British manufacturer Vitsœ (formerly the German Vitsœ+Zapf) was founded by Danish furniture dealer Niels Wiese Vitsœ and German industrial designer Otto Zapf near Frankfurt in 1959. Forbears of ecologically-driven design since its inception, the company is celebrated most for its nearly six-decade active span producing the modular furniture of legend Dieter Rams, perhaps the 20th century’s most widely revered proselytizer of rational minimalism.
The roots of this collaboration—a side project amid Rams’s chief tenure as Braun’s Director of Design—trace back to 1957, when Rams began developing his 606 Universal Shelving System prototype in response to his growing concerns about the world’s limited supply of resources. Conceived as a series of interchangeable units of near endless adaptability, this unobtrusive and highly-functional design framed the enduring aesthetic of Vitsœ’s oeuvre, which thoughtfully followed in the “less, but better” approach, drawing inspiration from pioneering modernists like Peter Behrens and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
In the following years, Rams designed a number of rational and modular designs for Vitsœ; to name a few, the 620 Chair Programme (1962), which earned a Gold Medal at Vienna’s 1969 International Furniture Exhibition; and the molded plastic 621 Side Table (also 1962).
In 1970, Vitsœ+Zapf shortened the brand name to Vitsœ, following Otto Zapf’s departure; he went on to design for Knoll Inc. / Knoll International in 1973. In 1985, the company expanded into England at the behest of Mark Adams, who became Vitsœ’s managing director in 1993. Appointed to steer the firm out of financial difficulties, Adams eventually moved into Vitsœ’s sole ownership in 1995 and he moved the company’s manufacturing base from Germany to the United Kingdom, where international markets could be better served.
The current Leamington, England-based Vitsœ has held exclusive licensing to Rams’s comprehensive furniture catalogue since January 2013, but the original versions can be found at venerable institutions such as New York’s Museum of Modern Art and London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, among others.