“A sum of possibles.” Eileen Gray and the overcoming of Modernist design





Eileen Gray, modernity, radical design, antidesign, Bruno Munari


The history of 20th-century design has traditionally viewed Modernism as a monolithic phenomenon without variations. The visceral reaction to this movement in the 1960s was born partly in opposition to this unified version of modernity. However, analysing specific examples makes it possible, on the one hand, to glimpse cracks in this homogenised viewpoint and, on the other, to follow connecting threads between designs resulting from modernity and some proposals which although part of the Modern Movement deviated from the canon. This is the case of Irish designer Eileen Gray. Her works and texts include propositions which anticipated not only the shortcomings of modern design, but more fundamentally, their solutions. She viewed design not as an imposition but as a “sum of possibles” which considers needs, comfort and something as indispensable and intangible as the happiness of the user. Thus, Gray was linked to proposals apparently as removed from her surroundings as those of Italian Radical Design. This article aims to show some of these relationships, emphasising the figure of Eileen Gray as a pioneer in the world of 20th-century design.


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Author Biographies

Alberto Ruiz Colmenar, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid

Profesor Ayudante Doctor

Beatriz S. González Jiménez, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos

Profesora Visitante


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Research articles
Received 2022-01-30
Accepted 2023-01-26
Published 2023-04-28