An ode to Rex Kralj

An ode to Rex Kralj 14

Rex Kralj is not only a whole chapter in the history and evolution of design, but also represents one of our most favourite designers of all times, Niko Kralj. A man with great vision and even greater talent, who passed away two years ago.

Rex (King in Latin) is named for its designer, Niko Kralj, whose last name also translates to King in Slovenian. This man is undoubtedly the founder and one of the central figures of Slovenian post-war industrial design. As an internationally recognized design expert in the second half of the 20th century belonged to the most important industrial designers in the world. His innovative solutions have given the world a few timeless pieces of furniture. Products designed for large-scale production have been commercially very successful and produced in several hundred thousand pieces. Because of theirs timeless modernist forms Kralj’s products belongs to the treasury of European modern classics.

Niko Kralj was born in 1920. Even as a kid he showed great interest in acquiring new knowledge. His excellent grades in school and passion for design led him to the Faculty of Architecture, where he became a model student and a demonstrator and later on even one of the most respected professors. His forward-thinking inventions and an eye for useful, but stylish solutions put him on a pedestal. He has become one of the most renown legends of timeless and minimalistic design.

But it was back in 1952 that Kralj’s first Rex designs were born. From theoretical points to sketch, from sketch to analysis, arguments and improvements to prototypes, made in the carpenter shop. This accurate and very natural process that is present in nature for millions of years was his guideline in creating new designs.

Starting the production of Rex 120 first Rex designs were brought to public light, a year later. Known for its perfect ergonomics and lightweight composition Rex 120 still looks attractive and grand. On top of that Kralj designed the Mosquito Chair, which got its name from thin tapering legs and mosquito wings shaped seating surface. Due to its technological complexity, but definitely not because of the lack of elegance and comfort, the production of Mosquito started only in 2012.

Stool CC has been conceived in 1954 with the intention to suit every taste and situation. Although it blends well practically into every setting, it is still a very unique piece. Its cross type construction gives the appearance that the stool floats effortlessly above the legs.

But 1956 was one of Kralj’s most productive years. Many of his best known chairs got their final shapes in 1956. The most legendary of all, Rex Lounge, its variations, Rex Chair, Rex Rocking Chair, and one of the most sought-after items – Shell Dining and Lounge Chair started the significant transformation of Slovenian living and working spaces. In order to complete the line of very much desired Rex chairs, Kralj developed two additional pieces of foldable furniture – Rex Coffee Table and Rex Daybed for children. The same year he left on a six-month advanced study training programme in Stockholm, where he immersed himself in Scandinavian design culture and worked in Olaf Pir’s design bureau.

In 1960 the Swedish daily Dages Nyheter proclaimed Niko Kralj to be the best furniture designer in Europe. In the course of his professional career he filed and registered 118 patents and models, written 39 research papers, appeared at 94 exhibitions and published over 100 articles on design. And in 1962 Niko Kralj received the highest Slovenian award for culture — the Prešeren Award — for his achievements in the field of architecture and design.

Six years later, Niko Kralj established Institute of Design. As a long-standing head of the institute, he lobbied for integration of scientific research work with production. Numerous international acknowledgements and awards got him to tour the world. He served as an expert in the United Nations Industrial Design Organization (UNIDO) in Israel.

But it wasn’t until 2011 that Rex Lounge has been included in the Design Collection of Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, Collection of Designmuseum Danmark in Copenhagen, MAK Museum in Vienna and Museum for Industrial Design in Prague.

In order to preserve Kralj’s most important pieces of art and show the world the eternity of his great designs the production of this legendary furniture from 50s and 60s was revived under the brand Rex Kralj. To honour Niko Kralj’s significant work and life book Design for All, All for Design was published. The book is now available upon request for 36 €.


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