong of a country it was and did so through cultural means. French art and design in the past were not used to feed the culture, but more of as visual elements. Today, we navigate this course of creating art and designs to feed our culture to the public, a reason why I mentioned French art as youthful». In Marie-France Pochna’s biography of Christian Dior, Marika Genty, an archivist of the Maison, unveiled that «in planting a lilac, a pear tree, a willow, choosing tulip bulbs, the color of the cosmos, flowers, and zinnias, knowing the ways of peas or tarragon, Christian Dior was in a class of his own. After couture, his favorite routine was his weekly return to the Earth». This comes after the Maison’s archives pay homage to Christian Dior’s reverence for rose, a favorite flower of the designer. To accompany this tribute, the text continues with a description of rose as «a flower of infinite varieties, the symbol of Granville, a memory of the rose garden where he invested so much energy. Its perfumes, its colors, the various forms of its petals – the rose is a journey in its own right», a feature Sam Baron stumbled upon as he snaked through the archives of Dior before he conceived his medallion chairs. No wonder he employed the gradient palettes of pink and white into his designs: they display his intention to contrast metal with the concept of community, his eulogy to Christian Dior’s worship over flora and gardens, the demonstration of French style in art and designs, and the doctrine of dreams and fantasy he and Christian Dior share as designers and individuals.
Born in France in 1976, Sam Baron has a degree in Design from the Fine Arts School of Saint Etienne and a post-graduate degree from the National Decorative Arts School of Paris. Baron reinterprets traditional methods of construction, raising questions about the utility of today’s material productions.