Formica Forever

(New York, NY: Metropolis Books, 2013). 408 pages, numerous color and black and white photographs.

Formica Forever is the publication by the Formica Company in celebration of its hundredth anniversary in 2013. The foreword by Mark Adamson, former CEO of the Formica Group and current CEO of the parent company Fletcher Building, a preface by Abbott Miller and essays by Alexandra Lange, Phil Patton and Peter York put Formica in a historical and contemporary context. In addition a chronology of its evolution and a survey of colors and patterns of the last century present an interesting picture of a much used, much appreciated and culturally and visually important material. 

What started out as a material used for electrical insulation in the very beginning became a material that inspired designers. With the rise of industrial design as a distinct discipline in the 1930s greater attention was being paid to materials and their use in general. However, the immediate postwar era saw the major expansion of the use of plastic laminates not just for kitchens or cabinets but for finishes for whole houses as seen in the Formica House in the 1964 World’s Fair or in the 1959 house of Ralph Wilson Sr., the founder of another, still existing, laminate company named WilsonArt, in Temple, Texas.    

The design of the Formica Forever book recalls the laminate chip on its front cover but it also inspires the overall design of the book. Colors and period illustrations in the second half of the book complete the historical narrative of the book. The final pages reflect the global nature of the Formica Group by translating the text into four additional languages. 

Formica Forever and an earlier publication about the material titled Formica & Design: From the Counter Top to High Art, edited by Susan Grant Lewin, let us appreciate the importance of plastic laminates in post-WW II life.  

 

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