How Star Trek created a design universe

Star Trek was not only future-oriented in terms of content, the series with the spaceship Enterprise already showed a diverse cast, as race legislation was still in force in America. Since the 1960s, Star Trek has demonstrated an ability for forward-looking design visions. Anyone who thinks that the series “Mad Men”, created in New York’s PR environment, has canonized midcentury modernism in film history, is wrong – the Star Trek universe had an eye for futuristic design long before that.

Star Trek also depicts a design universe

When the series started, the setting was pragmatic: Because there was little budget for self-construction, the set designers were content with what was on the market. And inspired by the achievements of space travel, he delivered a lot that wanted to be new: from the Sculpta armchair by Vladimir Kagan to the Tulip Chair by Eero Saarinen to a lot of furniture by Pierre Paulin, even then you could see objects in the interior of the spaceship, which are now classics. Star Trek also depicts a design universe, and if that universe had anything to do with it, Pierre Paulin would be the brightest star.


On board the new Enterprise in “Star Trek – The Next Generation” you could discover many modern design objects on the recreational deck.
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Photo: billedalliance / United Archives / IFTN

In their recently released book Star Trek: Designing the Final Frontier: How Mid-Century Modernism Shaped Our View of the Future, photographer Dan Chavkin and Brian McGuire have outlined how groundbreaking the scenography in particular was. They tell how the daring of the new science fiction series and the budget constraints have created a futuristic design culture that has also been passed on in later series, and show the story of individual objects that are often bought directly from the factories. The result is an aesthetic that moves between pragmatic form and colorful fantasy worlds.

The design cult of the original series can also be felt in the subsequent series. If you still saw modern designers with Captain Kirk on Enterprise, the design universe after the success of the original series has also expanded with the budget. In particular, Captain Picard and Captain Janeway appear on their spaceships as connoisseurs of Bauhaus functionalism. They equip the rooms not only with Lilly Reich and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, but also with newer icons like Charlotte Perriand, Eileen Gray, Joe Colombo and Le Corbusier. Both are known as gourmets for their selected table setting – while Kirk settled for a thermos, Picard and Janeway sometimes have accessories from Wagenknecht and luxury products from Christofle and Sasaki. Occasionally, however, there are also mass productions such as Alessi’s dome cafeteria, Tapio Wirkkala’s Ultima Thule glass for Iittala or the teacups by Carl Jorgensen for Bodum, which have meanwhile been taken out of production. Design classics can also be seen outside the ships, such as the somewhat more amorphous Extreme Chair on the planet Ocampo, which stands out from the ships’ pragmatism.

So what is carried on is always a balanced mix of high design culture, high quality mass products and cheap productions, for example from Ikea, such as the table model “Micke”, which only recently appeared in the newer sections of Discovery was to see. And in addition to the classics, the current series continues to canonize contemporary designers such as Patricia Urquiola, and in the “Picard” series, released in 2020, with the rainbow vase from Fundamental.Berlin, a young German brand is even a prominent place in the captain’s name . desk.

You will not find the pop futurism you might have expected with lava lamps and inflatable chairs by Quasar Khanh, but maybe that too will show up at some point in the series’ design universe. What Star Trek is Final Frontier promising designs are something that has already established itself in fashion: a mix of mass, brand and unique, and of functionality and selective playfulness. Besides Instagram, it might also be worth taking a look at the stars for the next interior design inspiration.

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